The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Difficult people’

Apr 12

Negative peopleSome folks just don’t get it.  They whine, moan, bitch, drain, attack, snipe, sabotage and sometimes just suck you dry.

If you let them, they’ll take away from what you’re doing, and in the extreme they can make you feel miserable, powerless and totally unconfident.  Here’s how to deal with them confidently.

1. Set expectations

Sometimes people carry on in a negative pattern of behaviour simply because it’s what they’re used to doing.  It’s become normal for them, and the only way for them to see that it’s inappropriate, unwanted or unacceptable is for it to be pointed out to them.  This isn’t about criticizing their behaviour because that will just end up in a slanging match, but it’s about stating what you expect clearly and assertively.

It’s perhaps easier to do this in a work environment where’s there’s a structure in place to support you (in which case a manager or boss can do the expectation reset), but they key is to take away the drama while making clear the behaviour you want to see.

2. Reassure and empathize

Sometimes negative behaviour arises when someone’s out of their comfort zone, under a lot of pressure, seeing others getting more praise or attention or when they’re feeling unsupported themselves.  See if you can figure out the reasoning for the behaviour to gain an insight into where it’s coming from. Then, being aware of the catalyst, seek to reassure.

You don’t need to acknowledge it directly (pressing that button can be intensely personal for the person in question) but just keep an eye out for situations where it might be sparked and seek to dampen it even before it has a chance to catch.

3. Affirm the positive

A puppy learns what behaviour is appropriate and acceptable because he or she gets a treat afterwards.  Same thing goes with human beings. Okay, we’re somewhat more evolved than a 3 month old lab (although not as cute), but praising and affirming the acceptable behaviour is a strong message.

So acknowledge the kind of behaviour you love to see when you see it, and you can even use that as an example for when you see the opposite, unwanted behaviour.

4. Get outa dodge

If being around this person is dragging you down and you’re able to separate yourself without taking away from what matters to you, do it.

Don’t hang out with them as much.  Be polite in the office but don’t spend time beyond that.  Join a team where they’re not involved, or simply cut the cord if that’s what it takes.You only have so much time and energy, and pouring it into a black hole of negativity won’t help you put your dent in the universe.  Sometimes, you just gotta get the hell outa dodge.

5. Don’t join them

The last thing you want to do is to join them in their negativity, but if you start sniping back, moaning to other people, getting into a debate or argument or criticizing their behaviour then you’re being just as negative as they are.

Don’t let their behaviour serve as an invitation to join them, you’re better than that.

6. Help them

Negativity can stem from anger, frustration, pain or any one of a gazillion other negative emotions.  There’s a good chance that someone who’s being negative isn’t having a great time of things, and sometimes an offer to lend them a hand can make a huge difference.

Don’t set out to rescue them, but the biggest difference often comes from the smallest gesture.  Offer to help them out with something, ask them how they’re doing or see if there’s something they could use a hand with.  Let them know you’re happy to help.

7. React differently

It’s easy to get to a point where you’re hopping up and down in frustration or wanting to shake them to show them what they’re doing.  It’s easy to work yourself up into a frenzy and tell yourself stories that reinforce how “annoying” they are or how “right” you are.

Slow down; notice how you’re reacting and what stories you’re spinning.

You always get to chose how you react to what life throws at you, so ask yourself if there’s a way you can respond or a new way of looking at it that makes it easier for you to be at your best.  How can you turn around your perceptions of them?  Are there parts of their behaviour that you’re ignoring or not even noticing?  What if you were to look at them with kindness or generosity?  There’s always another way.

How about you?  How have you dealt with negative people?  And if you’ve been that negative influence, what did you do?

Jan 18

Have a butchers at this:

Fan-flippin-tastic isn’t it?

Makes me smile right along with him every single time, just because the little guy is having so much damn fun.  Amazing.

But look around him.

None of his penguin friends are joining in.  His peers are standing around staring, wondering just what the hell he’s doing.  I know for a fact that one of the spectators (the one on the right) is thinking he’s an attention-grabbing freak, and another one (the shifty looking one at the bottom left) is hoping he’ll trip and fall into the icy water.

