Practices to Build Confidence

I’ve written before about psychological ways to build your confidence, including this column, and this column. Now I’d like to suggest some behavioral practices that demonstrate personal confidence. Exhibiting these behaviors in your work and your life can be helpful in at least two ways:

Signaling your confidence to others so they’ll be more likely to join with you in your upcoming tasks, projects or goals, and also taking advantage of the

fake it until you make it” strategy, which asserts that acting as if you have confidence eventually leads you to actually feel more confident.

So let’s discuss some ways to behave more confidently, regardless of how you feel at the moment:

Make No Excuses

Some of the ways people indicate their lack of confidence is by apologizing when they’ve done nothing wrong, undercutting their own opinions and ideas with disclaimers, and offering excuses for what they say and do – sometimes even before they say it or do it.

My advice is simple: Cut this out.

Instead, I suggest you adopt a firm policy of never offering any excuses, apologies, or disclaimers for anything you say or do – unless, of course, they are obviously and totally called for. But if you behave properly, and with good will, you’ll rarely owe an apology.

By holding back on any urge you may feel to make any unnecessary excuses for yourself, you put yourself in a stronger, more confident position that others will subconsciously recognize and – to the extent you’re behaving appropriately – respect .


Once you begin a task, project, or goal – in fact, once you embark on pretty much any course of behavior – following it through to the end shows confidence. Of course, you first want to think through what you’re about to begin so you can feel sure you’re right to want it and pursue it.

But assuming you begin doing something that’s right, sensible, and – to the best of your knowledge at the time – the best course of action open to you, do your best not to give up too early.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzy famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” In the same vein, I say “You fail to succeed at 100% of the actions you don’t follow through on to the end.”

By persevering for as long as you can, you give yourself at least a chance to accomplish what you want.

Initiate Action

Many people, myself included, believe you’re generally more productive when you act first and ask for permission afterwards, compared with waiting for permission before you act.

Again, this advice presupposes you are thinking clearly about what you are trying to achieve, how best to achieve it, and what possible negative and positive consequences may result from your actions. It also assumes your actions won’t trample on anyone else.

In general, if you see a clear and positive path to your desired outcome, quickly and directly going for it is the most common approach of confident people.

Rely on Self-Evaluation

One sign of confidence is a willingness to rely on your own judgments about your own behavior. Waiting for other people to provide positive judgments and evaluations not only cedes your own agency to others, it brings in delays and secondary considerations that dilute your ability to set and reach your own goals.

If you’ve thought through the situation and know your plan of action is (or was) not only right, but likely to be effective, it’s a sign of confidence to give yourself a pat on the back for doing (or having done) it – even if others disagree.

Face the Music

As people interact, a certain amount of disagreement, differing perceptions, divergent analyses, and occasional conflict is inevitable. In most cases, facing up to any such differences is far more effective and actually takes less emotional energy than sweeping them under the rug.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Failing to resolve conflicts doesn’t eliminate them. Instead, it lets them fester and grow more powerful. After a while, they may result in far more serious problems than if you had earlier faced them openly and honestly.
  • Many conflicts appear far larger and more dangerous than they really are. When you bring them out into the open, they may resolve fairly easily, or even completely fade away.
  • You may be entirely right, and by openly addressing the differences you may convince others to beneficially accept your point of view.
  • You may be entirely wrong, and by openly addressing the differences you may find yourself convinced by others to beneficially accept their point of view.

As I’ve indicated in other columns, the evidence shows that feeling more confident generally helps a person produce better results.

But it turns out confidence is a super-power, even if you don’t at first feel that way. In more situations than you might think, simply behaving as confident people do often leads to better results than you’d achieve by behaving in accordance with the lower level of confidence you currently feel.

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