I talk a lot about what you can do for your own confidence.
Today, I would like to shine a light on friendships.
What do strong friendships have to do with confidence?
We do not operate in a vacuum. Confidence greatly depends on how we respond to the people and situations around us.
Authors Harris and Orth at the University of Bern have found that positive social relationships, social support, and social acceptance help shape the development of self-esteem in people over time across ages 4 to 76.
So how best can you support a friend whose confidence may be running on the low side?
- Be there for them when they are down. It is not your job to “fix” their problem or low confidence but to listen to them without judgment. Be sure to ask (don’t assume) what the person needs at any moment. E.g., How can I support you best right now?
- Point out their strengths and attributes when you see them in action. Sometimes the things we excel at feel normal to us. “Doesn’t everybody type this fast?”, “Doesn’t everybody know how to tell a story?” No, actually, they don’t. Help your friends uncover their strength blind spots. You can say things like, “Wow, you are really good at dealing with stressful driving situations,” “Did you know you are a super fast swimmer?” “Your downward dog pose looks exactly like the teacher’s!”. Knowing our strengths can help us boost the Attitude Channel of the Four Channels of confidence by being the basis of a mantra or an antidote to our saboteur’s voice.
- Give feedback. Although feedback can be hard to take sometimes, when it comes from a loving friend who intends to help you, it can boost your confidence in the long term. “Your voice was strong and clear, and your eye contact with the audience was consistent, which gave you much credibility on stage. Then your shoulders were slumped, so it undermined your confidence. Don’t forget to keep your shoulders back next time!”
- Do activities together that make you both feel good. Instead of going for cocktails after work every time you meet, mix it up and go for a walk sometimes instead. Ask each other to join classes and events that support confidence building, like breathing exercises, yoga or pilates for posture, meditation, voice training, or workshops to identify strengths.
- Call them when you need help. When I ask a group of women, “Who likes to help others?” 90% of hands go up. And when I ask, “Who here likes to ask for help?” No hands go up. So how will all these people get the chance to help others if no one ever asks for it? They will “help” when they think help is needed, even if it is not. Unwelcome help creates many other problems – enough to fill a book! The rampant problem of over-helpers notwithstanding, wouldn’t you hate to imagine that your best friend felt reluctant to ask you for help? Be the role model. Show her what it looks like to ask for help and that it is OK. And, bonus, you get the assistance you need!
We are stronger when we have people to share our challenges with than when we act alone. I treasure my friendships and consider them invaluable. I hope these tips help you strengthen your friendships.
And please share this post with your friends if you want them to do some of these things for you!