2 painless ways to be more confident at work — without overdoing it

If you don’t believe you can get the job done, no one else will, either.


Out of the many qualities required for success, confidence may be one of the most important. After all, you can possess amazing abilities, but if you don’t believe you can get the job done, no one else will, either. People can often be their own worst enemies.

A University of Melbourne study found just how significant confidence in the workplace is after conducting 100 interviews with employees of large corporations in Melbourne, New York, and Toronto. The participants who described higher levels of confidence earlier in their lives, such as during school, actually earned better wages and were promoted more quickly.

“The implications are tremendous in terms of the personality employers should look for when it comes to hiring or promoting staff,” said lead author Dr. Reza Hasmath.

Of course, many of us struggle with our confidence levels, but there are ways to give yourself a boost when you need it, say, for a job interview or impressing a client.

2. Third-person self-talk

You will impress them and get this job. Many people have found themselves looking into the mirror saying these words. This type of self-talk is effective, but amazingly, University at Buffalo researchers found a way to make it work even better: talk about yourself in the third person.

“Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward,” said study author Mark Seery, an expert on stress and coping. “One way to do that is by not using first-person pronouns like ‘I.’ For me, it’s saying to myself, ‘Mark is thinking this’ or ‘Here is what Mark is feeling’ rather than ‘I am thinking this’ or ‘Here is what I’m feeling.’ It’s a subtle difference in language, but previous work in other areas has shown this to make a difference – and that’s the case here, too.”

Why does this work? By taking a “distanced perspective,” you see yourself as though you were an outside observer. This lets you get out of your head so you can take on upcoming challenges with more confidence.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers had 133 participants give a two-minute speech on why they were a good fit for their dream job that would be judged by a trained evaluator. Participants were told to think about their presentations either in first-person or third-person pronouns. The speakers’ heart rates were then measured to provide insight into their level of confidence.

“Self-distancing may promote approaching [situations] with confidence and experiencing them with challenge rather than threat,” Seery said.

“Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward.”

1. Non-verbal confidence

You’re psyched up and ready to go, but how do you ensure you don’t come off like you’re full of hot air? A study out of the University of Notre Dame suggests you express your confidence in non-verbal ways: “making eye contact, gesturing, adopting an expansive posture, or speaking in a strong voice allows people to enjoy the social benefits of expressing confidence while simultaneously reducing the risk they’ll be punished for overconfidence.”

In a series of experiments, participants assessed potential collaborators or advisers who either acted overconfident or cautious before their actual performance was revealed. At first, participants highly rated the overconfident speakers, but after the results, the ones who did so verbally were viewed more negatively than the cautious speakers. Meanwhile, the non-verbal, confident speakers were viewed more positively.

“If the overly confident candidates expressed their confidence nonverbally,” said Nathan Meikle, a postdoctoral research and teaching associate, “they remained the most trusted and desirable choice, even when revealed to be over-the-top.”


What are the reputational consequences of being overconfident? We propose that the channel of confidence expression is one key moderator—that is, whether confidence is expressed verbally or nonverbally. In a series of experiments, participants assessed target individuals (potential collaborators or advisors) who were either overconfident or cautious. Targets expressed confidence, or a lack thereof, verbally or nonverbally. Participants then learned targets’ actual performance. Across studies, overconfidence was advantageous initially—regardless of whether targets expressed confidence verbally or nonverbally. After performance was revealed, overconfident targets who had expressed confidence verbally were viewed more negatively than cautious targets; however, overconfident targets who had expressed confidence nonverbally were still viewed more positively than cautious ones. The one condition wherein nonverbal overconfidence was detrimental was when confidence was clearly tied to a falsifiable claim. Results suggest that, compared with verbal statements, nonverbal overconfidence reaps reputational benefits because of its plausible deniability.
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