This post is for the women out there who struggle with their confidence in the workplace. Guys, feel free to keep reading because you might find some help as well, but this is particularly for the ladies. Whether it’s in an interview for a new position or struggles day-to-day in your current job, it’s important for women in the workplace to recognize these confidence killers and try to get past them. Below is a recent post from Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World America and a contributor and guest host for Morning Joe at MSNBC. She and Claire Shipman are coauthors of the New York Times bestseller, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance---What Women Should Know.
“The other day I was guest hosting Morning Joe and up pops the Governor of Iowa. I hadn’t been briefed that he was coming on and my first question was not great. I asked him about health care, he was there to talk about defense. That was at 6:24 a.m. At 6 that evening, and the next evening and the next evening, I was still thinking about that one slip up. I am willing to guarantee most guys would have moved on within minutes.
Clinging to criticism like it’s the latest knock-off Hermes bag is one of the biggest confidence killers for women. I, we, need to stop.
There are a lot of things women can’t change in their bid for professional parity – the playing field is not level, there are too few role models and even our biology skews against risk taking. But there is one important thing we can do something about: we can build up our own confidence.
The confidence gap between men and women is real and it’s holding us back. Here are 4 confidence killers you may recognize – and 4 ways to fix them.
Don’t ruminate – re-wire.
There’s an official term for that “I should have asked a smarter question/edited my report better/got a higher grade” thing that women do – psychologists call it ruminating and we do it much more than men. Whether it’s a mistake, a slip up, a perceived sleight or whatever we just don’t let it go. Men let it roll off their backs.
Here’s one way to draw a big red line under negative thoughts: counter it with an alternative explanation. Every time that nasty thought pops into your brain, summon a different thought. It doesn’t even have to disprove the negative thought, simply providing an alternative take can work. “I asked lots of good questions during the show.” “My report is well researched.” “I studied hard for this grade.”
The great bonus of this kind of thinking is that if you repeat it often enough, it gets easier because, according to the latest neurological research, you will literally rewire your brain to be more confident.
Stop thinking everyone’s thinking about you.
A delightful bi-product of all our ruminating is that we have a sneaky tendency to think we are the stars of everyone else’s headlines, and not in a good way.
When we do fail, make a mistake or get criticized we are convinced that everyone else is talking about it. They are not. I promise. Realizing that other people are far more interested in their own lives than they are in yours helps you see that, while you may be mortified by some professional embarrassment, no one else is focused on it.
It’s so hard to take the risks we need to take when we are convinced there’s a big global spotlight on us. So remember, the spotlight moved on to something else a long time ago.
Speak up but don’t “up speak”.
The number one fear of many professional women is speaking in public. For some reason raising our voices in front of a crowd really terrifies us. There’s nowhere to hide and we’re bound to blush, or stammer or sweat.
Unfortunately it’s not just part of work, it’s part of life. Whether it’s a toast at your best friend’s birthday or a presentation to the management team, you will have to master speaking in public. Here are two things that will make your next speaking opportunity easier:
· Change the language - cross out “me” and “I” and put in “we” or “the team” or “the mission.” Women are much happier talking on behalf of the group. Remember, other people feel nervous about this too.
· Practice, practice, practice – the more you do it, the easier it gets. Practice at home, in front of a mirror or a spouse/trusted friend to simulate a bit of pressure.
Oh and one big thing to avoid - up speak.
Some women have a tendency to make statements sound like questions by raising their intonation at the end of the sentence. Whether or not they are feeling confident, they sure don’t sound like it.
The best way to see if you are falling victim to up speak is to record yourself and listen back to the audio. You’ll know right away and be in position to eliminate up speak, in yourself and the women and girls around you.
Nerves are OK – inaction is not.
I recently gave a presentation to a high-powered group of executives – 14 men and 2 women. I walked into the room and suddenly got really nervous. As the band of sweat appeared on my pale pink silk shirt (bad idea) I suddenly realized it was normal to be nervous. In fact I’d probably have been a robot if I hadn’t been nervous.
Nerves are normal and even knowing that can help at critical moments. Honestly. What you can’t do is let those nerves stop you from taking action or going for that thing that is just outside your comfort zone. You just have to power through them.
Although the four confidence killers I outline above are very common for women, each of us has our own ways of combating them.”