8 Little Known Ways to Show Confidence Without Being Cocky

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / November 28, 2011

There is nothing worse in the world of business than classic egotistical arrogance.  Everyone know’s that guy who just can’t help but tell everyone how awesome he is.  But the truth is–if he was really that cool, why would he have to tell everyone?

The real trick is mastering the confidence that comes with humility.  Emotional intelligence is not something that everyone is blessed with, and it’s something everyone can work on.

We’ve all recognized the kind of people that others want to rally behind and listen to.  The man or woman who walks into the room and commands everyone’s attention, but didn’t have to raise his or her voice one bit.  You know they’re confident, but they’d never say it.  This is the art of quiet confidence.

Confidence is not something that comes from what you drive, how much attention you draw to yourself or how much money you’ve made in the past.  Confidence is about what you truly think you can produce in the present.  It’s your true feeling of self worth.  Entrepreneurs usually have too much or too little and finding the right amount and how to show it, is a delicate balance.

Here are 8 ways to boost your confidence while remaining humble…

1. Learn the Art of the Humble Brag— Urban dictionary says a humble brag is “a form of self promotion where the promoter thinks he is, almost subliminally, bragging about himself in the context of a humble statement or complaint. Everyone listening thinks he is a jackass.”  Read: This is not what we’re going for.

In the case of our humble brag, you’ll want to speak confidently about yourself without boasting. During the course of a conversation, you’ll inevitably have the opportunity to talk about yourself. Most people who don’t like to talk about themselves, simply aren’t confident, even if they are super successful. They think by being close-lipped about themselves, they are being humble, but what they are really doing is selling themselves short. Everyone needs to know how to sell themselves, while keeping in mind, the best products sell themselves once the consumer understands what the product is.  You really don’t need to brag or sell at all if you…

2.  Learn to speak about yourself in a tactful manner–In the past, I never liked writing in the first person.  Although I wanted to be an authority in the field of business, I didn’t want people to think I was trying to be a “guru” or someone who’s all talk and no execution like so many other people in the social media world.  My best friend once bluntly asked, “Dude, why don’t you ever talk about yourself.”  While I simply told him, “I didn’t need to,” this actually crosses the line into ignorance.  If nobody knows anything about you, then how can they respect you? Plus, there is no better way to earn rapport than to use examples of things you’ve experienced first hand.

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The truth is, it takes confidence to put yourself out there.  As my good friend Thomas Edwards, The Professional Wingman would say, “have some balls”.  It’s one of his core principles as a dating coach.

3. Dress smart, not flashy–While confidence comes from inside, the easiest way to mask your true self is with your exterior appearance.  Want to hide your insecurities?  Time to put on your biggest bling and show everyone how much money you want to look like you have.  A confident person doesn’t need to wear the Polo shirt with the 18″ horse embroidery that screams, “Hey everyone, I’m wearing Polo!!!”

Stand out by doing things differently.  This shows confidence and says you can make your own decisions.  When popping your collar was cool, I was once complimented by a girl who told me she liked that I didn’t need to pop my collar because I already exuded confidence. (humble brag)  Leave the Deion Sanders suit at home and don’t think that your self-worth is based on how much you paid for your watch.

4. Don’t wear your Rolex to your salary negotiations–Want to look like you need a raise?  Don’t wear a nicer watch than your boss.  One of the best business lessons I’ve ever learned came driving around with my “Uncle” in a beat up Oldsmobile to do go negotiate a deal on his new parking lot.  The other guy rolled up in a Benz and the first words out of my Uncle’s mouth was “gee–I see who has all the money around here.”  Perfect leverage for negotiations and my Uncle’s lot ended up being the parking for all of Gillette Stadium.

Have the confidence to be frugal.  Think of Sam Walton driving his old pickup around Arkanasas.  When asked why he didn’t own a nicer vehicle, he said, “What would all my neighbors think of me?”

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5. Speak with a purpose–The reason I’m writing this is to help others.  When I write and speak about my experiences, it’s because I think there is a benefit to others.  I mean come on, you’d have to be confident to think that by talking about yourself, others could benefit.  Remember: a confident person makes everyone around them better.  A cocky person tries to make himself look better than others.

As Denzel Washington says in American Gangster, “the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.”  If you’ve seen the movie, you know Denzel’s downfall is his fur coat and inability to resist calling attention to himself.

6. Talk less, listen more–You’ll notice that people who talk too much, are hiding something.  Are you one of those people who think you can talk your way out of a jam?  Does your big mouth ever get you in trouble, or when you get nervous do you tend to talk more without ever really saying anything?  I am.

Other confident people can see through to your insecurities and know when something is bullsh*t.  Don’t be cocky and think you can just pull the wool over everybody’s eyes.  Everyone gets nervous or insecure sometimes, it’s best just to take a deep breath and be 100% transparent with what you are trying to express.

During a negotiation, a friend of mine once pointed out, that I spent all my time talking, trying to outsmart the guy on the other side of the table.  I couldn’t get anywhere and my friend walked in and got the deal done for me in a fraction of the time.  Why? “Because I listened to what the other party actually wanted.  You weren’t listening, you were too busy planning your next move.”

7. Don’t be afraid to point out your insecurities–A television studio can be a stressful place, when you’re being interviewed.  (humble brag) The lights are bright and if you say something dumb, you feel like the whole world is going to see it.  Even though I’ve had a lot of media training and plenty of practice, being 100% confident is still difficult.  What happens when you get asked a question you don’t know anything about?!

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Recently on the Daily National, I was asked about the World Bank’s Economic Ratings in Eastern Europe. (gulp).  You’ll see at the 7 minute mark of the video I start off well when asked where the top countries to start a business are.  Then I’m asked about Eastern Europe and might as well have blurted out “Eastern Europe? Why not?!”  Luckily, I saved myself by saying I didn’t know a ton about the subject, but I can’t help but laugh every time I watch that video.

People respect you when you are transparent and can present the facts as they are.  Everyone has insecurities and a confident person knows what theirs are.  Being honest about them makes you both more likable and relateable.

8. Surround yourself with other confident people–Even when you aren’t surrounded by confident people, idolizing the persona of famous figures can be fun.  Think: James Bond, The World’s Most Interesting Man, or Princess Diana.   Tim Ferriss’ blog breaks down how Bill Clinton has so much charisma that he creates a “reality distortion field”.  Studying someone like Clinton shows how to present yourself in a manner that gives off the confidence that people will believe in, especially when making promises.  Very rarely will you see a politician be cocky; someone arrogant would never make it into office, as people criticize their every word.

Next time you meet someone that posses that serious inner confidence, ask them how they did it.  Take note and figure out what makes them tick.  Half of the time, the person won’t have even noticed they were being confident, while the other half will tell you that it hasn’t always been so easy for them.  Visualize yourself doing whatever you need confidence to do in your head over and over again, whether its making a presentation or sinking a golf putt.  One of my first speaking engagements was at Clarkson University, (nearest city: Ottawa) and during the brutally long drive, I must have rehearsed my talk 30 times.  Each of those times I saw myself present with 100% confidence and when I got up there, I did just that.  Remember: cockiness is an outward display of insecurities that come along with trying too hard, but with 100% confidence arrogance will disappear.

It will teach you the exact steps to becoming an entrepreneur in the 21st century.

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