Did you know there’s actually a science behind confidence that can allow you to literally change your brain to think more confidently?
Chief Confidence Officer and author of “Kickass Confidence: Own your brain. Up Your Game” Alyssa Dver is a confidence expert. As the co-founder and CEO of the American Confidence Institute, Alyssa has dedicated her career to discovering how and why some people seem to have more of this trait than others.
But where does confidence come into play within an organization? Do leaders play a role in creating more confident organizations? We brought this confidence guru to PI to break down what leaders can do to exude confidence and coach their people and organization to a more confident-centric environment.
Rather read than watch? Below, we’ve transcribed our chat with Alyssa for your reading pleasure!
Allie LeBlanc: Hi, I want to welcome everybody to our webinar today at PI. This is Building Employee confidence with Alyssa Dver, and I’m so excited to have you join us today. My name is Allie LeBlanc, and I am the program manager for global channels here at The Predictive Index (PI). Alyssa is graciously joining us to give us some tips and tricks about confidence and dive into some science. She’s got a pretty impressive background.
When I say that Alyssa is the expert in confidence, I’m not exaggerating at all. She is an expert in confidence brain science, is known as the world’s chief confidence officer, co-founder and CEO of the American Confidence Institute, author of six books, including the one you have here, which is Kickass Confidence, and it’s all about owning your brain and upping your game, which is fantastic. So now, if you do stay with us through the end of the webinar, we’re gonna be giving you a free copy of her book to download, and we’ll talk about some other ways that you can access her work, but stay tuned for that unique URL to access your free copy.
So Alyssa, coming in to join us at PI today. This is so exciting. We’re pulling her away from some pretty big names for this webinar. You have worked with Spotify, Wharton, Harvard, MIT, IBM, any and all acronyms that are high up there, Alyssa has worked with. Stage Street, Liberty Mutual, and then PI, of course, our own Predictive Index. We’ve actually had you come in and speak with our own CEO Mike Zani, which is perfect because your realm, confidence, really goes hand-in-hand with our realm which is behavioral science, and we’ll dive into that a little bit more. So Alyssa, I want to give you the opportunity to explain to our audience a bit more about how and why those two things go together.
Alyssa Dver: Thank you, Allie. I’m coming here every day, just for my confidence. I love it. Well, as you can totally appreciate in this realm of assessments to give people so much more self-awareness about themselves but also the people they work with fits hand-in-glove with this confidence work that I do. And from a definition perspective, if you were to look it up whether you’re a dictionary or Wikipedia kind of person …
Allie LeBlanc: Depends on the day, really.
Alyssa Dver: That’s right.
Allie LeBlanc: At the very least, Google.
Alyssa Dver: There you go. Google that thing up. You’re gonna find a definition, something like confidence is a certainty about the truth about something. So if I were to say to you, “Allie, do you think the stock market’s gonna stay up or go down?” You would kind of think about your experience and knowledge, and you would come up with an answer that was certain enough that you would say, “Yes I do,” or “No I don’t.”
Allie LeBlanc: Certainly faithful to Google, right? Trusting in Google for that kind of question. I’m not an expert in the stock market in any way shape or form.
Alyssa Dver: But here’s the interesting thing is that we say certain. You’re never fully certain. There’s a certain enough about anything. But the big question looms with, when we talk about as people call it, self confidence, and you know I don’t like that phrase, because confidence people truly do recognize and appreciate their impact on others. So I call it personal confidence. But when we say, “What is personal confidence? You’re certain about what?” And the answer is that you’re certain about who you want to be. Not what you want to be, but who you want to be, and what you need, and what you want. And when you’re certain about those things, or certain enough about those things, you have confidence. So the assessments and PI’s work around all that juicy behavioral stuff really helps people understand better their lane.
One thing that I think is really interesting is that…I want to kind of quiz you on this. People, we surveyed them, and we said, “How confident are you?” It is a relative term, so that certainty about I know enough about myself, that’s really at the heart of what we do.
Allie LeBlanc: That’s great. I really want to dig into this a little bit further if you don’t mind, and just get from you, maybe give us top-line on why confidence is so important to organizational success, because that’s the world that we live in, and certainly the world that you have a lot of expertise in. So that, plus what should leaders really know about confidence to create good cultures? Can you expand on that for us?
Alyssa Dver: Absolutely. So I’m gonna give you the three most important things that if somebody needs to start out halfway through the webinar, you’re gonna get the things that I think are most important, and we’ll dive into as we go along some of the data and details about it. But the first thing is from Gallup, from the ACI research, from all these different very wonderful sources, respected sources, we know that confident people, intuitively we know it’s a good thing, but the research shows that confident people actually are more productive. They get more done. They’re more innovative. Now if you think about it, yeah, they take more risks, they’re a little bit more open-minded, so it makes sense that they’re more innovative. But everyone wants to be more innovative right? They’re more resilient, so they can bounce back when circumstances aren’t quite aligned with where they want to go. They figure it out, they get back, and they go.
But bottom line, there’s some really interesting statistics. First and foremost, we know that not only are confident people more content and happy, but as a result of that they’re less stressed, and they’re healthier. So they don’t have as much absenteeism, and the one that always makes people kind of wiggle a little is I say that we know scientifically that confidence is more attractive. So if you’re in a selling position, or you have to pitch, or you’re a CEO, any kind of leader, there is an aura, a presence, a charisma about confident people, and you know it when you see it. So as a result, confident people stand out. They have this kind of draw to the rest of the world. So that’s number one is that there’s a real bottom line benefit to being confident.
Number two is the kiboshing of a big myth. I hear this all the time, that people are born confident. It’s not true. There’s no DNA marker. It’s not genetic. You can’t blame your parents. But confidence, it turns out, it’s a learned skill. And we do a lot of work with kibosh and sharpshooters, and people who are trained to be confident, and as a result of that knowledge and those tools and tips, which we’re gonna share some today, anybody, at any age we know, can learn to be more confident.
