Communicating Confidence to Your Colleagues

The funny thing about confidence is that it’s easy to assume everyone else has it in spades, and you’re the only one with butterflies in your stomach. That couldn’t be further from the truth—and it’s exactly the kind of thinking that keeps you from developing the self-assurance you need to communicate confidence to your colleagues. You are up to the job, so put these confidence-building strategies to work to make sure everyone knows it. Especially you.


Stop yourself from using diminishing qualifiers

Compare how these sentences sound:

  • “I hate to bother you, but I just wanted to reach out and see if you’ve had a chance to finish your report that was due Monday.”
  • “I’m checking in on your report that was due Monday.”

Big difference, right? The first option is apologetic and contains the softening blow of the word “just.” You don’t need to apologize for sharing your thoughts or checking in on something past due, and you don’t need to qualify your statement with a “just.” Be on the lookout for such phrases in your writing and speech patterns. Troublesome qualifying phrases include “I could be wrong, but …” and “I’m sorry for asking, but …”

Also, be on alert for times when you slip into “upspeak,” or ending sentences on a higher-pitched note as one does when asking a question. By making statements in upspeak, you’re turning them into questions and allowing people to respond to them as such.

Say thank you when complimented and leave it at that

Another confidence crusher is the self-deprecating response to a compliment. If your boss says, “Great job on that presentation,” say thank you and move on. Don’t brush it aside by saying, “Oh, it was no big deal,” or “oh, anyone could have done it.” It was a big deal, and no one could have done it like you. Owning that fact doesn’t make you arrogant.

Closely related to this is self-deprecation. You may have learned this as a defense mechanism to avoid taking up too much space or attracting too much attention. A little self-deprecating humor can be charming, but too much, and you’re selling yourself short.

Check the negativity in your self-talk

Your harshest critic is likely the little voice inside your head. You know the one: It’s the voice that tells you your outfit looks funny, that you’re always/never doing something wrong, and that everyone else has it all together except you. It’s the voice you would never use with a friend but are all too ready to use on yourself.

It’s time to tell that voice to shut up.

Start being mindful of how you speak to yourself. Pay attention to how often you speak to yourself in absolutes, and work to banish “always” and “never” from your inner vocabulary. Start intentionally giving yourself positive affirmations. Think of the old Stuart Smalley quote from Saturday Night Live: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggoneit, people like me!” Funny, yes, but honestly, it’s not a bad place to start.

Dress the part

Dressing confidently does not mean spending thousands of dollars on a wardrobe you can’t afford. Instead, it means finding a few appropriate pieces that fit you well and make you feel good about your appearance—so good, in fact, that you aren’t focused on it. Your clothing should be comfortable, well fitted, and suitable for the occasion. Your shoes should let you stand tall with pride, not hobble around in pain.

Practice good body language

As you interact with others in meetings, whether in person or virtually, pay attention to how your body language conveys your confidence. Sit up straight and make eye contact with others. Keep your camera on if others are doing so. Ensure your hands are rested and still, and work hard not to fidget. You want to demonstrate how engaged you are in the interaction.

Set goals for yourself

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your confidence. As you try out these strategies, set small goals for yourself, such as speaking up during a meeting, avoiding needless apologies, and making eye contact. Fake it until you make it. You won’t be the only one.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market