How to Sound Confident
By Lee Wilkinson
Early on in my career, I noticed the difference between men and women in [self-] promotion. A male colleague of mine was asked a question and I knew he had no clue as to the answer. He calmly stated that this was a controversial topic and that he would get back to the questioner with his view once he’d canvassed the matter with a few colleagues. I thought of how different my approach would have been – honest, and along the lines of “we don’t know but we’ll find out!” It would have created quite a different impression.
In our experience, women have more problems with sounding confident than men, though I have never seen any statistical data on it. Just this week I worked with a woman facing this challenge. She is communicating with a wide range of people about a very big change in approach in her organisation. The changes they have created are unique and regarded as a great improvement, yet she sounded so uncertain about them.
Immediate Changes to Create a More Confident Impression
- Get rid of weak fillers such as “um” and “ah”. People use these to hold their place in a conversation but they create an impression of uncertainty. A better technique is to signal that you have several ideas you want to communicate. Examples include: “I have three concerns about this”; or: “I can see pluses and minuses in this course of action”.
- Hack out self-deprecating words such as: perhaps, maybe, a little bit, sort of, just, kind of. Women use these expressions more than men and they quickly erode a confident impression. An example: “We sort of altered the organisational structure.” It sounds more confident as: “We redesigned the organisational structure.”
- Build a definite tone: If you let your voice go up at the end of a phrase it sounds as if you need other people’s approval for your statement. Keep your voice on an even tone right to the end of a statement and voila – more confidence.
- Shift to direct, active speech: People use the passive, indirect speech when saying things such as: ‘The project was completed on time.’ Listen to the more confident, active: “We completed the project on time”.
- Choose more specific, interesting words: “uses” becomes “benefits”, “did” becomes “achieved”. Seek to strengthen the impression without overdoing it.
What Can You Do in the Long Term?
- Get together with a supportive but honest friend and record yourselves communicating about work issues. Evaluate your confidence level by looking for the five pointers I have outlined – or any others you notice. Practise using more confident language and then listen to yourselves again.
Listen carefully to confident speakers. Ask the person how they do it – they could well be pleased that you noticed.
- All Topics
- Begin with success
- Self-insight for success
- Build for success
- Successful working mothers
- Lead with success
Self Awareness – A Must-Have Ingredient for Career Success
An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence
Ready to find out more?
If you would like to find out more about Professionelle and how we might benefit you or your organisation, please contact our Director, Jayne Chater on firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 779 967.