Allie LeBlanc: Now that’s absolutely fascinating to me, because for my entire life I’ve been told you’re kibosh confident or you’re not, and that it’s predestined. So to hear that is certainly encouraging and confidence boosting if we’re gonna stab at the lingo here. And it’s along the lines of what we do at the predictive index too. We’re getting people to understand that yes, you are born with certain behavioral needs, drives, and you exhibit behaviors in a certain way as a result, but you’re not trapped by those drives. You can be confident, and you can learn to adapt just based on what you know about yourself. So this is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to those tips and tricks, and I’m sure you are too, ’cause that I know is probably resonating with a lot of you, that it is something that’s a learned skill. So that’s really exciting.
Alyssa Dver: It is. It is totally. So here’s my third top-line thing which kind of plays into this confidence boosting thing that you so graciously put out there. But everybody has confidence challenges. Everybody. Me, you, everyone I talk to. I run these peer group programs, and I have a new one starting in June for senior level women. Now just because it’s women, I do one for men as well. Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter how senior the person is, it doesn’t matter how old or experienced they are, everybody comes to me kind of in secret and is like, “Yeah, you know, I don’t feel so good about X,” or “I’m not confident when I go into a meeting,” or “I’m not confident when I present,” or “I’m not confident that I can actually do this job,” a little bit of impostor syndrome. It’s across the board. And I tell people that, like my clients, oftentimes that non-confidence manifests in different ways, and we’re gonna talk about some of those, but everybody’s got confidence challenges. So don’t you feel better?
Allie LeBlanc: I do feel better. I’m sure you all feel a little bit better too. You’re not alone.
Alyssa Dver: All right, so let’s do a quick question of the audience. Here’s one of our pinnacle questions of the institute. If you had to rank your overall confidence on an every day basis on a one to a ten, let’s see what the audience replies, and we’ll compare that to kind of our general research that we’ve done on this over the years.
Allie LeBlanc: Okay, perfect. So with that, go to your chat boxes, and on a scale from one to ten, rate your confidence. How do you feel overall in terms of your confidence level? I’m gonna be monitoring that for you, and I’m seeing already so many of your responses. We’ve got fives, sevens, eights, sixes, more fives, 7, 8, I got a 7.5, that really good. 8.5, okay. We’re getting very specific here, which is really exciting.
Alyssa Dver: Yeah, but you see, it’s all over the place, right?
Allie LeBlanc: It’s all over the place.
Alyssa Dver: And I’m sure there’s somebody who’s gonna put a ten, because they’re gonna be like, “I’m a ten!” But reality is, there’s very few, if any, real tens. Of course, we’re gonna get people on the low end too, the data shows. But yeah, hovering in the middle, and of course it’s contextual. It depends on the day.
Allie LeBlanc: Right, absolutely. I got an 11. So to the 11 out there …
Alyssa Dver: Oh, 11. All right, good. Let’s go.
Allie LeBlanc: This is fantastic. Let’s keep the ball rolling.
Alyssa Dver: All right, let’s do it.
Allie LeBlanc: Excellent.
Alyssa Dver: So I think one of the best ways to get people feeling really good about confidence and starting to learn it as part of the skills is to talk a little bit what it looks like, because we all have this intuitiveness, but we don’t always think about it, right? So mindfulness is a big topic. I’m gonna use mindful in the term of paying attention, okay? So I want you to play along with me, and then we’re gonna ask the viewers as well to play along with this game. It’s a very simple question. I want you to think about somebody that you know today or that you’ve known in the past personally. Not a celebrity, unless you happen to know a celebrity personally, but somebody that you know that you would say, “He or she is confident.” And I want you to think about what does that person do? Do they walk a certain way, do they talk a certain way, do they dress a certain way, stand, sit, look, what is it that they do that you go, “That person’s confident.” And if we can ask them again, chatbox it.
Allie LeBlanc: Yeah, absolutely. Chatbox, think about this positive role model for you. I’m thinking about mine, and I’m actually really fortunate that she’s with me this week in the office. So she’s been boosting my confidence all week. Just that gravitas, that when somebody walks into a room you feel that presence. And it’s not intimidating in a negative sense, but you just feel good. In my case, I feel really good to be around her. So I’m thinking about her. I want you to think about your role models and start bringing in examples. We’re seeing the people are seeing their role models as being very poised and put together. That’s really fascinating. It’s the way that they walk. They walk with a certain amount of confidence. They’re very calm is another thing that I’m seeing coming through a few times. They speak with conviction. Excuse me, so speaking with conviction is really important. Not afraid to ask for what they want. I mean, how many of us struggle with that? I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that, that we don’t have the confidence to ask for what we want. And that, I guess, is a problem across the board. I know we often relate that to women in the workplace, or women in general, but in your experience, are you seeing that as something that’s pretty typical?
Alyssa Dver: Yeah, well, typical across the board for sure. There is kind of this fear that we’re gonna talk about, about … Again, if you know what you want and know what you need, and you say, “I want to get a raise,” or “I want to get a promotion,” I work with a lot of women, and men of course, but a lot of women who will call me up and it’s like, “I really want to get a new job,” but they’re either scared, they don’t know what they want, they don’t … I just worked with a client, and I’m so proud of her. She changed jobs. She got this magnificent job at Amazon, and she calls me up afterwards. We worked for a couple weeks prior to kind of get her into the groove and really worked on our interview skills and stuff, and she says, “I would never even apply.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” She goes, “I would never even think that they would want somebody like me.” I’m like, “Oh my God,” you’re like …
That sounds irrational, and it is irrational. So we allow that to get in our way. We really do self-sabotage more than the world even does on confidence.
