Quiet Confidence


Introduced at a speaking circle

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.”

22 responses to “Quiet Confidence

  1. Yes, I feel this way a lot. I want to let people know about my work and I like sharing it because I’m excited to write, but I don’t want to be pushy or go overboard. Sure, it would be nice to get paid to write full time but I do it because I love it and hope someone gets enjoyment from it. There is the fine line I guess. Nice post.

  2. What a great lesson, Silvia, to be used in so many interactions. Finding that balance between not promoting yourself and nit being overbearing – i daresay “quiet confidence” is one many wish they could use to describe themselves but know it doesn’t fit.

    You exude it in your writing, and I admire your endeavors to understand the qualiity and work to own it. yourself.

  3. Beautifully expressed, Silvia. This is what I am trying to teach my granddaughters. – Fawn

  4. Excellent points, and I couldn’t agree more.

  5. This post couldn’t be more central to a writer who seeks to market their book. Or a teacher, really at any level. Your students know if you are not confident! Brave and prescient of you to join Toastmasters. On what topics do you speak? A good post, Sylvia.

  6. Confidence is a learned skill. Looking back on the decades when I did not believe in myself, I realize how much I have grown. This is a strong post. Thank you.

  7. Great lesson to be learned here. Thanks, Silvia!

  8. I am one of those people that would hide behind a screen rather than to speak in public. When I was in front of people, my brain would go blank and my knees shake. So I am quite impressed with your quiet confidence. Not only that, I AGREE with your opinion.

  9. Yes, a very good lesson! I loved my time at Toastmasters. I went for 5 years and learned a lot. I would be shaky if I had to give a presentation on the spur of the moment, but from Toastmasters I know that I could do it if I had to and it would be ok.

  10. So true. I expect it takes a lot of practice to come off sounding good in front of a group.

  11. I think some people do have a natural ability to speak in front of groups, but most do not. I believe the best speakers prepare well, enjoy their topic, and are not too concerned about how others perceive them. As one who was/is naturally petrified of speaking, I’ve learned over time that groups are made up of regular folks, not against me, not for me, just curious people. I’m not so afraid anymore. Doing it a few times definitely helps. Praying helps more:) Thanks for your insight.

  12. Hi Silvia – I admire people who can stand up and talk happily .. I can do it to small groups, and prepared to larger groups … I’m practising … but couldn’t get to grips with Toastmasters – but then that’s me I guess .. take my own path.

    But congratulations and I’m so glad you’re enjoying it .. cheers Hilary

  13. It’s all about the ego… Too much and you’re arrogant. Too little and you’re seen as a wet lettuce!

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