Looking back at my career I wasn't always confident in how I projected myself to the world. I lacked self-assuredness in my interactions with more experienced and knowledgeable people, thinking that they were judging me.
It was all in my head, which spoke to my own low self-esteem at that time. I often fell victim to fear -- the fear that I couldn't hang with the big boys and big girls at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, and that I wasn't good enough in the eyes of my peers.
But through continuous self-awareness and the building up of my own emotional intelligence and, additionally, learning from admirable leaders who modeled confidence in a non-arrogant manner, I learned to adopt and adapt the following habits.
1. Put your integrity on full display.
A common tendency of people who lack confidence is to put on a mask that hides who they truly are when faced with difficult people or situations. A confident leader or colleague shows up with integrity and accountability and displays his or her most authentic self when faced with challenges.
2. Don't be fake.
Avoiding being fake comes down to emotional honesty, which is uncharted terrain for those who only see people as objects to be used in a transaction. When mastered, emotional honesty works wonders in squashing ambiguity and diffusing conflict. People speak their mind and don't rely on cryptic hints or other passive-aggressive tactics to get their point across. It means, perhaps, ending a relationship, firing an employee, or severing a partnership that no longer aligns with a person's values. Emotional honesty is the antidote to being fake, and one of the most sought-after leadership competencies I'm asked to help develop in others.
3. Pause and listen before you speak.
There's a conversational technique called the "six-second pause," which intuitive souls use to gather their thoughts before they speak. Why six seconds? The chemicals of emotion inside our brains and bodies usually last about six seconds. During a heated exchange, if we can pause for a short moment, the flood of chemicals being produced slows down. When you are frustrated or upset, before you say something harsh, this precious pause helps you to quickly assess the costs and benefits of your actions and make more careful choices.
4. Be human.
Great leaders display authenticity by making room daily for laughter and joy while accepting that they're not perfect. When they make mistakes, they will admit them because it's the human thing to do. And when employees make mistakes, it's safe for them to risk being open enough to say, "Hey boss, I messed up." They can say this due to the high levels of trust built over time with human leaders.
5. Adopt ninja-like listening skills.
Effective communication isn't just about talking; it is also the ability to listen and understand what's happening on the other side of the fence. This is becoming an instinct skill in today's connected world that relies on technology more than face-to-face interactions. Winners in the soft-skills arena who master the art of listening will have a clear edge. They'll be able to detect the cues and ask questions to probe the other person's feelings or opinions on the topic of conversation.
6. Mind your body language.
Research says that people can judge another person in just a 10th of a second. And in two or more seconds, people's judgments tend to become more negative. That's why body language is so important in projecting confidence and boosting your likability. For example, when talking with someone, maintain steady eye contact instead of shifting around the room, which can come across like you're either disinterested or hiding something. Also, be aware of your posture. Sitting or standing up straight and leaning toward the other person when speaking gives off that confident and approachable look. Lastly, smile! There's nothing more disarming than a genuine smile with teeth, which shows openness and interest in others.