Allie LeBlanc: Yeah. And I want to bring up this one interesting response that I got that, somebody, their role model shows vulnerability, and they see that as a sign of confidence as well. And I really like that angle, so thank you to whoever submitted that answer. Talk a little bit about that.
Alyssa Dver: Well, let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that we hear all the time. And you’ve read a couple of them. So vulnerability of course, and I want to come back to that one, but top of the list is always calm. And I think maybe your role model as you started to describe her, I could see there’s like, she’s in the room, she’s calm, and calmness is contagious. We have something in our brains called mirror neurons. It’s how we learn even when we’re babies. A baby doesn’t know how to pick up a water bottle, but they learn by watching, and it’s the mirror neurons that do that imitation. So subsequently, when we see somebody who’s calm, when we see somebody who yawns, it’s mirror neurons. It’s like it triggers the behavior. But calmness also has that. If somebody walks in the room and they’re like, “Oh my God [inaudible 00:14:34],” it’s not only off-putting, it’s not confident, but it tends to set the tone. If somebody walks in the building or in the room and is kind of calm, everybody else tends to absorb it. So calmness is always the top of our list. That’s one of several attributes.
Another attribute, you mentioned vulnerability. Yes. Not so much sharing their dirty laundry per se, but owning their stuff. So when they screw up, when they make mistakes, they own the mistake. When they feel tired, or they feel otherwise weakened, they are very cognizant of that. And they may not necessarily share it, but they may pull back a little to make sure that they’re not out of control, so to speak. So vulnerability is a good thing as long as it doesn’t become an emotional display all the time.
Other things that we see, maybe the pinnacle one, is this growth-minded person. Hearkens to one of many social scientists that we adore which is [inaudible 00:15:33]. And people who want to learn, who want more information, they’re gonna be better listeners, which is a great confidence characteristic. They are going to be diplomatic, because they want other people’s input. They are going to just have this mindset that I don’t know everything and I want to learn more, and at the same time if I know more, I can impact more. And that growth mindset really is kind of a cute thing.
One of the things that always surprised people, if you think about some of these things we’re talking about, people say to me, “I can’t be confident. I’m an introvert.” And I say, “Look at that list. Consider that list. It’s thoughtfulness, it’s growth mind, it’s calm. Does that sound like an extravert to you?” It’s an introvert. It’s an introvert. So they’re different planes. There are different ways of looking at it, but extravert or introvert does not correlate directly to confidence, but if look at the list, introverts have actually a closer match to characteristics of people who are confident.
Allie LeBlanc: And that’s just another example of how your research has really flipped the script on what confidence really is. And it’s so fascinating, because again we’re up against the notion that you are either born confidence or you’re not, and if you are not born confident and you happen to be introverted, well there’s not hope for you. And you’re proving with your data and your research that that’s not even the case. So this is really fantastic.
Alyssa Dver: So I want to flip the switch again, and this time we’re gonna flip the switch to think about people who are not confident. And I want to give people a little bit of a spoiler alert, because the ones that always comes up is posture, right? And I’m sure a lot of viewers out there have seen Amy Cuddy’s work on power poses. You know with that one is? Wonder woman, superman. And Amy Cuddy’s work really called about, she dug into this area that depending on the way you stand, it triggers a neurotransmission into your brain that subsequently impacts your behavior. So it boardifies you with dopamine and other hormones that kind of make you feel really accomplished and good, and it suppresses the cortisol and all the stress things. So needless to say, there are a lot of people who agree and disagree with Amy Cuddy’s work. It doesn’t matter. Do something with me for a second. Sit like this. Right? If we did the interview like this, people would be looking at us going, “They just don’t look very confident.”
Allie LeBlanc: They’re not into it.
Alyssa Dver: So the default about sitting up and standing up, as much as you might want to say, “Mom, knock it off,” she was right. Or aunt or whoever kept telling you to sit up straight. But there is an impact on other people, and the reason again is that we know confidence when we see it. And that’s a tell that somebody’s not feeling confident. So I want to ask the audience, chatbox us back, and think about your own role model. Think of somebody that you knew or know that’s not confident. What are the kind of characteristics, what are things that that person does that says to you, “Not confident, not confident.”
Allie LeBlanc: All right, we’re all right getting plenty of answers in, which is fantastic. So we’ve covered posture. Lack of eye contact, now that’s a really interesting one, and I did see when we were talking about what is an indicator of confidence, people said eye contact as one of the top answers as well. So now we’re seeing that lack of … Oh, excessive apologizing, constant apologizing, that’s another one. People who become belligerent or defensive, sort of just a general outlook, toxicity. Quiet voice. I wanted to hear your take on quiet voice and how that’s related to confidence or lack of confidence. Because is that necessary the case at all times?
Alyssa Dver: It’s great, and those answers are right on the money. I love them. Yes, so if I were to talk really quietly, not only would my folks here in the room be like, “Louder!” But it is a sign of almost timidity, like you’re shy or fearful of something, but if I were to talk really loud, it would almost have the same impact. So that modulation. Now I am a professional speaker, I go on stage all the time, and one of the techniques we do, if there’s something really important I might do that, but then I have to come out of that. So it’s not that you talk softly all the time, but maybe use it for emphasis, if you will.
Allie LeBlanc: Yep. And then I’m seeing some other really good ones, excessive what-ifs is another one, again focusing on the negative aspects of one thing or another. Condescending behaviors, that’s another really interesting one, because we often associate that kind of aloof attitude as being because someone is excessively confident, maybe in things that they’re not suited to be confident in, but I like that whoever chatted this in is recognizing that condescension is actually a sign of lack of confidence. Is that correct?