But does our penguin friend stop?  Does he slow down, become self-conscious and join his peers?

Not a bit of it.  Our little friend oozes natural confidence from his flippers, and he knows 2 things:

  1. He’s having the time of his life, and knows that it’s his choice to experience happiness right now.
  2. He’s getting too much value from playing to let the thoughts, judgements or expectations of those around him take him out of what he’s doing.

He loves it too much to give it up.

So where are you letting others slow you down?  Where are you holding yourself back because you don’t wanna look silly, rock the boat or trip up in front of your peers?

Oct 27

It's Denial, not ConfidenceHow do you know if you’re confident, or just in denial?

There are a lot of people who bumble through life mistaking their approach to things for confidence.  You’ve probably met some of them; we all have.

While at first glance it might appear as though there’s only a subtle difference between being confident and being in denial, in fact the gulf is much wider.  Here’s the difference.

You’re in Denial…

You’re in denial if bluster is your way of demonstrating your confidence.
You’re in denial if you think that fear is for pussies.
You’re in denial if you have something to prove.
You’re in denial if right is more important than happy.
You’re in denial if you pursue the appearance of success over meaningful success.
You’re in denial if you always answer with “Yes”.
You’re in denial if you’re always in control.

You’re Not in Denial…

You’re not in denial if positive feedback makes you feel good.
You’re not in denial if saying “No” is difficult.
You’re not in denial if you feel scared.
You’re not in denial if you change direction because you were wrong.
You’re not in denial if you admit to not knowing the answer.
You’re not in denial if you sometimes feel lost.
You’re not in denial if you decide to walk away.

One is about pretending to be confident and denying the fact that you aren’t.  The other is living confidently and embracing the flux.

Sep 21

Confidence is good, over-confidence is badConfidence is a Good Thing.  You can quote me that at your next party, or maybe write it down on a slip of paper and bring it out when you hear someone say that confidence is a Bad Thing.  “Aha!” you can shout, “look, I have proof on this piece of paper right here in my hand that’s it’s not a Bad Thing.”

But over-confidence?  Over-confidence is another kettle of fish entirely.  So much so that it isn’t even a kettle and doesn’t have any fish in it.  Here are 5 signs that will let you know if you’re over-confident.

1. Nobody else gets a word in.
It’s simple, you’re the centre of attention in meetings or at parties because you’re more interesting than the other people in the room and have more to say.  The stuff that other people say never really seems to hit the mark – it’s never quite astute enough, clever enough, insightful enough, funny enough or valuable enough.  If you can add all of that value and hit the mark every time, wouldn’t it be a waste not to?

2. You’re right. Period.
You know your way is the right way, you just know.  Everyone else wants to go round the houses and try different things, or they seem determined to go about things in a way that’s nowhere near as efficient and effective as the way it should be done.  So you state your case, let people know they’re wrong and even get into arguments because you’re sure your way is the best and will get the best result.

If only they’d listen more of the time they’d get great results all of the time.

3. You can’t just date anybody.
If you dated the first guy or gal to come along you’d be settling, and not only would that be selling yourself short, but it would be dooming the relationship to failure before it’s started.  No, you’ve got to be sure that whoever you date is capable of keeping up with you (even if they can’t match you exactly).

You can have your pick of partners (damn you’re hot) so it’s your job to make sure that you pick the right candidate.  If only you could hold X Factor style auditions…

4. You can deliver the moon on a stick.
You’re damn good.  You really are.  Other people seem satisfied to go for reasonable challenges or to push themselves just a bit.  You’re different.  You’re better.  If you need to deliver something in a week, you know full well that you can deliver it in half the time or deliver twice as much.  Double the fun.

It wouldn’t be right to limit yourself to a level of performance that you can far exceed; limits are for wimps.  You don’t settle for what other people can do; you know that you can go further, stronger, longer and faster than them.  Let the world know.

5. People don’t “get you”.
People never seem to grasp how good you are.  You do and do, and they still don’t get it.  Friends have come and gone, romantic dalliances seem to be short-lived and even colleagues and bosses have sometimes struggled with how darn good you are.  That’s okay though, you don’t need other people to do a great job and it’s probably a little bit of jealousy on their part.

