With my career and life coaching clients, a large part of my work is around helping clients to develop confidence. We often think of confident people as those who are comfortable in all kinds of social settings or the quick thinkers who effortlessly speak up in a group. The same people are often described as positive, proactive, adventurous, decisive and popular.
While these are the traits we see in confident people, they’re also the qualities we most commonly recognise in extroverts too.
Introverts often rely less on these characteristics but they have other qualities that allow them to cultivate a unique version of confidence that is equally appealing.
How do confident people behave?
When I ask my (mostly introverted) clients to describe a confident person they know, they’ll often share an anecdote about a colleague who frequently speaks up in meetings or who is comfortable to present to a large group. They tell me about the person who can think on their feet, who is willing to take risks or who can ‘work the room’ at a networking event.
We might believe that demonstrating confidence involves an outward display of self-belief, but it’s also true that some of the most self-assured people model confidence quietly.
Genuinely confident people are not blindly confident or arrogant – they are aware of their strengths and they’re equally aware of their flaws. They’re not afraid of being wrong or asking for help – they know that a true sign of self-belief is recognising limitations and being willing to ask for help.
True confidence also involves a willingness to be vulnerable and real. It means having the integrity to be consistently true to your values and demonstrating authenticity in all of the different settings you find yourself in. It is a willingness to be open, curious, courageous and creative – the same qualities that are most readily embraced when we adopt what Dr Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset.
In her 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain estimates that at least one-third (and possibly up to half) of all people are introverts. And whilst introverts generally dislike self-promotion and can be less quick-thinking than their extroverted colleagues, they have many confidence-enhancing qualities to offer the world.
The upside of introversion
Introverts are self-aware
Introverted people know themselves well and understand their emotions. They can also tune into their environments and they’re sensitive to the unspoken mood in the room. Their keen observation skills give them access to all of the information available, which makes for wise and confident decision making.
They also have an inclination to spend time in solitude, offering the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of problems that are best solved with strong analytical skills.
Introverts are confident working alone
Introverts are independent and self-reliant. They need less supervision than extroverts, they’re happy to work on their own and as long as they have clarity about the work required, they’re capable and reliable self-starters.
Introverts are great problem solvers
Most introverts are deep thinkers. They want to understand concepts and ideas thoroughly. They take their time reflecting on concepts and gaining insight into problems, rather than jumping to conclusions.
Introverts are interested in other people
While it’s true that extroverts do well in almost all social settings, it is equally true that introverts can be socially adept and popular too.
Introverts have one distinct social advantage – they don’t need to prove that they’re the most popular people in the room. They express a genuine interest in others and as a result, they listen well and ask great questions, making them likeable social contacts.
While extroverts often do better at big parties or three-day conferences that involve unstructured networking time, introverts do very well in smaller social settings and at sit-down events, where they can avoid small talk and really get to know the people around them.
Introverts build lasting relationships
Introverts are skilled at creating deep and lasting relationships. They are loyal, considerate and sensitive to the other people’s feelings. They try to think before they speak, they excel at one-to-one contact and once they find ‘their people’, they maintain long-term, meaningful relationships.
Introverts are creative and original
Spending time in solitude gives an introvert time to daydream and cultivate original concepts and ideas. Many of the world’s great writers, poets, artists and philosophers lay claim to the quality of introversion.
Introverts are purpose-led
Most introverts possess a desire to be purposeful in the world. They care about leaving a legacy and making the world a better place and they’re often committed to the values of fairness and equity. They care about living a life that has meaning and purpose.
Introverts are compassionate leaders
Introverted leaders are generally compassionate and popular leaders. Their humility means that they’re happy to let the spotlight fall on others, which makes them more inclined to develop others. They are usually skilled at emotional regulation and remain calm in a crisis. They’re less inclined to be competitive, they’re not interested in creating drama and they have a desire to minimise conflict.
How to build your confidence
The first step in the process of building your confidence as an introvert is learning to embrace your innate character. Make peace with the fact that you actually don’t want to be the person with the busiest social calendar and you’ll probably never love loud, noisy events. Acknowledge that you are energised when you’ve had time alone and that you do your best work when you’re well prepared.
Try these practical steps to build your confidence
- Choose one area in your life where you would like to develop confidence. For example, maybe you’d like to feel more confident in some social settings.
- Note the specific qualities or characteristics you think you need to achieve this, such as being able to initiate conversation or make small talk comfortably.
- Connect with your sense of purpose. Understand why it might be of benefit in your personal and professional life for you to develop your social confidence. For example, if you felt confident in new social settings, it may make it easier to join the art class you’ve been wanting to attend or help you speak up in a work setting where you believe you have something valuable to contribute.
- Do the preparation required. Most introverts are not inclined to small talk, not because they’re not interested in people, but because small talk is often a barrier to genuine connection. It’s helpful to plan ahead and prepare a few conversation starters.
- Practise being confident. It can be tempting to avoid the scenarios that make you feel less confident. Make a habit of occasionally putting yourself in situations that challenge you a little. Do the preparation that will help you feel at ease and remind yourself that this may not be where you’re at your best – for now, you’re just practising.
- Quieten your inner critic. When things don’t go overly well (and sometimes they won’t), treat yourself with a bit of kindness. It’s a challenge to put yourself out there but a necessary step if you want to build your confidence.
- Take a break for a while. Growing as a person is a worthwhile pursuit but when you do too much of it, it can also be exhausting. Remember to take a break and give yourself time to recharge.
- Try meditation. I have recently recorded a Connecting with Confidence Meditation with introverts in mind. This is a gentle guided meditation that will help you feel calm and connect with the innate confidence that is already within you.