Alyssa Dver: It is. That’s a really good place for us to transition to this other little topic I want to hit on, because when you see somebody or you come into contact with somebody who may seem not confident, kibosh slumping over or they have a quiet voice, you almost feel sorry for them. It’s like sad. But when somebody is condescending or cocky, let’s just call it what it is, we call those the impostors, because we do second guess and say, “Are they being cocky and condescending because they’re not confident or because they are confident, and how do I compare?” And you start doing that self talk, and as a result your confidence takes a little bit of a kick. So one of the things we teach at the institute, it’s a fabulous tool, athletes use it constantly, is this idea of labeling. And a label, as you’ll learn as we get into the brain science, takes that second of panic that maybe I’m not so good, and it puts it into your cognitive space where you have more control, so you say to yourself, “Oh, that person’s cocky.” And you take that microsecond, put it up here, and you remember their confidence is being challenge, and not to let yours.
Somebody who’s indifferent, you ever be in a meeting and they’re kind of looking at their phone, they’re not really paying attention to you, their eyes may be somewhere else.
Allie LeBlanc: Certainly not at the predictive index.
Alyssa Dver: No, not here. None of your customers, nobody who’s listening, no, but we all have people like that, right? And it’s another impostor, because it kicks our confidence in a way that we start going, “Maybe I’m not that interesting. Maybe they have something more important.” All that kind of panic, anxiety stuff comes out. Again, if you label it, you say, “Oh, indifference, that’s what they’re doing.” You put it here, it’s a technique. It’s called, again, labeling, for the third time so everyone can hear it. But labeling helps you manage that so your confidence doesn’t get derailed.
Allie LeBlanc: That’s really interesting. And I know you’ve done a lot of work on expanding on those types of behaviors. I want to allow you some time to get into that a little bit more in depth as well. So how are we gonna be dinging in others, whether intentionally or inadvertently?
Alyssa Dver: Right. So we say the impostors are kind of personality types. There’s actually behaviors that we do to each other all the time, and I’ve done them to other people, they do it to me, I’m sure you do it and you’ve experienced it, and we call those bonehead behaviors.
Allie LeBlanc: Bonehead behaviors?
Alyssa Dver: Bonehead behaviors. And the reason it’s bonehead, ’cause most of the time it’s not intentional. But what it is is you have a momentary, “Oh my gosh, I don’t feel so confident.” You do or say something that makes other people feel less good about themselves. So a perfect example is my favorite one, smartest person in the room. And again, I know nobody at PI, none of the customers-
Allie LeBlanc: I have been guilty of that, and I actually wrote about that on a blog post on the PI website. So shameless plug here, yes, sometimes, and I’m very much guilty of feeling like no one is as smart as I can be sometimes, and I’ve noticed that that has a detrimental effect on other people, and I’m consciously trying to do better with that.
Alyssa Dver: Right. So have you been in a situation where you’ve been presenting or talking or whatever in a meeting, and somebody corrects you, publicly corrects you, and they are like, “Well, that’s not right, it’s 2.2,” and you feel about this big, ’cause now you’re like … But they feel good. Smartest person in the room. It happens all the time. And we almost accept it in business. We say it’s what it is. Talking over is another one that is maybe more significant, because it’s so off-putting, where you go into a room, and you said you speak a lot of times to roomfuls of men, you’re the only woman, and I hear this a lot from women in that situation, it’s not the only time in happens, where they don’t let you say anything. They may even ask you a question, and somebody keeps … And I say that, it’s usually one person that wants to dominate, right?
Allie LeBlanc: Right.
Alyssa Dver: Again, I don’t want to say we accept it, but it happens all the time, people acknowledge that it happens, talking over. Smartest person in the room. People who are indifferent, and that indifferent behavior, that distracted on the social media while I’m having a media kind of thing, it all pings other people’s confidence in a way that’s really negative. So I want to ask the audience, anybody have those experiences? And if you can remember how it made you feel, maybe we can all be more conscientiousness so we don’t do it to other people.
Allie LeBlanc: Right. So in the chat box as soon as you’re ready, give us an example of times where you’ve felt small and maybe even when you’ve been aware that you’ve been displaying some of these bonehead behaviors like I have been guilty of doing in the meetings once in a while. So we’ll wait for some of those to come through. And I’m seeing talking over people, again is something that’s popping up multiple times here. When my boss tells me I’ve made an error. And I know that that can be a real confidence killer, because here you are really focusing on wanting to do the best job that you can do. I mean, you’re showing up to work, you’re putting in your best effort, and then to have it fall short in the eyes of your boss who’s gonna be making some pretty important decisions on your behalf, that can be really, really confidence crushing, I can imagine. Not being asked my opinion. Now I really like this one. So can you talk a little bit about that, how that fits into bonehead behaviors, where someone just isn’t open to another person’s opinion?
Alyssa Dver: Well, distinguish that for me. When they’re deliberately not asking, or are they accidentally not doing it?
Allie LeBlanc: I guess we’re looking at the accidental.
Alyssa Dver: Right, so I had this conversation actually last night with one of my clients, because we’re all so busy and overwhelmed, and one of the things that’s happening more and more is thoughtlessness. People just don’t realize. So nine out of ten times, just didn’t think to answer, to ask your opinion, and assume that. However, if you really feel like I want my opinion to be heard, that a sort of mess of saying, “Hey, I have an opinion on this,” is quite okay. And just kind of assume that they just didn’t ask ’cause they weren’t thinking to ask. It doesn’t mean they didn’t want to hear it, they just didn’t think to ask it.
So let me ask you this: if we roll back to some of the other things that came in that we were talking about, if you think about it, all these behaviors, bonehead and otherwise, are ways to make the person, the instigator, feel better about themselves by making other people feel less good about themselves. Again, we can go Google that up too, and that’ll come back at you and say it’s the definition of a bully. So it is forms of business bullying, and again we all do it, and it’s done to us. We’ve almost come to accept it. But when we start to recognize it, we don’t do it as much to other people, and when it happens to us we can, again, label it, put it up here, stay calm and realize that nine out of ten times it’s not something we did or didn’t do, it’s that that person’s confidence that did it to us is having a crisis.
