How do some people remain poised and confident where others are reduced to nervous wrecks?
I have been a student of the human condition for years. It all started age 17 when I faced the tough life decision of what to do after school finished.
I decided to study psychology at university. There were three reasons:
- I loved maths but could see that the content was distantly remote from anything that dealt with a real life problem.
- My school teachers were pressuring me to continue my mathematical studies at university.
- I react extremely negatively in the presence of adult pressure.
In reality, it was all number 3. Given the option to rebel against adult opinions, my history will clearly show a consistent choice.
That is how I ended up at Nottingham University in a large lecture theatre surrounded by 300 first year undergraduate students. The first lesson began when a slightly over-proud middle-aged woman walked onto the stage down below and said:
“I am Margaret Thatcher:”
Plenty of confused coughs and surprised faces.
After a pause, she said: “How do you know that is not true? I mean, you do know that it is not true… but what has happened to tell you that it is not true? How do you know this?”
The next three years were spent between the bars and sports fields of Nottingham, but in my spare time I pursued the question of how human senses provide us with information that our brain can process into an answer “No, she is not Margaret Thatcher.”
That was 25 years ago.
I have spent the last 25 years seeking to understand people, first as a psychologist, then as a business consultant, then for the last decade as a teacher and sales-focussed entrepreneur.
Do you know how confident people manage to feel confident?
You may not want this answer. You may be looking for something more mathematical, more abstract and theoretical. You may be disappointed.
Some of the greatest problems have been solved with a very simple solution. For 200 years the River Thames in London was horribly polluted and a source of illness. For 200 years Kings, Dukes and Mayors had tried to clean it up. No success. Finally a politician came up with a simple law: “Anybody who uses the river must take water out downstream from where they return it.” Within 4 years, river clean.
Often, simple fixes are the best.
You’re still with us… so here goes. The answer to how confident people manage to feel confident:
Yes, they pretend.
They don’t listen to the inner voice that is telling them that they are not good enough, that they are the wrong person, that they don’t deserve to be here. They get up and pretend.
It works because of a psychological concept called “Emotional Contagion”.
Human beings return what they receive. If you walk down a hallway with a massive smile on your face, you will get smiles back. If you walk down a hallway with an angry grimace, you’ll get angry grimaces back.
If you pretend to be confident, people will respond to you as if you are the type of person who should be confident. You will see this reaction of others and it will actually leave you feeling confident.
So, go channel George Clooney, or Madonna, or… the most confident person you know.