I am – therefore I don’t think: How to communicate with confidence

Decisiveness. And confidence that you’ve weighed up the options and made the right decision. That’s what a man has. No faffing about. No maybes. Just decisions and action.

Here’s a true story for you: A friend of mine once worked for a large multi-national airline and had access to the Executive level guys. The CEO of this company once offered my friend some advice on how to be a successful leader: “Never use the words ‘I think’ in a meeting. If you want to come across as someone with confidence, when you say something, state it as fact. Most of the time, people will just accept it.”

Leaders should inspire confidence. If you’re following your General into battle, you want to be sure they know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about.

If they start saying things like “I think we should do this…..” or “I’m not sure whether we should do A or B…let’s go for A”, guys are going to be like “dude – does this guy even know what he’s doing?”

Nobody knows all the answers all the time. Nobody. The skill here is going with your gut, accepting that as your truth and rolling with the consequences.

A man has self-confidence. Not arrogance. And this is not about bullshitting. Because when you get called out on your bullshit enough times, you quickly lose credibility.

No it’s more subtle than that. This is about communicating with confidence.  Taking the default position that you are right in what you’re saying until proven otherwise.

Perception is reality - so do what you can to communicate so others see you as the confident, self-assured man you know you can be. Don't think you can, KNOW you can.

 

Mr Miyagi – a legend of men – had it right:

 


“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later…get squish just like grape. “Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” (get squished) just like grape.”

 

There is no “guess so.” Using words like “I guess so” or “I think” make you look like a wet blanket. But we are men and we sleep on a bed of nails. We say things like “yes” and “no” and “I’m sure” and “definitely not”.

Similarly, when we do something, we do it. We’re all in. There are no half-measures and no token attempts. Yoda – another one of our male role models – nails this one:


“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

 

Side note and philosophical wondering:  Is Yoda still classed as a male if he’s a) a different species and b) a puppet?

 

Don’t say ‘I think’ – and don’t apologise

And for those times when someone does call you out and – importantly – can prove you’re wrong, admit you were mistaken and move on. But don’t apologise. We only apologise when we have made massive boo-boos like running over our neighbour’s dog; forgetting our mum’s birthday or coming home after a heavy night of tequila and barfing all over the bathroom.

 

So with all this in mind, I’m going to leave you with three tips that will definitely make you more decisive. For sure. For real.

  1. Remove the phrase “I Think…” from your vocabulary. It doesn’t exist for you any more. If you’re more than 60% sure about something, “it is”. Less than 60% sure? “I don’t know.” Don’t be afraid to put your balls on the line here.
  2. Answer questions definitively “yes” or “no”. Being tentative and using maybes means people don’t know where they stand with you. And you become less trustworthy and dependable. Don’t want to go out with your boys for beers and burgers? Just say so. Nothing worse than saying “maybe” and then flaking at the last minute. Don’t be that guy.
  3. And following on from point #2 – follow-through on what you say. If you definitely say “yes” to something (good for you, by the way), make sure you effing do it. Similarly, if you take a stand on something – make sure your actions back that stance up. Don’t be the guy who says Disney movies are for pussies and kids and then gets caught coming out of the cinema having just watched Beauty and the Beast.

 

It’s ok not to know something, it’s ok to ask questions and it’s ok to be wrong. Go with your gut. But GO. Take ownership of yourself

  • If you’re going to be a leader, then lead. That means inspiring confidence in those that follow you. It’s your way or the highway
  • If you’re not going to lead, then follow. And there will be a time for this – you can’t be a hero every time
  • And if you don’t feel strongly enough about something to lead OR follow – then get out of the fight

Perception is reality – so do what you can to be perceived as the confident, self-assured man you know you can be. Don’t think you can, KNOW you can.

 

Walk slower, talk slower

Composure – one of the key ingredients of a life well lived. What does a man of composure look like? He walks slower. What does a man of composure sound like? He talks slower. Walk slower, talk slower.