Allie LeBlanc: Right. And so I’m guessing just based on all the great work that you’ve done that there’s got to be some sort of scientific explanation for all of this.
Alyssa Dver: Yes.
Allie LeBlanc: So I really want to start diving into the science. And I know a lot of you are really excited to hear about the science behind this, because we’ve heard a lot about confidence in passing, and a lot of these anecdotes have been great in setting this up, but tell us a little bit about the science that backs up what you’re saying, ’cause it’s extensive. Buckle up, guys.
Alyssa Dver: Here we go. Get your caffeine going. So I said in the beginning, it’s not in your DNA. It is not in your DNA. And actually, we have to go back a long time to 1940 to really have this conversation mean something, because the definitely I gave earlier of confidence is being very aware and living in alignment with who you want to be, what you need and what you want. And in some cases, we know what we “want,” we may even know what we need. But if you go back to 1940 as I just said, there’s some work by Abraham Maslow. So anyone out there who’s a fellow, that’s my Maslow love. Put in the chatbox, and you and I can all be connected ’cause it’s a beautiful thing, but I want to get a crash course on Maslow. I know a lot of PI people have that psychology and social science background, so you know it, so I’m gonna go fast. But Maslow basically built this pyramid of hierarchy of needs that means that you and me and everybody watching, we all have a common set of needs, and some of them we recognize, and again some of them we don’t really recognize on a daily basis, but they play directly into confidence. So the first one on the bottom is physiological needs. We have to eat, we have to sleep, we have to drink. Water, and other things.
Allie LeBlanc: Water. Needless to say.
Alyssa Dver: There’s a couple things we need to do to survive in order to be alive. Above that level he said was safety, and safety means that yeah, we can eat and sleep and drink, but if we’re in danger we are in danger. We have to be safe from the elements, from whatever. Maslow’s premise was that you work your way up the pyramid, and you have to kind of fill each level to get to the next level, and the one in the middle is the one that’s really the key one for us today, which is the need to belong. Now need to belong, everybody has it. Some people have more than others. We fill it in different ways. But think of need to belong, belong to a company, you belong to a family, you belong to a religion, you belong to a club maybe, association, whatever it might be, we feel that we’re part of something. We all have that common need. But Maslow says that’s the middle of the pyramid, and what lives on top of the pyramid is all the confidence stuff. It’s self-actualization and self-esteem, and where you really get to kind of explore who and what you want to be. But if you get stuck in belonging, that’s rough. You can’t go up there.
All right, so that’s 1940s. That’s a long time ago. Definitely before both of us were born. And in the last five years, we have now technology that Maslow didn’t have. Things like functional MRIs that allow us to look at the brain while it’s doing something. So now we know that in your brain are certain areas the get invoked, whether you’re trying to make a memory, but also when you’re making confidence decisions. They’re very specific parts of the brain. And the brain science now that has come so fast, so furious, even since the book was written a couple years ago now, we know about couple things about the brain. First and foremost, there’s three big cognitive places that I want people to kind of put their brains around.
Allie LeBlanc: Get your brains ready. One two and three.
Alyssa Dver: Back of the brain is the brain stem. That was what the cave men had and only had. That was the part of the brain, and it’s connected to your spinal column, and it regulates your autonomic functions, so your eating, your breathing, your sweating, your heart pulse rate, those things that you don’t have to think about. We’re sitting here, we’re doing stuff, we’re not even thinking about it, that’s our brain stem. The middle of our brain is the limbic system. It’s where all our emotions are. Our Maslow love, our fear, our hate, our nervousness about doing a webinar, all that is in the emotional center in the limbic section. And then the top of the brain, the one that I pointed to earlier that literally sits in your forehead area is your prefrontal cortex. That’s where all the intellectual stuff is. Your rationalization, your analysis, your ability to really think.
Last part of the human brain to evolve, so cavemen didn’t have it. It’s what makes humans that much more human than the rest of the mammals on the planet, but it also is the last in our brains to develop as we go through life, and in fact doesn’t fully develop, don’t hit me, until you’re 26. So when you were a teenage and you were making all those emotional decisions, now you know why. You didn’t have all that beautiful matter there to do it. I have teenage boys. It helps me cope with them. They’ll get there.
so now you have the three parts of the brain, all good. However, there’s one more part of the brain, and I know it’s one of your favorites. It’s the amygdala.
Allie LeBlanc: The amygdala. And I’m sure there are plenty of people who are watching right now who have heard amygdala so many times. It’s such a huge part of how we understand ourselves and react to our environments, so I’m looking forward to what you’ve got in store for us with that.
Alyssa Dver: All right. So think of the amygdala of sitting, it sits a little bit on the bottom part of the limbic system, but think of it as air traffic control. It is looking all the time for things that could hurt you, physically and emotionally, and it’s saying what can we control and regulate that will keep us safe. When that amygdala finds something like a bonehead behavior, or a cocky person, or something that emotionally attacks us, it fires a warning shot. And here’s what happens, you get to decide, consciously or not, and hopefully today everybody will do it more consciously, I’m gonna act like a caveman and go irrational, sweat, get anxiety, do something that’s regrettable, or can I pop it into my cognitive space here, control it and go, “Oh, cocky. That person has a crisis of confidence. I’m not going there.” And you get very smart by just taking control and putting it here in your brain. That’s what drives confidence. So think of that need to belong that we talked about in Maslow. It’s like a punch. Any time you need to belong, it will cause your amygdala to go, emotionally I don’t feel so happy. So what can we do as leaders now in the final bit of this webinar to keep people’s amygdala calm?
