The Feel of Confidence
“Trussonomics” isn’t just a screw-up of a major world currency, nor only the exacerbation of a sizable country’s disastrous economics and certainly not simply the disharmonised relationship between the rich and the poor. It is about whether you think that the person with their hands on the steering wheel knows which way to turn it. An hour – or even five minutes – listening to the witterings of Britain’s new Prime Minister will make it very clear that you have no confidence in her because she has no confidence in herself. You can hear it at ‘The Liz Truss BBC Local Radio Interviews’. It is a precious lesson in what not to do.
A competent leader at No 10 Downing Street would, after two weeks in the job, have us sympathising with her. Instead, she is being routed. That may be fun for the House of Commons political game. It is no fun for the rest of us. Tell old people that their pensions are threatened if you want to kill them off quickly. Avoid doing so if you’d like them to continue paying their taxes. Don’t say “I’ll need to look into that” when you have had a six-month plus campaign to prepare yourself for precisely the question you have just been asked. And never, never get angry with a questioner who is having to decide whether to eat or keep warm. Not if you want to be a politician. Not if you want to be a human being.
My rant over Britain’s biggest mistake since Brexit, now over! Discussion of what confidence is about, ready to begin. It is an important discussion because we talk about it all the time. How you get on and off a bus safely depends on your confidence to do so. Where you reach in your working life massively depends on your stature – and stature is simply the way you exude confidence. Leading your troops successfully into battle is command and self-confidence. Recovering from a surgical operation is about realising that, however good your doctors and supporters, you are essentially the only person who can do it.
We all know the importance of a handshake. Firm, brief, reassuring, it gets you onto the best foot for your new acquaintance or negotiation. Hesitant, lingering, soft, too hard, tells the other person that you don’t know what to do next. Advantage them. The handshake is understood. Eye contact is less well handled. Staring can make you look like an idiot, or a frightened rabbit, or someone who has completely forgotten what is going on. Shifting your eyes away to avoid appearing too intimate makes you look guilty or distracted. Choosing the best chair in the room makes you look like Putin. Importing your own chair is a sure sign of Trumpism.
Is confidence a trick, then? Can we train you to fool the rest of the world that you know what you are doing when you have no clue? Certainly not. Your confidence comes from two parts of your body – the heart and the stomach. If you lack courage, you will lack confidence. If you are hungry you will appear – and possibly be – a wimp. Walking into a room full of top people demands confidence. The Prima Ballerina of the Mariinsky Ballet in 1917, Tamara Karsavina, taught a few of us how to do it in 1960. She wasn’t teaching us tricks but posture. How you look is part of what makes for confidence.
Confidence isn’t the beat of a drum, the explosion of powerful weapons of war or the threat of imprisonment and death to dissenters. Confidence is quiet, calm, simple, thoughtful behaviour. I saw a very top person deliberately lose the crowning job of his career to avoid a single minute’s delay in rescuing people who had been catastrophically overwhelmed by a severe landslide. I am sure as he neared the end of his life he thought of it as worthwhile. It was confident.
Confidence isn’t all tangible. A hunted animal can be visibly confident. Young children often are. Weather forecasters have to be – they pack confidence as they pick up their umbrellas.
Can you develop it if you don’t instinctively have it? Certainly. It requires guts and practice.
Once you are confident that you can be confident, you will be.
I am confident of that.
Do you have an example of great confidence? We would enjoy hearing it if you’d like to share at email@example.com.
03 October 2022