We Don’t Build Confidence the Same Way

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There are literally millions of articles, books and videos about how to build your confidence. They all seem to share a common theme—an assumption that we all build confidence the same way. But we don’t. Confidence is tied to your input channels, which are tied to your hard-wiring. Nearly everyone has at least one input channel, of which there are four. Everyone has a primary one. The differences are subtle but important.

Externally driven from Subject Matter Experts

If you feel like you always need more information, or proof, or additional input from sources you trust, this might be you. Confidence is driven through this channel by external sources. Those sources can be written information or people you trust. The key is that you trust them as valid. The best ways to build self-confidence in this person are through the devilish details. If this is your primary channel for confidence, your learning style comes from the same sources. You’ll tend to learn best from gaining more information and receiving training.

For those members of your team who operate this way, help them build self-confidence through giving clear expectations. The more training, information, expectations and feedback they receive, the more their confidence will grow. Answering the “why” question will also be helpful, as this helps give more evidence.

Externally driven from Being Part of the Process

Also driven by external sources, some folks, including my talented business and life partner, gain confidence from being part of the process. The more she knows the order and process of what’s happening, the better she feels. There’s also a pretty strong drive to finish what she’s started before shifting to the next task. At least, finishing to what is a good stopping point in her mind. We left a project unfinished in the barn yesterday. But she had gotten to a point that made sense to her as a good stopping place.

If this sounds familiar to you, you will be most able to build self-confidence when you are part of creating plans to follow. This means you also prefer to have plenty of notice when something in that plan has to change. Does this mean you’ll fall apart if that doesn’t happen? Of course not. We’re talking about preferences and tendencies, and how to create conditions which are best for you.

Externally driven from Collaboration

One more externally driven input channel comes from collaboration with other people. If you love to brainstorm and get energy from face-to-face interactions, Covid isolation has probably been particularly hard on you. You may recognize this primary input channel in colleagues who thrive on those interactions, and who also need more positive encouragement when things are tough. They also gain self-confidence from some recognition of their contributions, as well as offers of support. Words mean a lot to this profile.

The learning style of these folks is all about verbal interactions. Being able to repeat back to you what they’ve understood helps them clarify their own understanding. Having opportunities to verbally engage is key to their confidence and well-being.

Internally driven. From Yourself.

Of the four primary sources, this is the only one that comes from within. Someone who prefers to figure things out themselves probably gains confidence from the process. The best ways to create opportunities for self-confidence to grow in this individual are to get out of the way. That sounds rude but it isn’t intended to be. The more freedom to make decisions and work with limited oversight, the more confident this team member will feel.

This one happens to be mine. I know the downsides of this style intimately. We tend to communicate in a way that can be off-putting to others. The strengths are also valuable to teams. We do best without much oversight because we’ll ask if we need help. Sharing our ideas about the best plan of action and ways to proceed help us build confidence.

Bottom Line?

We may all need to build more self-confidence, but we won’t all do it the same way. In order to figure out what you need to build it in yourself, find your strongest input channel. From there, it’s all about being willing to ask for what you need.

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