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By mikesullivan2, Sep 29 2011 04:42PM

Confidence. We certainly know when we haven't got it, and when we have got it, we hardly notice it. But how do we get it?


As a confidence coach working with executive team members I've come to realise that our confidence comes and goes, and is entirely situational.


Regardless of our job title, there are certain situations that cause our confidence to ebb away. Sales directors who are used to presenting to small groups with high impact presentations, for example, can sometimes feel their confidence falling away when asked to present in uncertain or unfamiliar settings, just as a graduate new to an organisation facing the first presentation can feel exactly the same human emotion – fear.


No matter where we stand in an organisation, from the very top to the most junior, a crisis of confidence can strike in an instant. When it does, ‘flight or fight’ kicks in. Blushing, sweating, brain going blank and butterflies in the stomach are all common, and each element is telling you don’t do this thing, stop now, it’s not worth it – danger!


When you are asked to do something that you have no practical skills in and no experience of ever doing successfully, your confidence should be at an appropriately lower level. Appropriate because that is how human beings survive. We are designed to be cautious in unfamiliar settings, in situations that might present an unknown risk. It is through experience that we come to understand those settings and our confidence in them rises.


So the answer is obvious - practice. Do the task, learn a little about it, and yes feel nervous, maybe even terrified - but do it anyway. Then the next time, it will hold less fear and the dread will reduce each time you do it.


Perhaps you need to break the challenging task into bite size chunks – that’s fine! Don’t start with a presentation to a thousand people, but instead start to present to a friendly team. If your confidence fails you in social settings, shyness can also be overcome in bite size ways; start by chatting to only one person, then progress holding a group’s attention with a witty tale. How long you take to tackle your fears isn’t important, just make a start.


When you feel that cold hand of confidence falling away, reassure yourself; it’s normal, it’s human. Lack of confidence can be overcome in steps, not all in a rush in a “now or never” way, and eventually practice will make perfect!


For more information on our confidence building programmes, please visit our coaching and personal development page at www.mikesullivan.biz/121-coaching.


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