Building confidence in yourself can be a huge personal challenge. It's frustrating, demoralizing and lot of other counterproductive feelings. Sometimes I'll get a student who does amazing scene work, but then look sheepish and defeated, as if he just disappointed everyone. I then point out all of the good things and remind him to "put it in the win column!"
Similarly, sometimes I lead a meeting or give a presentation and feel like it didn't go as I expected, even though colleagues are thanking me for a job well done. I say, “I’m glad that’s over,” but what I should be doing is acknowledging all of the positive feedback and saying, “That was a success!” You can’t really build up your confidence – to go from less sure of yourself to more sure of yourself – unless you recognize your successes when you have them.
In public speaking, you can think “Gulp, everyone is looking at me!”
Or, you can think of your center seat at a table, the podium or where ever, as a place of power, of knowledge and respect. After all, they want something from you.
To help reinforce this idea of "owning your space," in my workshops I use a picture of the Chinese dragon, Lung. Lung traditionally symbolizes power and fearlessness. I place it on the floor at the head of the room and ask people to “Step up to the dragon’s perch.” If you think of it as a place of courage and poise, you will become more confident over time.
You’ll have a great meeting or presentation and put it in the win column!
Networking is one of those things that can require a lot of effort, and yet has the potential for a huge payoff. During the New England Museum Association Conference a few weeks ago, I used much of my time looking up attendees, setting up meet and greets and then following through. That meant introducing myself, telling my story, listening and sharing thoughts on the state of the industry.
I had to pull out a skill I hadn't used in awhile; a simple blueprint to maximize your impression and what you get out of the conversation: Ask It, Show It, Know It.
It may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to make a solid connection with a potential business partner, but your goal should not be to brag about your resume, but rather to ask questions and soak up as much information as you can. Ask about their work, their strengths, their challenges, their successes, what they do when they are not working, what do you have in common. A natural opening will come soon enough, and then you can tell your story. Really? Yes. Good question.
Learn as much as you can about the person you want to meet. Look online, talk to peers, read their bio in the program. You want to come to the conversation armed with relevant talking points and to demonstrate a competence that will get their attention. Remember, it’s networking so you don’t just want to make a good impression on them, but that they will remember you when talking to their colleagues.
"Hey, you know who would be perfect for this job? The woman I met at the conference!"
This is the time to telegraph your passion. Most people who network want to make an industry connection, collaborate, increase their knowledge, find a mentor or a protégé, or simple talk shop. Tell them why you love your job and what personal satisfaction you get out of it. Love your work, your projects, your goals…and let it show.
So, the next time you are at networking event, or a party, or a conference overwhelmed by how to make first contact with important people – just remember it’s as easy as Ask It, Show It, Know It.
You may have noticed our new logo.
We spent a long time trying to figure out the best way to represent our primary mission: to empower individuals to be the best communicators they can be.
The three ribbons on the left all launch from the same point – you – and expand out. These arrows represent the many choices anyone can make to enhance their communication skills. And we want to enhance our skills because we all know different choices lead to different outcomes.
As discussed before, Harvard University did a study that found there were two factors that determined what kind of first impression you make on people: competence and warmth. These qualities are on a spectrum from greater to lesser. That means we can choose to more or less warm and more or less competent. It’s up to you. The same goes for being more forgiving or less forgiving, more flexible or less flexible, and any combination of choices that directly effect your fellow humans
When you partner with DLM Communications you are partnering with people who want to help you be your best self, comfortable in your own skin, and give you tools to tell the world what you want to say.
And the best part is you get to decide how you want to do it.
We throw around the phrase “active listening” a lot in the business world. It's short hand for concentrating, understanding, responding meaningfully, and then remembering the conversation. That can be a challenge, but for the most part we get it right. But what happens if there is more than one voice? How do you manage the different ideas and unique lines of thought?
I sometimes lead an exercise creatively called “story.” Half a dozen participants stand in a line. I point at each of them one at a time and they make up a story, picking up where their colleague left off. Everyone shares the role of the narrator.
It’s collective storytelling, which means in order to tell a coherent story there needs to be collective listening. (For some reason the stories almost always involve dogs. I don’t know why. Someone look into that.)
There are challenges to this practice though. For example, it can be really tempting to throw in your own twist – or as we call it in the business world, "Hey, look at me!"
Once upon a time there was a dog…
…that loved running through the forest…
…and chasing squirrels…
…and then he blew up!
That non-sequitur is the equivalent of jumping to a new agenda item during a meeting, or skipping to the exciting reveal of a client pitch. "Story" quickly demonstrates the need for collective active listening, or, “honoring the intention" of who came before you.
Where was my colleague going with this? What’s the next obvious thing that needs to be addressed? How can I support that idea. It’s sharing the narrative. It’s sharing the story.
Actively tracking each piece of the conversation and being inspired by your team will lead you to a better place. You are literally moving the agenda…pitch…meeting…brainstorming session, in the same direction, with the same intention.
Being nice to yourself can be hard. How many times have you left a meeting or difficult conversation thinking, “Ugh, I could have done better!” If you’re a human like I am – go humans! – probably often.
Of course, being aware of one’s weaknesses is the first step to self-improvement, but focusing on them can force you into a downward spiral of shame. It’s the difference between “I can do that better,” and “I can do that better...I’m bad at my job...I’m bad at everything! I’m the worst! I’m going to eat a pint of ice cream!”
Actors and writers are often called their “own worst critic.” That makes sense. We invest a lot of time and emotional energy into creating something deeply personal and then send it out into the world to be judged. If we don’t think it’s perfect we see it as a reflection of our own inadequacies. The problem is that we don’t give the other voice in our head – the competent one who just created brilliant art – equal time at the microphone.
Nataly Kogan from Happier Inc. calls it a “crisis of confidence.” Remember Don Music from the classic Sesame Street sketch? He’ll never get it. Never!
Research professor at the University of Huston Graduate College of Social Work, Brene Brown, explains in her TED talk there are several things you can do to break the dead-weight of self-inflicted criticism. One of the most powerful is talking to yourself the way you would a friend.
If she feels she messed up in a meeting, you wouldn't say “You’re the worst!" A kinder friend would help separate the emotion from the facts. “Yes, you showed the wrong slide at the wrong time, but you gave a thoughtful and knowledgeable presentation and everyone loved it!”
We all make mistakes, or think we make mistakes. To avoid them from defeating our self-confidence we must listen to the part of us that responds to disappointment with empathy, not defeat.