Something that I know only too well myself, and the people I have worked with consistently demonstrate, is that having self-confidence is so important for many aspects of our lives. However, many people struggle to trust their abilities, qualities and judgement at work. Can you relate to this? Perhaps you may have previously had a bad experience at work that has lowered your self-confidence or have previously been in a conversation or situation where you felt emotionally threatened.


It’s interesting to note that many high-achieving managers, both men and women acquire bad habits, such as behaviours, words and turns of phrase which are associated with low-confidence. These have usually been acquired and conditioned over the years. I’ll give you five examples towards the end of this blog. The problem is that these habits are often ‘blind spots’ that can hinder internal and projected self-confidence, and therefore create difficulty for progress and success. If you have new ideas, points of view, experiences and opinions then you need to know how to communicate them, rather than being held back by reluctance, depreciating your virtues and fearing failure.


However, if all this is something you can relate to we have some good news! You really can manage your behaviour, change your speech and as a result, improve interpersonal relations, boost your self-esteem, confidence and therefore your career.


Self-efficacy and career-resilience


An important component of self-confidence is self-efficacy. Well, what on earth is Self-Efficacy?
Kendra Cherry tells us that, according to psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Translating that in practical terms, it is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.”


This of course reflects your perception of a career-related/performance related task, the difficulty associated with it, how you believe you will attempt it and how well you will carry out the task despite obstacles.  What are the implications? Well, in order to be self-confident, it is therefore important to have a positive outlook on your ability to cope, perform and thrive, in order to achieve your goals. This will encourage career resilience, so that you are able to promote a high level of adaptability, competence and confidence, irrespective of difficult situations you may find yourself in, which of course could even be in your ‘danger zone’.
This all seems relatively straight-forward, however, many people struggle to be self-confident at work. This is partially due to common behaviours and habits of speech that may reflect low confidence without us realising it.


Behaviour associated with low confidence that will work against you.
I mentioned danger zones. One of the challenges in fact is that many people who lack confidence usually remain in their comfort zone. This results from the fear of failure and naturally creates the avoidance of risk-taking. Not only is this damaging for your self-judgement and development, but over time it will hold you back from progressing to where you want to be. If you think about it if you constantly stay in your comfort zone, what happens is that your stretch zone, which is a great opportunity area to work in now and then, becomes your danger zone. This inhibits personal growth and achievement as people don’t dare venture out into it, and if forced to, experience stress, even panic which of course prevents high performance and success.


Additionally, working hard to cover up mistakes quickly and hoping to fix the problem before other people notice is another sign of low-confidence. The inability to admit mistakes means the inability to learn from them.  This behaviour in the workplace can be self-destructive and often manifests negatively. Confident people are generally more positive in their perceptions of themselves and their abilities.
So here’s some helpful hints for more confident behaviour:


Get clear on your strengths.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you are good at! Integrate this into what you do daily, as this will continually make you feel positive, energised, engaged and self-assured and even in that ‘state of flow’.


Do what you believe in.
Hold this position, even if there is an underlying fear that others may criticise you for it.
Be willing to take risks


Step into that stretch zone. Go that extra mile to achieve, and don’t hold back when you have an idea that you believe in.


Accept changes


Instead of resisting change and feeling negative, look forward to working with new and different people, and don’t be afraid to accept a challenge.
Now, here’s the 5 WORDS and PHRASES that’ll work against your confidence:


“I can’t”
This phrase is used in many aspects of people’s lives. However, it immediately limits your ability to control your actions. Assertion training shows us that “Can’t” is passive and submissive, and means you will lose your authority, demonstrating that you do not possess the skill to do something. Such self-limiting words will impact your confidence, and prevent progression due to fear. In contrast, the use of “won’t” is active, and portrays your own creation of personal boundaries and decisiveness.
Action: remember your strengths and keep in control by replacing “I can’t” with “I won’t”.


“What if we…”
This is used to tentatively ask the question of what you will do or what will happen. If used before a proposition, the idea will not be interpreted as a straightforward and strong idea, but rather, may invite resistance and contradiction, which can lead you to feel criticised and hinder your confidence.


Action: if you are to use “what if” before a statement, turn it into a question that allows for the contribution of other ideas and sounds much less certain than “I think we should”.


This word lessens the power and influence of your statements. It can also be interpreted as self-justifying or even apologetic. For example, saying “I just wanted to make sure”, can hint “sorry if I’m interrupting/unsure”. We often use it unwittingly as an easy defence mechanism used to subconsciously protect ourselves from discomfort, and avoiding the feeling of asking for too much.


Action: Before asking something of someone, pause and re-think of an alternative way you can communicate that message. By removing the word “just”, you will notice how much stronger and direct the statement sounds.


Try does not add any value to your communication and weakens your point/action. It makes you sound weak or ineffectual and sows strong seeds of doubt as to a positive end result immediately.


Action: Remove it. Place emphasis on what you will do. You can always end on a ‘no guarantee’s note.


“Am I explaining this alright?”
This question immediately opens up the possibility for your audience to doubt whether you are. This phrase is used a lot when teaching someone something or giving a presentation.On a positive note it is sometimes used to encourage interaction and confirm your effectiveness. However, in reality, it speaks to the underlying belief you may have that you are not being effective, and this can unknowingly hinder your self-confidence.


Action: Ask for feedback. It is much better to say “I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this” or “What do you all think about what I have just shared with you?.” This is a better technique to project confident behaviour and ensure that everyone understands you.


So you can see that subtle language, phrases and behaviours that we use within our working environment can have a negative consequence for our perceived and actual confidence. Becoming aware of and observing these habits can be a useful learning curve for increasing confidence, particularly in your speech.
Put this into practice and see how it can strengthen your confidence, the results you get and ultimately your self-belief.


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