Some practical ways to boost your confidence, Catherine Shepherd



A common coaching goal is 'being more confident', usually in situations people find tricky, such as presenting to large meetings, influencing senior people, or talking outside their area of expertise.


My hunch is this is more often a theme for women than men, perhaps part of the ‘double-bind’ women face at work – women need to be seen as both assertive and empathetic to succeed (opposing qualities), whereas men just need to be seen as assertive. [1]


Whilst stereotypes about success and competence will take some time to shift, there are some practical things you can do to boost your confidence when you need to.



Power pose


Amy Cuddy’s 2012 Ted Talk, Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, has been viewed more than 64 million times.



She found university students who sat or stood in an expansive ‘power’ pose for two minutes before a mock interview felt more confident and performed better than those who didn’t. The research was subject to criticism at the time (perhaps as it was coming from a young female researcher?) but has since been much repeated. [2]


So if you’re walking to an important meeting, walk tall with your arms swinging. Or before a virtual meeting, turn your camera off for a couple of minutes of power posing.



Write about your successes


Another group of students were asked to write about a time they felt confident and powerful, or a time they felt powerless, or not to write at all. In subsequent mock interviews, those who’d written about the powerful experience performed best, those who’d written about the powerless experience performed worst. [3]


If you don’t have time to write before a tricky situation looking back on notes of successful times is also helpful, a technique used by Serena Williams.



Keep female role-models visible


When students were asked to individually present to a virtual audience, men spoke for longer and were rated more highly. Researchers then placed large photos of either Angela Merkel, Hilary Clinton or Bill Clinton in the audience. This made no difference to men, but women with Angela or Hilary spoke for longer than before and were rated more highly. [4]


In virtual meetings a photo of a role model is easy to keep to hand. In face-to-face settings, you might not meet a female role model every day, but making sure you cross their paths when you can will help – at some level your brain will file away 'that could be me' to draw upon when you need a boost.



Play a boosting song


We’ve all seen elite athletes with their headphones plugged in before or even during major competitions, as they know music wakes up the body and brain, and can distract us from worrying moments.


There are lots of ‘confidence boosting play-lists’ out there, but I’d pick what works for you. If it’s not convenient to listen to (or sing to yourself) a powerful song, make sure the noise in your head is positive – we all self-talk, particularly at tricky moments, and telling ourselves “I can do this”, “I’ve done this before”, “I’m going to learn from this” will help.



Catherine Shepherd specialises in leadership development and executive coaching.


 

(1) Zheng, W., Kark, R., & Meister, A. (2018). How women manage the gendered norms of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 28.


(2)https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_may_shape_who_you_are?language=en


(3) Cuddy, A. J., Schultz, S. J., & Fosse, N. E. (2018). P-curving a more comprehensive body of research on postural feedback reveals clear evidential value for power-posing effects: Reply to Simmons and Simonsohn (2017). Psychological science, 29(4), 656-666.


(4) Lammers, J., Dubois, D., Rucker, D. D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2013). Power gets the job: Priming power improves interview outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(4), 776-779.


(5) Latu, I. M., Mast, M. S., Lammers, J., & Bombari, D. (2013). Successful female leaders empower women's behavior in leadership tasks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(3), 444-448.