Allie LeBlanc: Nobody wants to bei and that kind of hostile environment where you’re constantly walking on ice, feeling uncomfortable. So one of those tips and tricks for leaders to do a better job coaching and to create a more confident culture.
Alyssa Dver: That’s right. It’s important that people understand that that need to belong, you can’t ignore it. And as a leader, whether you like it or not, if you’re in a leadership position, you have impact on every human being that you interact with. Your interactions are mirrored, we talked about mirror neurons. They’re mirrored by the people. If you’re gonna be aggressive and interrupt people, other people will too, because you’ve set the standard, you’ve set the bar, kind of the framework for what is considered acceptable behavior, and people are gonna worry. Their amygdala’s like, if I don’t act like the boss, I’m gonna get fired. I’m not gonna be liked. I’m not gonna get promoted. So the boss has to be able to to say, and I say boss, the leader, you don’t have to be the boss, just a leader. And you don’t have to even match people. You can have that impact no matter what. So the number one thing you can do is not only act calm and cool and all the things we talked about, and be very mindful of those behaviors, think about your role model. Next time you go to a meeting, put that role model that you were thinking about in your brain, and be like, “How would she handle this?” That you can do. And that calm and cool is contagious.
But what else can you do to make people around you feel like they belong? Can you say, “Hey Allie, it’s such a pleasure to work with you?” Is it that easy? Is it, “Boy I love being at PI, ’cause PI has such great people and fun things?” It’s that easy. And unfortunately, thoughtlessness is our plague, is our new corporate cancer, is that people are moving too fast, doing too much, and we don’t think, “What can I do to make Allie feel like she belongs more today?” And it can be a very easy, simple statement. Rather than wait a year from now, give you a performance review, and then have you come back and go, “You don’t like what I did?” Surprise.
Allie LeBlanc: How many people here in the audience have been surprised by performance reviews like that? I’m sure we can all identify with that a little bit. But yeah, that is incredibly powerful for something so simple to have such an incredible impact. And we don’t even think to do it most of the time. So it’s a really nice reminder to be mindful.
Alyssa Dver: Right, and now you know why. You want to get that person’s amygdala to be in a happy, calm state, and when they are they can be more confident. So it’s so easy to do. Now there’s 1,000 tools and things that we can use to do that. You have some at PI, we have some at ACI as well, but whether they’re formal or just informal comments, it can go a huge distance. I think leaders, they say, “You know what, I’m not a coach, but I want to be able to coach people.” You have no choice. And what I mean by that is, again, I’ll refer to one of the clients I was talking to last night. She originally called me, she wanted to go for this promotion, and she did get it. We worked together and she got it. It was so exciting. And then she called me right away. She was like, “OH my gosh, now I’m an executive, and I need to have better presence and presentation skills.” And this was like last week. She’s like, “And I’ve got a presentation coming, help!”
So we were debriefing last night about it, and she’s on this new journey to really increase her executive presence. And one of the things she said was that her boss was in the room, and afterwards didn’t say anything to her. Didn’t say positive, didn’t say negative. And she’s like, “She knows I’m in a new job, she knows I’m nervous, she knows that this is a foreign territory for me. She didn’t say anything.” And I said to the client, I said did you ask her? She goes, “Well that’ll be weird.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s not ’cause she didn’t have anything good to say. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but she didn’t think to say it, ’cause the managers are as flawed as the rest of us.” So part of it is also taking that initiative as a leader to give people feedback. Constructive, positive, calm, “Hey, I care about you, and next time when you do a presentation, here’s some ideas I have that maybe can improve your impact.” And go out of your way to give people that kind of feedback and caring, if you will. Is that fair?
Allie LeBlanc: That is fair. That’s great.
Alyssa Dver: Yeah. And we have to take the time to do that, and I realize that everybody is not necessarily willing or thinks to do it, but when you do it has a huge impact.
Allie LeBlanc: Yeah. And baby steps are still steps too. You don’t have to be paying compliments to every single person that you see, but when you do think of it, to act on it, right?
Alyssa Dver: That’s right. So given what we just talked about, you have an impact as a leader, you can coach people even if they don’t deliberately ask, you can kind of go out of your way. I want to mention two quick things. One is that I know that PI has a lot of people who are existing life coaches, and we have a really nice program coming up, a coaching certification program that focuses on how to help people with their confidence. So more information at americanconfidence.com. Thank you for the selfless plug. But the reality is, we have people who really are phenomenal coaches and just want to be able to bring these tools and tips to others, so I love it when they sign up. It’s really a lovely program.
But the last thing goes back to your original question about PI and assessments, because as leaders the more we know about ourselves and we are true to who we want to be, what we need and what we want, and we are acting in alignment with that, and we are a good role model, we can coach people. You can’t coach somebody to be more confident if you’re not. So the act of assessment and self-discovery and awareness that’s so major here, which is why I keep coming back ’cause I love it here, that’s what it really boils down to.
Allie LeBlanc: Yeah, and having the confidence to delve into that kind of self-discovery is really tough to muster a lot of the time. And I’m very grateful in my time at PI, when I first started, I didn’t really want to know who I was. I kind of had an idea of what was going on behind the scenes. Was I thrilled with all of it, no. But I learned some things about myself that helped me to figure out not only who I want to be in relation to that, so do I constantly want to be bulldozing people because I need to be dominant all the time? No, that’s not a position I ever want to be in.
And I actually had somebody say to me, “Here is how you express your behavioral needs. So you want to be in charge, you want to do things alone, you want to do thing quickly, and you want to do them by your own rules.” And when I heard that, my initial thought was, “Oh, that sounds terrible. That is such a horrible string of traits,” and how it was communicated to me was, “No it’s not. Now you know why you behave the way that you do, because you have these needs that aren’t being met, and so you’re going to act accordingly.” So that’s really helped me in my confidence journey to understand what I need to be aware of in order to build the right kind of confidence and not slip into those pitfalls of being a bonehead, which I am still sometimes, as we all are as you’ve been telling us.