The fact that other people don’t get you doesn’t mean that you need to lower your standards.

Yes, I’m being facetious. If you find yourself doing any one of these then make sure you recognise it. If you find yourself doing all of these, I have an emergency coaching session on standby…

Jun 22

Scary clowns are scary, but there's something scarierWhat do you think insecure people fear the most?  Spiders?  Heights?  Scary clowns?  A scary clown on a ladder with a bag of spiders?


Your success.

That’s what insecure people fear the most, because if you find success it means they’re left behind.  If you find success it means they haven’t been able to do what you’ve done.  It means they’re less successful (to them, at least).

And that hurts.  Often their insecurities will tell them it was a fluke, that you got lucky, that you don’t deserve it, trying to find ways to rationalise your success so they don’t come out feeling worse, or to make where they are right even if it can’t be happy.

That’s part of what insecure peple do, because they’re insecure.  Their insecurities don’t give them the solid footing others have, they don’t have a stable base to see that your success is a positive for you, not a negative for them.

That “solid base” comes from being able to trust themselves to live their lives fully.  It’s a self-trust that  allows them to make decisions and follow through; a trust that makes it okay for them to go beyond what they know in order to gain something they don’t have.  They don’t have that trust, and they don’t have that base.  This makes me sad.  And a glum Steve is no fun.

But that’s enough about them.  What about you?

See, while it’s interesting to know why insecure people fear your success, my real point here is to demonstrate how your own insecurities fear your success.

That’s right, I’ve done the old switcharoo on ya.

Your own insecurities fear your success because suddenly they’re left behind in their old way of doing things, and that’s a safe and warm and comfortable place for them to flourish.  Your insecurites will be panicking because now – holy crap – you have to deliver on that success.  You have to keep on being successful or you could lose the success you’ve just gained.  Run!  Hide!

Your insecurities will try to tell you that you’re not ready.  They’ll play tricks on you to make you feel like you shouldn’t try.  You might even hear them call out to you as you go through your day.

Have something go a little pear-shaped at work and your insecurities will use that as an example of why it’s too risky to go after personal success.  “See what I mean, it’s not time to risk everything yet. You’re not ready.

Burn dinner and your insecurities are ready to use that against you.  Have a little spat with your partner and your insecurities will use that as fuel.  Arrive late for an important meeting and your insecurities will see it as yet another fuck-up.  See someone come up with a great idea and you’ll use it as proof for why you’re a bit rubbish.

We’re all insecure in some ways, at some times.  The difference is whether you do what those insecurities suggest you do, i.e. nothing.

Confident people recognise that voice for what it is – something that wants you to be safe but isn’t useful.  Confident people learn to hear that voice in context and make a deliberate decision as to what to do with it.

Success comes and goes; you could have some of it tomorrow and then not so much the next day.  You could have a year when everything comes together, and the next year not so much.  Success is an event, not a person, and so the key is to keep on making decisions towards what matters, and just ride the waves of success and failure along the way.

So what *should* you fear the most?  Let me know what you think in the comments, and I’ll tell you my answer later.

May 11

Can you take a compliment?You’d be surprised how many people find it hard to accept a compliment.

They squirm, smile awkwardly, mutter a thank you and move the subject on as quickly as possible.  But if a compliment is intended as a good thing, why are they so hard to accept?

The first reason is our old friend insecurity (say hello, but say it quietly coz he scares easily).  If you’re busy thinking that you’re not good enough there’s little or no room for a new thought telling you that you *are* good enough.  There’s nowhere to put that compliment where it makes sense, no way of integrating it into your insecure thinking.  So you squirm until the moment passes, then get back to feeling not good enough.

The second reason is about trust.  If someone’s complimenting you, how do you know you can trust them?  This is particularly the case if your trust has been abused in the past or if you’ve been lied to in a previous relationship.  It’s also probably familiar to you if you’re a woman who gets complimented by guys who are just after one thing.  While there might be a thread of truth to these compliments, the getting-into-your-pants ulterior motive creates room for mistrust.

