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I recently sent out a survey to just over 10 000 of my email subscribers. I wanted to know their thoughts on self-confidence.
It caught my attention that several people came across the same problem when they tried to increase their confidence:
“…your friends and relatives think that you are becoming arrogant and you are showing off, mainly when you try to stand up for yourself or to become self-reliant.”
“I can come across as too confident. I feel uncomfortable, fake, and annoying and it feels like I am being arrogant.”
So, how do you balance being confident without becoming arrogant, a douche, or a jerk?
Being loud and dominant won’t automatically make you look confident
When I was in my early twenties, I tried different ways to come off as more confident. Most of them with cringe-worthy results.
I tried speaking louder and becoming more dominant in conversations. To my confusion, people didn’t respond well at all. I realized that instead of becoming a more charismatic and confident person, I just became annoying.
What had happened was that with my newfound ideal to be louder and more dominant, I overruled my natural sense of what would suit the situation. As a result, I broke rapport with the people around me.
Exuding confidence with a loud voice DOES work in high energy environments because, in those situations, you won’t break rapport with people around you by being more high energy.
But doing it without finesse just alienates people.
One day I attended a one-week leadership course in Stockholm here in Sweden. One guy caught my attention. He didn’t talk much. In fact, he was probably one of the ones talking the least in the group. Still, everyone could feel his confidence.
That week, I realized how confidence isn’t about trying to dominate people. In fact, I’ve seen several examples since of people who try to take the lead and just end up coming off as attention-seeking.
So, what did that guy at the leadership course do differently?
- When he spoke, he spoke slowly, like if he wasn’t concerned someone would speak over him
- He used a voice strong enough that everyone could hear him clearly, but he didn’t speak louder than what fitted the energy level of the group
- He kept eye contact, both when listening and when talking, and divided it equally between the others in the group
- He spoke with conviction and certainty, and he didn’t have the habit of starting with “I think” or ending with “But I don’t know”
- He didn’t laugh immediately at his own jokes (but he “joined in” on our laugh when we had begun)
- He came off as a warm in the sense that he cared about others. He was more about listening in to others and acting like a facilitator than making his voice heard
- You could see how his reactions were authentic to how he felt
- When it came to facial expression, he didn’t overreact to what was happening. (That often comes off as needy).
- He didn’t underreact. (That often comes off as distant or cold)
Lesson learned: Sometimes, confidence is about not having to be the center of attention. Instead, the main trait of confidence is the ability to act with conviction.
Read more: How to get more respect from people.
When I realized how trying to be loud and dominant worked against me, I finally found another approach that did work. It was a big improvement in my life because, now, people suddenly responded well. I came off as confident and likable.
I had started to develop an aspect of my personality I had neglected before…
Why you should develop your warmth as much as your confidence
As it turns out, the more confident you become, the more important it is to show people that you like them. Why? Because warmth is the antidote to arrogance.
I started to show liking and appreciation towards those around me when it was appropriate.
Here’s what I do:
- I smile when I meet my friends instead of trying to look nonreactive
- I listen carefully to what people say and show that I listen by humming, summarizing what they say and asking them follow-up questions
- I avoid interrupting, and if someone gets interrupted, I encourage them to continue where they got interrupted by saying something like “You were saying that X”
- When I meet friends, I follow up on what they were talking about the last time they met. This makes them understand that I care about them
Because I do these things, I don’t have to worry that my confidence is off-putting.
I realized that I had avoided showing too much appreciation before to not come off as a “nice guy” or being needy. And in one way, I was right: Being kind to people and at the same time lacking in confidence can turn you into a door mat.
When you improve your confidence, all that changes.
Here’s what different combinations of confidence and warmth does:
Lesson learned: As we become better at conveying confidence, it gets more important than ever to at the same time convey warmth, to avoid coming off as arrogant.
What’s your experience when it comes to coming off as more confident? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!