I don't think I know a single person who doesn't want to come across as confident. But appearing confident and being confident are two different things.

True confidence comes from within. We can feel it in another person, and we can feel it in ourselves. It is communicated through gestures, in how we carry ourselves, and in what we say to others.

Here are seven phrases confident people use all the time:

1. I don't know 

A person who isn't truly confident often wants to be seen as such. They're afraid others don't take them seriously so they try to overcompensate. 

Confident people, on the other hand, aren't afraid to answer questions honestly--including when they don't know. "I don't know, but that's a good question" is a variation of this, as is, "I'm not sure, but I'll find out."

There's a perception that in order to be a good leader, you need to know the right thing to do all the time. This is a fallacy. You don't need to already know; you need to be willing to discover what it is. You need to be able to listen closely to those who are more educated on the subject than you, and then call the shot.

Confidence isn't about having all the answers; it's about being comfortable seeking them out.

2. I'm sorry 

Insecure people are often unwilling to say "I'm sorry" because they perceive it as weakness. They do everything they can to blame others instead of taking any responsibility themselves. They're terrified that if they say something like, "I was wrong" what they're really saying is, "I'm bad."

Confident people, on the other hand, are able to say, "I'm sorry. I messed that up. Can we start again?" Or, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that what I said had that impact. I'd like the opportunity to do better next time. How does that sound?"

Apologizing when you've made a mistake is the trait of a confident person.

3. No

"No" is a complete sentence. It's also one of the hardest sentences to learn how to say, particularly if you were raised in a home where you weren't allowed to say it. If it wasn't safe for you to assert healthy boundaries as a child (or if you were punished for doing so), you often become a people-pleaser as an adult.

Let's face it: Most people have poor boundaries. It takes practice to learn how to say yes only when you mean yes, and how to say no tactfully but firmly. 

Confident people practice good boundaries. They say "no" when they need to. They trust that others won't attack them for saying no, and understand that if someone does push back on their boundaries in a disrespectful way, that person is in the wrong--not them.

4. How are you?

Confidence stems from connection. Why? Because when you know you're truly connected to others--when there are people with whom you feel safe to be fully yourself--you're able to take risks. You're willing to put yourself out there because you know that if you fall on your face, someone will have your back.

This ability to connect deeply and authentically is reflected in a confident person's everyday language. When they ask, "How are you?" they mean it. They've gone to the depths of themselves, so they're able to hold space for the depths of others.

5. I've got something to say 

Confident people speak up. They're willing to express themselves even if they know it may generate some conflict--especially when there are repercussions for the team or the organization as a whole. They don't seek out conflict, but they're able to stand up for what they believe in, even when it's not convenient. 

6. Yes, thank you

Confident people know how to receive. They aren't stoic islands of self-reliance. They don't shut everyone out. They have a secure basis of support (friends, a loving spouse, a healthy family) and they accept support from their tribe. They know how to ask for help when needed. They don't believe they can do it all themselves; they know it takes a team.

7. Tell me more about that

Rather than jumping in with their opinion all the time, confident people take the time to listen closely to what their conversation partner is actually saying. If they don't understand, they strive to. They don't assume they understand the other person's point of view; they ask. 

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"Your greatness is not in what you have, but in what you give." --Alice Hocker

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Published on: Sep 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.