“Quiet is the new loud.” ~Patrick Stump
Isn’t it ironic?
When you need it the most, your confidence is nowhere to be found.
When you’re freaking out at the thought of meeting new people, speaking up or going for that job interview, you’re only ally has gone AWOL.
And even though you’ve tried all the standard advice on how to be more confident, more self-assured, if you’re anything like I used to be, it’s left you even more anxious. Even less sure of yourself.
And all your efforts to be more confident have got you worrying that there’s actually something wrong with you.
Because the advice on building your confidence that works for others just doesn’t seem to work for you at all.
Take heart. There’s a really good reason it doesn’t work for you…
Some people might say “introverted,” but labels are often only half the story. Simply put:
- Shouting above everyone else to be heard just isn’t your thing.
- A busy diary feels like you must have been a bad person in a former life.
- You love being social and then suddenly you want to be home. In pajamas.
- And alone time, well that’s level pegging with oxygen.
The rub is a lot of advice on how to be more confident works for a lot of people. It does make them appear more confident. And it can boost their own feelings of confidence.
But as a quiet person, trying to improve your self-confidence by following this type of advice, however good, can leave you less self-confident and more self-conscious than ever.
I know, I did just that…
“Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
“All eyes on me, I can do this,” I mumbled inside. “Speak up girl, dammit.”
I seriously mis-sold myself at that interview. And every day that followed because of the persona I thought I needed to put across—a loud, forceful, heck aggressive if that’s what the situation needed, “Go get ‘em Laura.”
“Maybe I’ll grow into this louder me…please,” I stressed inside.
Instead, I became a caricature of my true, quiet self.
Colleagues that the authentic quiet me would have got on great with shied away from the person they saw me as. But equally I wasn’t comfortable with the people who liked the false loud me they saw and heard.
Pretending ate away my confidence and devoured my self-esteem.
And yeah, it got messy at work. And I left… quietly.
It’s a myth that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to being more confident. We are all unique, with different stories and challenges, but there is some advice that directly conflicts with quiet tendencies.
So here are nine confidence myths that only quiet people will truly understand.
1. Speak louder.
To get on, you’ve got to speak up, get loud, right? Folk need to hear you over all the noise in today’s hyper-busy, hyper-competitive world. And they need to hear you fast.
But if you’re quiet, trying to speak louder feels uncomfortably rushed. I found I was consumed by the way I was saying my piece, not what I was saying.
Someone who speaks quietly, and only when they have something to say, can command greater attention than the loudest, most vocal person in the room.
Ghandi never raised his voice, and a whole nation heard him just fine.
2. Walk faster.
Walking faster makes it look like you’re filled with purpose, assured of your direction.
But for me, walking faster, well that just got me there too fast. I felt like I was hurrying, scrambling even. By forcing myself to quicken my pace, I set my quiet confidence running in the opposite direction.
Bottom line, I felt like I wasn’t in control.
Instead take your time. Taking things at your pace is a sure sign of a confident person.
After all, can you imagine the Dalai Lama rushing?
3. Be busy.
The idea of making yourself extra busy because it adds to the image of you being in demand, being successful, works for some.
But I found that there’s an extra, more troublesome dimension if you’re quiet. Making myself noticeably busier meant I had to engage with lots more people to attract more tasks. And ironically, I also had to say no more because soon I’d taken on way too much.
But worst of all, I was too busy doing everything badly, rather than one thing well. And quiet people like to do a good job. It’s a critical part of our confidence.
So rather than be the go-to guy or gal for any and every project, be known as the one to call on when the task needs care and attention.
4. Dress sharp.
The way we look can have a profound effect on our level of confidence, and dressing sharp seems good advice.
So I smothered my quiet tendencies and took the dress sharp class.
Oh boy! I felt like the Emperor and his new clothes. More self-conscious than if I’d been naked. I felt like my clothes were shouting “look at me!”
You don’t need to obsess over how you dress. Get your confidence from being your true self and knowing that long after they’ve forgotten what you looked like, they won’t have forgotten how you made them feel.
“I don't want to be just known for the way I dress. I want to be known for how… I treat people” ~Rickie Fowler
Smiling says I’m relaxed, confident, at ease with myself. And easily approachable.
Which is commendable.
But as a quiet person, sometimes I don’t want the whole world to approach me, to engage in conversation, to look for a deeper connection than maybe I want.
Unfortunately, by trying to wear a permanently over-enthusiastic smile, I gave out a confusing message to others about how involved I was comfortable being.
It’s better for your confidence to preserve your quiet space when you need it than wear a false “open all hours” smile.
6. Make and hold eye contact.
Winning the staring contest supposedly shows that you are confident, accessible with nothing to conceal.
So I gave the “hold eye contact” advice a really good shot.
So tiring! Embarrassing even. I felt like a weird stalker, hanging on every nuance of every word, yet ironically I heard nothing because my thoughts were totally taken up with winning the staring contest.
Sure, totally avoiding eye contact suggests that you’re either very shy or very guilty. But eye contact is way more intense than words will ever be. So if you’re a little reserved, holding someone’s gaze needs to be as natural as possible for your confidence to flourish.
7. Adopt power poses.
Similar to eye contact, your body says way more than your words. “Power poses” might include:
- the self-assured lean back in the chair
- the standing with legs shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips stance
- the steepling fingers together and resting elbows on the table
These can increase testosterone, which in turn increases confidence.
Now, even though I’m quiet it doesn’t mean I’m a mouse. I’ve given talks to groups of a dozen to several hundred. And I’ve tried those poses.
I felt like a second rate actor in a bad B-movie. One I wouldn’t have paid to watch. And the stress of trying to pose nearly killed me.
You see as a quiet person, the testosterone fueled confidence boost is more than likely to be offset by the extra increase in stress. Having to consciously adapt your body language can feel like a daunting performance.
Instead of trying to contort yourself into unnatural poses, boost your confidence by playing the only role you’ll ever win an Oscar for—you.
8. Shake hands firmly.
A first impression can be difficult to turn around. A firm grasp, two or three pumps up and down can persuade the other person you’re James Bond confident.
Unless of course you’re a quiet person. And then it’s likely to be quite the opposite. Sure, I shake hands, I’m British after all, but my consciously firm hand shaking attempts left me feeling pushy and competitive.
That’s not the way my confidence feels good on meeting new people.
Instead of forcing your handshake, offer the genuine quiet greeting your confidence is comfortable with and let the other person meet the real you first off.
9. Make physical contact.
A touch can say so much. It can be warm, assured, reassuring even, and can make you seem more confident.
And I was well aware of that, but every time I tried to pat someone on the back, or touch them on the shoulder, it felt more like I was taking a liberty than offering a friendly gesture. It felt way too intimate.
As a somewhat reserved person, gentle or friendly physical contact might be well intentioned but if it’s uninvited, that gentle tap can feel more of a Zap.
So instead of fake physical intimacy, let the authenticity of your personality affect them instead.
“Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.” ~Iain Duncan Smith
True, all our lives we’ve been shown that loud is better, that loud wins.
Which is why you hoped so hard that the good advice you tried was going to be the answer.
It’s still good advice… for anyone not like you.
But if you can stop seeing quiet as the chink in your armor of confidence, you’ll leap a thousand steps in being more self-assured.
Your own unique version of confidence is quiet. Quiet confidence.
Make peace with your quietness.
Because quiet confidence can conquer the world.
If it wants to.