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Confident vs. cocky

Too much confidence can work against you

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in Workplace Communication

If you’ve ever spent any time with a career coach or outplacement specialist, you’ve probably been nagged about the need to come across as a confident winner in job interviews. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

If you’re too confident, you can alienate others with your cocky attitude whether or not you’re applying for a job. Here’s how to inject enough confidence to reinforce your stature without going overboard:

Emphasize “lessons learned.” To combat a holier-than-thou approach, look for opportunities to admit to your mistakes or failings and how you overcame them. Use phrases such as, “One of the most important lessons I learned was...” or “After a few experiences like that, I realized...” The ability to reflect on your past and draw positive conclusions can reinforce your high degree of self-awareness.

Show selective aggression. It’s great to radiate enthusiasm and even show an occasional aggressive streak. Just make sure you pick and choose the appropriate moments to unleash your aggression. Example: Rather than make lots of sweeping statements about how you love to “kill the competition” or how “poor performers don’t belong in this business at all,” express excitement about jobs well done or stress goals that were achieved. Reserve your strongest opinions for those rare times when you need to summon up an extra push to motivate people or showcase your brash side.

Make firm commitments. When someone asks for a favor or wonders whether you can handle a tough assignment, say, “I can do that for you.” That’s confident, and it will boost your image. But if you start going on about how certain you are that you can do the job and you begin bragging or reciting a litany of your past triumphs, you may bore the listener and oversell yourself. Your commitments sound more dramatic when you express them once—clearly and boldly. Resist the urge to ramble or repeat yourself.

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