Regardless of whether it’s sexually motivated, you wonder what the other person wants from complimenting you.  You end up thinking that there must be another reason for them complimenting you, that they must want something.  So you reject the compliment because you don’t want to enter into the deal.

The third reason is that for some it seems immodest to accept a compliment.  It feels egotistical or too trumpet-blowing-y to accept a compliment, so you reject it.  Your reasoning says that it’s big-headed to accept a compliment and big-headed people are bad.

That’s some deeply flawed thinking right there and comes from flawed expectancies – you expect that you should behave with modesty and you assume that means you can’t accept a compliment or you break that expectancy.  You’re allowed to acknowledge your strengths openly.

Natural self-confidence removes these three reasons straight away.  It takes away the insecure thought processes that leave no room for a complimentary idea.  Even if you don’t fully trust someone or their motives, natural confidence allows you to make choices of behaviour that you can trust implicitly.  And it strips out the flawed expectancies and assumptions that govern a large part of your thinking.

Natural self-confidence is not needing someone to give you a compliment, but smiling when they do.

You look fantastic, by the way.

Dec 19

Don't let them put you down

I stumbled across a Flickr group full of “The Way I See It” mugs from Starbucks, and this particular image rang a lot of bells.

I get heaps of emails from people asking me about how they can be confident enough to deal with people who put them down and it’s one of the biggest ways people find my blog.  This quotation says it all.

Pay attention to it.

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Feb 03

Groucho Marx was the King of put-downsOh my God, look at you. Anyone else hurt in the accident?” – Don Rickles (to Ernest Borgnine)

She’s like an apple turnover that got crushed in a grocery bag on a hot day.” – Camille Paglia (about Drew Barrymore)

She speaks five languages and can’t act in any of them.” – John Gielgud (about Ingrid Bergman)

I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll make an exception.” – Groucho Marx

That’s just a tiny handful of some of the best put-downs around, and a good put-down can have me laughing like a choir girl in a tickling contest.  But put-downs aren’t always so funny or witty – sometimes, often-times, they just plain hurt.

What I’m talking about here is when you have a friend or loved one who habitually says things to put you down, someone who regularly seeks to diminish you.

It hurts when someone says something that diminishes what you’ve done or who you are.  It hurts when someone demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect towards you.

Here are my thoughts on how to respond.

1. You have a choice.

Chances are you can brush off the odd flippant remark or throw-away comment.  People sometimes say silly things (I know I do) and taking everything personally is going to turn you into an anxious, paranoid wreck.

So while one school of thought suggests that you should just brush off the comment and carry on regardless, there’s another school of thought that says you shouldn’t tolerate someone who puts you down.

To be brutally frank (and, frankly, brutal), I think that too many people take too many things personally when they’re not meant to be, but both choices have their place and I’m not going to say that one way is better than the other.  What I will say is that if you’re told enough times that you’re not good enough it’s entirely possible that you’ll start to believe it, especially if the someone who’s telling you you’re not good enough is someone you care about or love.

In cases like this, where your self-esteem is on the line, leaving things alone and carrying on is definitely the wrong call.

It’s easy to feel powerless in this situation, but you have to recognise that you’re in a position to make a choice.  You can choose to be a victim and to take what’s said as the truth, or you can choose to remember who you are and to stand tall.

Always remember that having someone who puts you down doesn’t have to define you.  You have a choice about how it affects you.  You can choose to have something better.

2. It’s them, not you.

The reasons that someone decides to put you down are many.  They might be taking anger or bitterness from one part of their life and venting it onto you, for example, but frequently it’s about making themselves right.  By putting you down they’re able to reinforce their own position; by lessening and damaging your position they’re able to achieve personal validation.

All of this – and you have to fully acknowledge this – is about them, not you.  What they say isn’t truth and their method for achieving validation is just plain wrong.

3. Teach them how to treat you.

If the person putting you down has learned previously that it’s acceptable to do what they’re doing, they’ll keep on doing it.  People are dumb like that, they’ll do what works until they have evidence that it doesn’t work.  That’s why the emphasis is on you to make a choice and to let them know that you expect to be treated with respect.

Your responses to others’ behaviour teaches them what is and isn’t acceptable.