Alyssa Dver: We all are. So here’s the thing, and I don’t think we did it on this webinar yet, but guess what age you have to be. Did we do this in the beginning?
Allie LeBlanc: No.
Alyssa Dver: because I kind of tease people, right?
Allie LeBlanc: My confidence now is shaking, ’cause I feel like you’re gonna quiz me on something.
Alyssa Dver: No. So we’ll ask how old do you think most people are where they record their confidence as a peak? We did the poll in the beginning. We heard a lot of threes, fours, fives, sixes, one 11. But needless to say, where do you think people actually finally go, “Oh yeah, I’m good.”
Allie LeBlanc: Yeah. So what age, in the chatbox, what age do you think we’re going to be exhibiting the highest level of confidence? So I’m seeing some answers here already. I’m getting mid 20s. I guess that might be a different kind of confidence than the one … 45, 35, 50, some more early 30s. My thought is sort of that mid to late 30s range. Am I close? Am I anywhere near? I’m guessing no. So what ages are we looking at?
Alyssa Dver: Well, it’s gonna make sense now that everything we talked about, not just the brain science but kind of the value definition, is by age 60. 6-0, our confidence finally gets to its highest level. And for the average human being, and again, average being aggregate, there’s gonna be people all over the outliers and then some. But we finally give up in terms of saying, “I’m good, I’m pretty good the way I am. And I understand who I am.” and those characteristics, even the ones that you rattled off before, that’s who I am. I’m okay with that. But it takes us 60 years on average to get there.
Allie LeBlanc: That’s incredible.
Alyssa Dver: So aren’t we the bomb? Because we’re all here today so we can have that and accelerate it.
Allie LeBlanc: We’re gonna accelerate the confidence process, and I just am getting a note from our team that we’re experiencing some technical difficulties, so we really appreciate that you’re staying on with us as we’re going through this webinar. You’re not looking at our beautiful faces just this second, but hopefully we’ll be back up and running soon. I really don’t want to lose any of that experience in talking with you and learning from you. This can really just be a preview to your audiobook, which I know with Kickass Confidence is available like I said on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, and there’s some new and updated content in the audio version that you can’t even get from the print version or from the version that we’re gonna be providing to you for free at the end of this webinar.
So what I want to do is just give you an opportunity to throw any last thoughts that you have surrounding confidence before we start wrapping up. I know we’ve asked a lot of you today, so I really appreciate you coming in. This is absolutely so fascinating. The fact that it marries what we do with what you do so well, it’s just been incredibly fun and illuminating. So do you have any last thoughts for us before we start taking questions?
Alyssa Dver: Well we covered a lot of ground, and of course in the beginning we talked about it’s a learned skill, and everybody has confidence challenges. I think that maybe if there’s no other lesson today, that one consolation is that the people that are with us, even if you can’t see us, I know you’re with us, they are growth minded. They’re here because they want to learn something. One of the keys behind confidence is admitting that you’re not confident first so you can become more confident. That’s a good thing. That’s a positive. So hats off to everybody who joined us. It’s a really powerful first step. I kind of will giggle when I say, you go to AA and you say, “I’m an alcoholic,” or whatever behavior change, but acknowledging that you have something that you want and need and you do something about it, that should be confidence boosting to everyone on our webinar today or thereafter, because when you take a step to do anything to make yourself better and improve, that’s confidence boosting.
Tools, tips, techniques, there’s a bunch in the book that people are gonna get of course with workshops and other things that we do, but if nothing else remember that any time that your confidence, as my business partner would say, feels a little itchy, you feel like you’re maybe getting a little thrown off course, remember our little amygdala conversation, take a deep breath, put it in your cognitive space in the prefrontal cortex, stay in control, and remember that not only is your confidence important to you, it’s important to everybody you interact with.
Allie LeBlanc: That’s perfect. That’s the best we could hope for in our transition now into questions, and we’ve received a number of questions. So we’re gonna pick two or three. We want to be mindful of time. So what I’m gonna start with here is, “Do people with more confidence have less of an inner critic?”
Alyssa Dver: Oh, that’s a great question. No. Not at all. I think the inner critic, when it’s well managed, again, you have an inner critic that’s self-sabotaging, like “I can’t do it, I’m not good at that.” Of course, that’s gonna kibosh your confidence. But if you have an inner critic, and I have a herculean inner critic. I’m always wanting to do better. I do a presentation, if I don’t get an 11, I’m like, “What?” But at the same time, I want to know why and how, and that’s a growth-mindedness. So that inner critic, when I think the inner critic’s well managed, it becomes a friend.
We just did a blog post recently on why criticism hurts so much. And there neurological reasons and explanations we put in there, but one of the thing that kind of popped off the page when we were working on it and I was like, “It’s so true,” is the fact that when you are criticized about something that you know is true, then you react. You get defensive. You’re like … I mean, think about a family member who criticizes you. You’re like, oh, it’s because they know you so well. And it hurts, and it feels lousy, but if you use that in a way going, okay, I hear you, but I don’t have to agree with you, or I’m gonna take that information and I’m going to utilize it, but I may not change my behavior today or ever, managing that input, I think that’s a true sign of confidence.
Allie LeBlanc: That’s fantastic. We have, the questions that are coming in, they’re pouring in. This is so exciting.
Alyssa Dver: Come on, let’s get some more.
Allie LeBlanc: Let’s get some more questions out there. So I know you’re probably really familiar with Angela Duckworth and Grit. So this question relates to that. So how do confidence, motivation and grit relate to each other? Are they different? In other words, can someone be very confident but lack motivation or lack grit? What are your thoughts on that?
