The Big Con

Everyone that I work with will usually want to focus on a particular area of development in their personal or interpersonal communication style; fluency, forensic listening or making a lasting impact for example. Despite the wide variety of areas, I wouldn’t need to have kept a record to know the one thing that people seem to want more than anything else. Confidence. The margin by which this tops people’s wish lists over anything else is staggering; in any group of twenty, on average at least fifteen will list confidence as their number one goal. To find an effective way to help people develop this is, for a trainer, the holy grail.

If I spend enough time with a client asking them about what confidence specifically means to them, how they would feel and what they would do if they were more confident, they invariably end up describing with great accuracy how someone else they admire appears to be when they are operating at peak performance. This confusion between what is and what seems to be is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to developing confidence; if we actually knew what we were looking for, we’d be able to get it.

Every time I am unsure of a word or the meaning of words, I start with the etymology in order to identify at least the origins. Confidence is a word derived from two latin words; con (with) and fidere (faith). Might it just be a matter of trusting oneself? If so, then the problem would be solved by helping people to believe in themselves a bit more. And if that were the case, then I imagine that the number one area of development on people’s wish lists would be “how to keep my confidence in check so other people don’t think I am arrogant.” Could this be something that some politicians might benefit from?

I have enjoyed a portfolio career over the years, with time spent working in the leisure, music, stagecraft, performing arts, consulting, events and learning & development industries. I have come across a large number of people from varied backgrounds doing very different things for a living. What I believe I have noticed is that whilst some say they feel confident and other say they don’t, it is actually how they make me feel that decides whether I have confidence in them. When citing Martin Luther King as an example in 2008, Benjamin Zander said, “One of the characteristics of a leader is that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realise whatever he’s dreaming.” Whether you consider Mr King or Mr Zander as they speak, I suggest they are both an example of someone operating at peak performance and trusting that their audience will follow them.

In recognising another person’s impact on me, I am acknowledging my response to their actions. It follows therefore that I control what I feel. Feelings of confidence can exist in response to people, things or situations. If my wife feels more confident wearing a beautiful dress, then the dress gave her confidence. If I feel more confident when I arrive earlier for an interview, then my timekeeping gave me confidence. If your audience feels more confident in your work and your ability to do your job, then you have given them confidence. Your work, my timekeeping and my wife’s dress, however, are not capable of feeling confident; hence the con.

Therefore I believe that confidence is something you might be best advised to seek to give rather than feel. That makes it possible, will give you the impact you are looking for, and is what I believe The Big Con will help you achieve.