Don't roll over if your self-esteem is on the lineIf your response to their behaviour is to smooth things over, try to ignore it or accept it, you’re teaching them that their behaviour is acceptable.

All the time you’re rolling over and taking it you’re making it easy for them to believe their behaviour is okay.  If it’s damaging your self-esteem and self-confidence their behaviour is not okay – you need to teach them that through your responses.

This can be tough to do, especially as it means shifting the status-quo.  It means you need to do something differently, and that’s scary.  If you’re scared and don’t know how to stand up and tell them that their words are unacceptable, pretend that you’re the kind of person who finds this stuff easy.

Act like you’re comfortable standing up for yourself, like you’re someone who’s confident enough to ask for respect and consideration.

4.  Make the hard choice.

If they continue to put you down when you’ve changed your responses and done your best to teach them how to treat you, then it’s crunch time.

When you’ve done what you can and they’re still putting you down, you need to consider 2 questions – “How else can I turn this around?” and “What am I prepared to do to turn things around?”

If, having considered those questions, you’re coming up blank then there’s really only one choice left to you.

Get out.

You can’t reach into their head and change their behaviour or thinking, and it’s not your job to tolerate unacceptable behaviour.  People either get how things work or they don’t, and there’s no way you should suffer at the hands of someone who just doesn’t get it.

If, at the end, you’ve done what you can and they’re still putting you down, you owe it to yourself to get out and get something better.

Dec 10

Caveman were confident masters of their domainAsk any caveman and he’ll tell you that he’s master of his domain (and I don’t mean in the Seinfeld sense of the phrase either). Right after he’s established that he’ll probably beat you with a club and make Sunday lunch with you.

Why would he tell you he’s master of his domain and then eat you? 2 reasons–

1. Because he’s learned to shape his environment to suit his needs.
He’s made a lovely home in the cave around the corner, learned how to hunt and make weapons, learned how to make a fashionable coat out of an elk in the winter, etc.

2. Because his environment has shaped his behaviour.
He knows he has to hunt food to survive, so when a tasty-looking mammal strolls up and starts asking him questions he sees dinner.

This is the same with you and me. We don’t go around eating each other (if you do, you’ve got more to work on than your self-confidence) but we have the unique ability to shape our environment and are also shaped by it.

Just like Mr Caveman, we respond to and adapt to the environment around us – that’s the only way we can survive and live effectively. If you live somewhere that’s hot all year round then you’d be stupid to walk around in a thick wool coat, your home won’t need underfloor heating or a roaring fireplace and you’ll probably have air conditioning. You might have one of those silly hats with a fan attachment.

The same goes for your beliefs and behaviours – they’re shaped by your environment.

If your environment is filled with people who lack confidence or who tell you that you won’t amount to a hill of beans in this world, then that becomes the truth that your environment feeds you and you respond and adapt to it.

If you’re surrounded by unhappy people then you’ll be more inclined to unhappiness.

If you’re surrounded by people who bash down your ideas then you’ll be inclined to play it safe and to not let your ideas take shape.

If you’re surrounded by people who lack confidence it makes it so much more difficult to become truly confident yourself.

Swimming is about being congruent with your direction, not fighting itWhen you get down to brass tacks it boils down to the fact that if you surround yourself with the wrong people and you’ll be as miserable as a 10 month Winter.

I sometimes call these ‘wrong people’ negative swimmers. Swimming is all about using the water around you to propel you forwards. The water is there to help you move, your body works in co-ordination with it, and the whole things works gracefully.

Negative swimming is the opposite of swimming – you thrash around, cause a hell of a splash, swallow half the pool and go nowhere except down.

If your environment is one of low confidence – i.e. you’re surrounded by negative swimmers – the only way to become truly confident is to reshape the environment in line with that new life and new experience.

Of course, if you lack confidence yourself it becomes a huge task to find the balls to step up, think differently, do differently and become different.

Like Mr Caveman, you can’t wait for your environment to change around you. That simply doesn’t work. Did Mr Caveman kill a moose to feed the wife and kids, then build a nice pile of branches and sit down waiting for them to catch fire?*

No. He figured out a way to make them catch fire, using some kind of catalyst to create a spark.

