Quiet confidence is one of my favorite character traits.
Having worked in the legal field for many years, and living not far from Hollywood (in a neighborhood with many aspiring actors), I’ve seen my share of the opposite: loud arrogance. At least that’s what it looks like from the outside. But things aren’t always as black and white, are they?
To better understand quiet confidence, it’s probably important to look at other traits — insecurity, false humility — and the fact that many times we cover our insecurities with false humility. Something teenagers do, right? Boast themselves up in order to cover their chronic shyness.
I’ve never been extremely shy, but I grew up in a culture that placed emphasis on group over individual. Not necessarily in favor of the outspoken. If you had something to say (publicly, anyway) in Eastern Europe, you said it as a group. Everything was done for the betterment of the society. Cue the party lights and music, please.
Just another way to control people, really.
As a writer — or perhaps the member of a network-crazed society — it’s important, I think, to display quiet confidence, especially when showing our work. Be excited enough without going overboard, and humble enough without sounding unsure. That’s where quiet confidence comes in. But how in the world does one display quiet confidence? Is it even teachable, or is it natural?
Let’s take a step back and see if we agree: networking, in person or online, has overtaken our lives. Online, that’s easier, but how about networking in person, running a meeting, doing readings? Selling something?
To see how this works, I attended a public presentation geared toward marketing some time ago. Sat there and listened to various speakers — some very confident, some less so. When talking to them after, I learned confidence comes with practice. They get up there and do it time and again. Like anything else, I suppose. I joined the group (Toastmasters), as I mentioned before, and found I’m having a blast speaking in front of large groups. Of course, this involves a lot of preparation.
And here’s what I noticed about the best speakers. When all is said and done, when people come up to offer congratulations, say how easy it looked, the speakers display a good dose of quiet confidence. They accept the praise, discuss their work quickly, thank the person, then ask them about themselves or very tactfully change the subject.
How is that for the pleasant image of a person?
These are the people I want to learn from, talk to, watch give presentations, readings. If they have a book out, I’m likely to buy it.
While the quality of our work speaks for itself, we are its most important ambassadors. As one writer said to me: “Express confidence in yourself and your work without going overboard, and people will want to see it.”