Modern life moves fast. You’ve got to take control of that bad boy with purpose. Like a river current, it will sweep you away if you let it and smash you against the rocks and it’s over and out.

Consciously taking steps to keep your composure in a world that finds ever more creative ways to steal it away is crucial in the journey to becoming a man of Iron Qualities.

And yes – two small little tiny wee things you can do to aid this process: walk slower, talk slower

 

Walk slower talk slower

 

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But let’s think about it – a man of Iron Qualities is cool, calm and collected in all circumstances. Never flustered, never awkward. He takes things in his stride, knowing what he can control and what he can’t. He understands the futility of hurrying through life and lives life at HIS pace.

You can hear a man of Iron Qualities coming; he has a deliberate, steady, confident step.

Think about history’s great men. Do you think they power-walked and rushed their way through life? Doubtful.

Taking the edge off your walking pace and slowing it down a little gives you extra reaction time and lets you adjust to external circumstance in a much more controlled way.

Don’t be that guy who is always walking with an impatient hurry – almost bumping into people and doing that awkward, silent dance we do with strangers we are about to walk into on the street. Dancing this way and that as we try to avoid each other.

When you’re late – how much faster will power-walking like a maniac get you there?? A minute…maybe two. And when you do arrive at your destination, you’ll be a hot sweaty mess.

 

A Confident step

 

You cannot conquer time

A man with Iron Qualities will take the steps necessary to make sure he is on time. And if the fates conspire against him, so be it. Walking a little faster won’t change that.

Here’s something to try: Take an inch of your step – slow it down a little. Make a conscious effort to go around 80% of your normal walking speed. It makes a difference.

It’s like my man Lao Tzu always used to say – “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

And I know this for a fact – when Lao Tzu said these words thousands of years ago, he said them in a slow and unhurried manner.

That’s right – Lao Lzu had the Iron Qualities.

Speaking too fast is a sign of nervousness and lack of confidence. It’s like you want to say what you need to say as quickly as possible because you don’t want to take up any more of the listeners’ time than is absolutely necessary.

Because you’re nice and harmless. Too nice

Speaking too fast and in a way that lacks confidence also has an effect on how you speak. A lack of pauses means that you are not taking in enough air and your speaking volume and clarity suffer as a result.

And when you rush through your words, your mouth can struggle to keep up with your mind and you end up dropping letters here and there and saying a lot of “umms” and “ahhs” to buy thinking time.

All of these issues become more highlighted if you are in a job that requires you to speak in front of a large audience or group of people

Speaking like this…it’s like a vicious cycle. You speak fast because you lack confidence. The people you are speaking to pick up on this and you can see and feel their lack of interest/boredom when you’re talking to them. So you become even less confident. And so the cycle continues.

But remember – you are a man of Iron Qualities. Everything you say is important and your time is just as valuable as that of your audience.

Just like walking, you should also aim to speak in a cool, calm and collected way

There IS no rush. Just like walking fast will get you to your destination maybe 30 seconds faster, so talking fast will deliver your message a few seconds quicker.

It’s only a matter of seconds. And taking those extra seconds to speak can make all the difference.

If this is something you’ve struggled with previously it can be tricky to fix, but there are some tips that can aid the process:

Consciously think about annunciating every part of every word when you speak. Doing this will slow down your rate of speech probably at least 10%

Check out some actors who are great speakers. Two great examples are Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones.

Jones has one of the most recognisable voices in cinematic history and actually had a bad stutter as a child. And that stuttering chid went on to become Darth Vader.

I’m also a big fan of Daniel Day Lewis. And listening to him in interviews – indeed all these guys – they are not afraid of pauses and silence when they are telling their stories – and they very rarely use those filler words like “umm”.

So next time you feel an “umm” coming on when you speak, pause instead. And because you’ll be annunciating and consciously slowing down your speaking rate, you’ll have plenty more time to feel an “umm” coming on and so you’ll easily be able to swat it away.

Composure is the key.