That’s exactly what you need to do.

Are you waiting for things to change?You can’t wait for your environment to change around you. That’s like waiting for the kettle to boil when you don’t have anywhere to plug it in.

Or any water.

Or a kettle.

You have to surround yourself with people who add to your environment rather than take from it, and sometimes that means making choices to remove people who are taking away from your ability to play a great game. That might sounds harsh but think about the alternative.

Think swimming rather than negative swimming.

You want people in your environment who support you, encourage you, cheer you and motivate you. You want to create a congruous environment that supports who you are and what truly matters to you.

That’s where you can become truly confident and create fire in your life.

* (Specific prehistoric and evolutionary details may be inaccurate, I’m no Simon Schama you know).

May 05

In my freelancing work that I do alongside my coaching I was given a Big Messy Project to run for an ad agency in London, and an old problem of mine resurfaced.

I like things to run smoothly and I like everyone to work together, have fun and deliver great results. So when conflict arises I really struggle with it; firstly because my life is generally conflict free, secondly because I always do what I can to set things up ahead of time to ensure there isn’t any, and thirdly because it makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable.

One part of the team wanted to deliver the project a particular way with a specific creative concept, while another part wanted another concept. Both sides were passionate about their position, and each was using all kinds of tricks to strengthen their position, even to the point of undermining mine. My responsibility was to find a workable solution that everyone could get behind, that (most importantly) gave the client exactly what they were looking for.

Here’s what I did, and here are 5 strategies you can use to handle conflict.

  1. Listen
    Make sure you’ve heard everyone and respect their point of view. You don’t necessarily have to understand everyone’s perspective (doing that can take a lifetime), but you need to have a true respect for their position. Not only does that mean that you’re fully informed about what’s happening and where people are, but it demonstrates the value of the relationships you have and that you’re happy to listen and willing to engage with others.

    It also means that you might see a way through that hadn’t occurred to you before; it gives you the opportunity to grab nuggets of gold from different people to create a way forward that’s a workable and effective compromise.

  2. Do your due diligence
    If there are facts you need to gather or new areas you need to explore, make sure you go deep enough into those areas to figure out the depth and breadth of them. Of course, that assumes you have the time to do that, so this is a tricky balance between doing enough due diligence to be informed, checking in with your instincts and leveraging your experience to anticipate the different paths.

    So what do you need to know, and what’s the best way to get those answers? Work that out with an open mind and you’ll be in a stronger position to move forwards.

  3. Don’t make it personal
    When someone’s disagreeing or even attacking your position it’s easy for emotions to get involved. Frustration, anger and blame can all get swept up, and before you know it you’ve got a bigger problem than you ever thought.

    Don’t make it personal. If someone disagrees with your position they’re allowed to, just as you’re allowed to disagree with others. The moment that you start taking differences of opinion as personal criticism and judgement (even if that’s exactly what’s being thrown at you) you’ll either be on the defensive or will come out on the offensive with all guns blazing.

    Be passionate if you’re passionate and recognise your emotions; but balance that with the facts and a liberal sprinkling of common sense.

  4. Be ready to be wrong
    If you’re wrong, admit it. Don’t hang on to your position just for the sake of wanting to be right – that’ll get you into more hot water, will waste everyone’s time and will really screw things up.

    Being wrong isn’t a bad thing – it shows that you’re switched on enough to do the best thing for all concerned and find the best route through, even if that flies in the face of what you were thinking previously.

  5. State your case simply and assertively
    The more complicated you make things the more complex it’ll be for you and other people to unravel. Simplify what’s happening, simplify your position (even take a moment to jot down some bullet points) and figure out the simplest way to move forwards. Even if you don’t have all the answers, you need to be confident enough in the solution to make a decision and state your case.

    There’s a point where the debate needs to be over, and you need to communicate that in a way that engages rather alienates. Let people know coolly and unambiguously what the facts are and the way forward.

Everyone has their own challenges when it comes to handling conflict, and these are just a handful of the strategies I’ve employed at various times. How do you deal (or not deal) with conflict?

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