Whether you’re an introvert like me who rarely initiates conversation (especially with a stranger except it is inevitably necessary) or you’re an extrovert like my husband who can know at least three things about a complete stranger within five minutes of meeting them, there’ll be times when you have to converse with others.
While this is a piece of cake for people like my husband, for many of us, it requires a lot of work because we are not naturally confident to do it.
But as with many skills that we need and are not naturally endowed with, we have to learn it, so that we can be confident when speaking with people.
I used to be a timid person, I wrote an article about this, and it’s one of the viral posts on my blog.
I wrote about how timidity affected me and how I was able to manage it in a way that helped me to be more productive.
I believe the following tips on how to be confident when speaking with people will also be beneficial to you.
How to be Confident When Speaking With People
Listen to understand, not just to respond
Learning to be confident when speaking with people requires you to first understand what they are saying.
If you don’t understand, how will you give reasonable contributions or responses?
And how will you understand if you don’t listen?
A lot of people love to be heard but hate to listen. Listening is a skill that needs to be mastered (by everyone).
Some people (therapists) get paid just to listen to people rant and vent.
So, if you want to be confident during conversations, be present and interested in what the other person(s) is saying.
Don’t be in your own world or be consumed with thinking about what best replies to give.
If you understand what is being said, chances are that you’re likely to come up with meaningful contributions.
2. Don’t be a mindreader
One of the major reasons for lack of self-confidence in social relations is concern over what people are thinking, especially about us.
I used to be guilty of this, and it was one of the reasons for my timidity.
I was too self-absorbed. I was obsessed with people’s assessment of me.
Do they think I’m beautiful?
Do they think I’m making sense?
Am I well-dressed?
Thoughts like these take the focus off others to ourselves thereby causing anxiety.
Now, I see the uselessness of trying to read people’s minds.
If you want to be confident when speaking with others, drop the habit of getting into their minds to know what they’re thinking; because you’ll never know.
Don’t be consumed by their unspoken opinions. You have no use of them.
3. Read, read, and read
I can’t emphasise this enough.
Reading is one of the habits of smart and intelligent people.
Reading is not a passion or a gift, as implied by many.
It’s a discipline that should be cultivated by anyone who is averse to living a mediocre life.
The benefits of reading are too numerous to be ignored.
At the beach two weekends ago, I was speaking with one of hubby’s friends who is from a country in South Asia.
He asked about my country and talked about how beautiful he heard it was.
I told him he heard right. My country is indeed beautiful and blessed with lots of mineral and natural resources but cursed with poor leadership.
He nodded and said it was the same in his country too.
I further explained what I knew about his country based on the cues I got from reading Khaled Hosseini’s novels.
He agreed with me.
If I hadn’t read those books, I wouldn’t have been able to contribute the way I did.
Reading takes you to many places from the comfort of your space. It broadens your horizon, it expands your imagination.
For a lot of us, social media is the archenemy of our reading habit. But with discipline as our weapon, we shall conquer.
Reading confers you with knowledge, and knowledge builds confidence.
When you’re knowledgeable about a subject, you’re more likely to be confident to talk about it.
Read books and know a little something about a lot of things. This helps you to be more confident in social settings.
4. Eliminate distractions
A lot of us are guilty of checking our phones when talking with others.
This isn’t an appropriate thing to do during conversations.
Constantly checking your phone when talking with others will not only distract you, it’s also disrespectful and doesn’t portray you as a confident person.
Keep your phone away and concentrate on conversations. If you’re bored, kindly bring the conversation to a close or excuse yourself.
Smiling makes you feel at ease and also portrays you as an approachable person.
It makes people feel at ease with you and makes conversations easier.
6. Give encouraging gestures
Giving gestures such as nodding and smiling; and body language such as sitting upright, can boost your confidence when talking with people.
7. Don’t aim to please
You’re likely to lose your confidence and be more anxious if you’re focused on pleasing people with your stance.
State your opinions respectfully while you remain open-minded.
Aiming to please is also a problem when you speak with a different accent.
It’s not uncommon for people who speak with a different accent from the people they’re conversing with to feel less confident; because they think they’ll not be understood or be mocked.
Only an ignorant person will mock someone who speaks with a different accent.
There are about 7.8 billion people in the world – people from different countries; you don’t expect everyone to talk the same way as you!
Accents only show where you are from. They’re not proof of sophistication.
I grew up in an African country. I currently live in Europe. You don’t expect me to speak like an American or a British. I’d sound funny if I try to.
As long as you understand what I’m saying and I understand you, everyone should be happy.
8. Be yourself
You can never be confident if you try to be like someone else.
Trying to be who you are not is like putting a square peg in a round hole.
You will never fit in.
While you try to be confident when speaking with people, don’t try too hard.
I’m more of a listener than a talker. I’m not the life of the party. I won’t try to be who I am not.
But I surely won’t be annoyingly passive in a conversation.
Work on yourself while you be yourself.
Being confident at anything comes with practice. The more you do something, the better you get at it.
You’ll surely get better at being confident when speaking with people with practice.
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Adebola Oluwatosin Odumade
Friday 25th of September 2020
Great article with practical steps. Thank you.
Friday 25th of September 2020
Thank you, Adebola.