College Students: “Ooze Confidence” (And if you are not confident … then fake it!)
“Fake it till you make it” is not about faking happiness until you trick yourself into being happy. It’s not about acting like you’re too cool for school until other people also believe you are, and then basing your life around a made-up personality. It is about confidence. It is about meeting situations that you feel intimidated by head-on, telling yourself that you’re ready for them, and putting “I-can-DO-this” intentions out there, until you’ve done such a good job convincing yourself that you suddenly can handle the challenge before you.
Appear confident, in everything you do. And if you are not – fake it! By appearing to act confident, those around you don’t know of your insecurities – and it actually trains your mind to think confidently!
For a good part of my life, I was overly shy. (I remain a SEVERE introvert, but that’s different from being shy.) In college I dreaded being called upon in class. I would never approach a girl. At parties I always stood in the corner of the room. But then, one day, I figured it out - introversion is a strength, but not an excuse to fail to socialize effectively with others.
So, I sought out a little help from friends (the few I had) and read various books. (Of course, nowadays there is all kinds of advice on the Web about dating, small talk, confidence-building skills - just search for videos on YouTube). And I learned that I needed to push out the bubble of my "comfort zone."
I learned the power of a smile. I learned the power a handshake, a gentle touch on a person's hand or arm. I learned to greet others - even complete strangers - as I passed them by, or sat down in a classroom, etc.
At parties, I learned to pretend (without telling anyone) to be the “host” - and I took it upon myself to make others comfortable, introduce a person to another, etc. I found that fully one-third to one-half of the persons I encountered were also shy – many even more shy than I was (and I found that hard to believe, at first).
I learned that asking questions of others was the best way to keep conversations going, rather than just by continuing to talk myself. I learned the importance of focusing on the other person, as he or she talked. He or she deserves my undivided attention.
And I learned that I constantly needed to push out my “comfort zone” in order to get better and better at socializing and networking, and not revert back to my old habits. Why? Because I’m still an introvert – and I always will be. But being an introvert is a blessing, and a source of my inner strength. In fact, as an introvert I give energy to others. I am also much more contemplative of the world around me than most extroverts. I would never change that. I am proud to be an introvert.
College is that it is the perfect place to push out the boundaries of your own comfort zone - to expand the "bubble" of your ability to socialize with others. And this is such an important skill, in the world of business, and in life in general. It’s much better to practice and develop skills in college, than try to build those skills later “in the real world.”
About a year ago we had on campus a dynamic speaker, Adam LaDolce, author of “Being Alone Sucks!” (I would strongly recommend Adam as a speaker for any college or high school.) Adam LaDolce offered a lot of suggestions to those who were either shy or introverted.
- First, don’t over-exaggerate the importance of certain events in your life. Think about it – a short conversation with another, of “muffing it” in class, is not that big a deal – if it goes wrong. It’s just the opportunity to learn to be better.
- Second, realize this truth: “I’d rather regret doing it than regret not doing it.” This is like the old saying, “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships were built for.”
- Thrid, smile and say “hello” to everyone you pass by. Try it – for the distance between one class and wherever you are next going. Try it again and again. Over time, you will find that people start saying “good morning” or “good afternoon” back to you. And, over time, more people will seek you out to get to know you.
- Fourth, imagine standing on a chair in a room and shouting: “I love all of you very much!” Some people will laugh, and some of these will want to get to know you more. But a few in the room may look down on you. Guess what? These other people – they don’t exist to you anymore! There are plenty of people who do want to get to know you, who are lonely themselves. All you have to do is take a risk. What's the worst that can happen? You’ll discover that “the worst” is not really all that bad.
Do you always have to "ooze confidence"? While this is important in my situations (interviews, the world of business, etc.), there are times when it is permitted to show a little vulnerability. For example, here's one way, especially if you are shy, to meet other people. It’s as simple as this - approach other people to seek out a conversation. If you are shy, use this excuse: “My crazy professor wants me to push myself out my comfort zone, and go out and meet more people. Do you suppose we could chat sometime, perhaps over a drink or lunch at the Central Dining Hall, so I can practice socializing?” It’s o.k. to show a little vulnerability, by the way, in this instance. (Another great pick up line ... "Hi. My name is ____. I've been told that I'm really shy, but I wanted to ask you if we could chat sometime, so I can get to know you better.")
What’s the worst that can happen? The other person says “NO WAY!” and turns away from you. And, if he or she does, then just move on – that person no longer exists for you, at least within your own universe. But there are hundreds or thousands of others out there who will want to meet you, and who desire to have a conversation with you.
How do you conduct a conversation? Have some questions prepared. The best conversation is where you talk 30% of the time, and the other person talks 70% of the time. (Once a relationship is formed, 50/50 is a better ratio.) A good way to get the other person to speak is for you to ask questions about that other person. First, seek out some basic facts, nothing too personal. For example, where is the person from, are they an only child or from a larger family, why they attended this college, what is their major, and what type of career they desire. Also ask for the other person's opinion - such as what classes to take, what professors are best, or what clubs or organizations to consider joining. As the conversation ensues, more personal questions can follow.
In summary, here's how to OOZE CONFIDENCE every day. First, be certain to smile – always – in the presence of others. Second, say “good morning” or “good afternoon” or "Hello!" or "How are you doing?" as you pass by others. Third, walk tall and with purpose - like it is important for you to get to where you are going, and quickly. And lastly, imagine the other persons you greet are much more shy than you.
OOZE CONFIDENCE in everything you do, and be more successful in life. And, even if you are not confident in a particular situation, act as though you are. You'll impress others that way, and in so doing you will open doors that you never imagined would exist for you.
Professor Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r) teaches Business Law, Retirement Planning, Investment Planning, Employee Benefits Planning, Money & Banking, Insurance & Risk Management, and the Personal Financial Planning Capstone courses at Alfred State College, Alfred, NY. He is an EPLP Mentor, C.R.E.A.T.E. program mentor, serves as advisor to Alfred State's Business Professionals of America club, and serves as academic advisor to dozens of students.
Professor Rhoades is the author of "CHOOSE TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND IN LIFE: Continuously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey," a 10-week program for success in college (available for $2.99 in Kindle store at Amazon.com, or in paperback for $6.99). Professor Rhoades may be reached by e-mail at: RhoadeRA@AlfredState.edu.