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Let’s Keep Confidence From Getting a Bad Name

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Many of us were taught as kids not to brag or boast.

That is a fine lesson, but it is incomplete. And in the incompleteness, part of the wisdom gets lost.

Here’s the problem. Bragging or boasting, when seen as a bad thing points us toward being humble (which is also good), but also subtly steers us away from any outwards sign of being confident.

But …

Confidence and humility are not opposites.

When or if we think of them as opposites we have a misguided view of confidence and then think of confidence as overly connected with cockiness or arrogance. (The thesaurus I just consulted didn’t even bring those words up as antonyms for confident.)

My favorite quotation on humility come from the writer C.S. Lewis who wrote: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Lewis isn’t saying we can’t be confident, but that our confidence can be used in the service of others.

If you are looking for a healthy balance between confidence and arrogance, and the ability to be confident and humble, take the focus off of you.

Use your confidence to communicate your beneficial message more effectively. Use your confidence to build trust and relationships with others for everyone’s benefit.

Taking this approach does two very important things.

First it gives you a clearer picture of what this looks like for yourself to be confident without going too far. More than that, it gives you a way to do it — by putting the focus on others, rather than yourself. (As it turns out, doing that is easier — and takes the pressure off us anyway, doesn’t it?)

Second, by focusing on others, it improves the chances that others won’t misinterpret our intentions. After all, even if your intention isn’t to be cocky, your behavior could be seen that way by others. When we put our focus squarely on others, the risk of that misinterpretation goes down dramatically.

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