Alyssa Dver: That’s a great, humongous question, and Angela Duckworth is awesome. She teaches at Wharton as well down in UPEN. Actually, I don’t know if she’s in the business school, but she is at UPEN, and I saw her speak not too long ago. She’s brilliant. I absolutely love her. You can be persistent to a fault. If you want something for whatever reason, I really, really, really want that Mercedes Benz, you can be kind of more than a bonehead to try and get your way to there. You can climb over people and on people. I do like to believe at the end of the day that that doesn’t always work, but in reality, yes, you could be gritty and pursue something for the sake of it without having confidence in yourself or otherwise. Now the question becomes do you really have the resilience and the persistence needed to get there? And I think Angela would say no. You have to have the confidence to be truly gritty, because you will give up otherwise.
Now motivation hearkens back to Maslow, right? And you have to be motivated to do something just the oh do it. I said you people are here with us. They want to be more confident. They’re kind of motivated to be here. So if you don’t have motivation, and I’m kind of famous for saying there’s no will, there’s no way. That’s just life. And it applies to everything. So yeah, you would wind up giving up. So I think, and I talked to Angela about this, grit and confidence, they’re kind of the partners. They are in some ways super sets of each other, but they are different, and I think you can be very gritty without necessarily having confidence and you can be very confident without being gritty, but they work much better together.
Allie LeBlanc: When they’re together. That’s excellent. I have a really interesting question here as it relates to leadership and coaching. So this attendee has asked, “A new employee in my department seems to lack confidence in herself and her work, therefore she doesn’t make decisions and waits on my approval for everything. I try to guide her and let her make her own decision, win, fail, whatever it might be, and encourage her. How can I help her improve her confidence? What are some tangible action items?
Alyssa Dver: That is a good question. They’re all great questions. So going back to our brain science mini lab here, when somebody doesn’t want to make a decision, it’s that amygdala on fire. Literally on fire, going … It’s panicked. And it’s afraid of usually one of three things. I’m gonna fail, and I’m gonna look stupid. I am going to be rejected. People are not gonna like me, I might get fired, whatever, but rejected is that belonging thing. Nothing hard. And the third thing is I may regret doing this or not doing it. I don’t want to look back and go, “That was a bad call.” So instead of dealing with those fears, they stay immobilized like a deer in headlights. It’s a purely emotional reaction. It is your amygdala throwing off the alarm to the brain that goes, “Incoming. You’re gonna be emotionally wrecked, so be careful.”
The way to get somebody over that is literally take the emotion and make it objective. So break those things down. We have some checklists and other things that we use as part of our coaching work that I mentioned. We train our coaches, and we use in our coaching practice, literally we’ll ask people, “Are you making a big decision? Whatever it is, or even a small decision, what are you worried about? Do you think you will fail, and if you fail, what could happen? So we take those emotional triggers and we try and objectify them if you will. It takes a little bit of time. It takes a couple minutes. But what it forces people to do is get rational it puts the thinking here, it gets them out of that caveman panic stuff. So it’s all part of that same lesson that we talked about bringing it into a cognitive space where you can be smarter and a little bit more certain.
Allie LeBlanc: A little more certain. I love that. And I think we have time for just one more question. And we’re talking from the manager’s perspective, and now I want to just finish with an employee’s perspective. So this person has said that I’ve lost a lot of confidence due to a conversation my manager had with me regarding my lack of degree and the fact that I’m younger. My manager stated I’ve reached the ceiling within my career at this particular company. So how can I overcome this so that my team, the company and myself aren’t affected?
Alyssa Dver: Well, of course they didn’t say what kind of company or role it is, because there are of course some companies that a degree, for better or for worse, a particular certification is required. You can’t really practice medicine unless you get your degree. But here’s the thing, and in my key notes I joke about this, and people always, I can see them … You mentioned in the very beginning I teach at MIT, Harvard and Wharton, and I always say to them, these elite schools with elite student bodies and even staff for that matter, I do a lot of training with the staff, is why are we here? You guys are clearly smart, you’re clearly accomplished. Why are we here? And they will always say that the main reason is that the expectations are so high. And I laugh, because once we start breaking down some of the barriers, you start to realize everybody has confidence issues. It doesn’t matter what degree you have. Steve Jobs didn’t have a college degree. He didn’t lack confidence. You might’ve hated him, but hard to say he didn’t have confidence. I joke about my boyfriend Marky Mark who lives in the south end. You might know him. He doesn’t have even a high school degree to my knowledge, and he does have a lot of confidence.
So there are a lot of ways you can look at having the knowledge and the street smarts to make good decisions, to be able to be competent in some cases, though again it depends on the industry. It’s just part of the rules and regulation. I think that people often use it as an excuse. “I can’t do that, I can’t go for that job, I can’t go for that promotion, because I don’t have that degree.” And I think you’d be surprised if we really took the research and we looked at all these people who just went for it and said, “I’m gonna teach this or I’m gonna do that, and I don’t have the certification or degree. I’m just gonna do it.” So don’t let it necessarily stop you, but if it’s a rule it’s a rule, and maybe it’s time to look somewhere else, I don’t know.
Allie LeBlanc: Sage advice from the queen of confidence here, Alyssa.
Alyssa Dver: Me? No, we can’t use royal, not for a while.
Allie LeBlanc: No royalty.
Alyssa Dver: No royalty, no.
Allie LeBlanc: Well thank you again so much, Alyssa Dver. It has been such a pleasure to have you here in the PI office, and I just want to say another reminder for your book, the print version of Kickass Confidence is available on Amazon, and again like I had said earlier, new updated information is included in the audiobook which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible, so keep an ear out for that. Cheesy jokes. It’s almost 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s a low blood sugar thing.
Alyssa Dver: Time for wine