How to communicate with unshakeable confidence

How to communicate with unshakeable confidence

"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit"- E.E. Cummings

This is one of my favourite quotes about confidence. To me, being confident goes hand in hand with the ability to express yourself freely in a positive and empowering way. Often, confident communication is one of the most desired skills my clients want to develop. Why are those skills so important?

Let's look closer at what it helps us achieve:

Why is confident communication important?

These are just some of the points confident communication will help you with:

  • Helps you to communicate effectively with others even when you have different interests
  • Builds your credibility
  • Helps you build better relationships both privately and professionally
  • Helps you to be a better negotiator (hence higher salary, promotion, etc.)
  • Helps you to convince and influence others
  • Helps you to be successful in your career and life

Core ingredients of confident communication

Let's have a look into some ingredients of confidence and confident communication. One of the core ones is the belief in our own capabilities. This doesn't mean we go on an ego-trip and boast about what we can, but we are not hiding under false beliefs of modesty either.

Knowing yourself

Confidence comes from the simple awareness and acceptance of our own strengths and weaknesses. Each one of us has their own unique set. The problems often appear when we start comparing ourselves to others.

Positive self-image

The second important element of confidence is having a positive self-image. Whether we have a positive one or a negative one often comes from our childhood, and yet having been brought up with a negative one doesn't mean you cannot change it.

Self-image is fuelled by self-talk; this is the inner chatter that we often are not even aware of. From now on, start paying attention to how you talk to yourself, and if you notice a not-so-friendly tone, ask yourself whether you want to continue doing it. It's important to realise the negative effects that this will have on your confidence and your communication style.

Expressing your thoughts

The third element I would like to talk about is comfort in expressing your thoughts and ideas to others. Most people who are content with themselves and value their abilities will feel freer to express their thoughts even if they conflict with others. In this element, however, culture plays an important role. So keep in mind that this will greatly influence how directly or indirectly you will express your opinion, especially if it is a conflicting point-of-view.

Different communication styles

Now, let's have a look into the difference between aggressive, submissive (passive) and confident communication.

Aggressive communication

If I would ask you to think of a person who has communicated aggressively with you, I am pretty sure that you will quickly come up with some "great" examples. We quickly pick up on behaviours that make us feel threatened, scared, disrespected, etc.

Some characteristics of an aggressive communication style are:

  • Communicating thoughts and ideas in a forceful or confrontational manner
  • Struggling to listen to anyone else, and / or constantly interrupting others
  • Showing a lack of empathy and respect by disregarding or ignoring the ideas, feelings of others
  • Raising their tone of voice, using offensive language
  • Assuming aggressive body language such as pointing fingers, standing above others and violating personal space

Often this style is confused with being confident, especially in cases where the person is not raising their voice, but talking firmly and slowly. However, at the same time this person is not allowing others to contribute their ideas and stubbornly maintains their own perspective.

Why do we sometimes confuse an aggressive communication style with a confident one? Often, this comes from the fact that when we ourselves are not confident communicators, we mistake their aggressiveness for confidence as we are impressed with how they are able to convey what they think. Yet as mentioned above, truly confident communicators are able to balance bringing their point across while allowing others to do the same.

Every time you sit across someone who is communicating aggressively, keep in mind that deep down inside, over-confident people are often not that confident at all. They have just mastered a strategy to mask their insecurities in the form of a thick and prickly wall.

Submissive communication

The essence of submissive communication stems from a belief that others are better than us. If you have this type of communication style, you may believe that others know more than you do and are smarter than you are. This behaviour likely stems from a fear of rejection, helping people to run away from conflicting situations in order to avoid pain or discomfort.

How do you recognise a submissive communication style? Here some common characteristics:

  • Being overly quiet and only sharing their point-of-view if asked
  • Hesitating, using tentative language (e.g. maybe, I don't know, I suppose, etc.)
  • Downplaying one's own ideas or giving in too quickly
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not good at accepting appreciation and compliments

Confident communication

Now let’s focus on the confident communication style, also known as assertive communication. As mentioned above, confident communicators are able to find a sweet spot in between being comfortable with expressing themselves while still being receptive to the opinions of others.

Here are some characteristics of confident communicators:

  • Communicating clearly, openly and without judgement - while having conviction in what they believe in
  • Active listening and maintaining open body language (such as: smiling, nodding and welcoming gestures)
  • A calm, friendly and positive tone of voice
  • Not shying away from stating their boundaries and saying no when necessary
  • Open to feedback and not reacting defensively

Overall, a confident communication style can help you to establish your presence as an individual and allow your unique personality to shine, whether in the workplace or in another social setting.

Experiment with different styles

There's no better way to develop a new skill than simply to experiment with it. If you would like to become a more confident communicator, choose one characteristic at a time that you want to improve upon and play around with it. Of course, do not choose the most difficult situations, like presenting to the board of directors, for testing out your new style. But rather, find easy situations first and build upon your skills at a steady pace.

Good luck and feel free to share what helps you to become a confident communicator down in the comments below.

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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