Assertiveness – Men Need Confidence Too!
There is so much in the media about women wanting more confidence and being empowered. I love all of this, however as a trainer, I still meet and coach a large number of men who suffer from a lack of confidence. Men need to feel empowered and confident too, it is just as important.
In the last couple of weeks I wrote a mini-series of blogs covering personal confidence, and I had a large number of ladies read it as well as men, you can read the complete series here if you like. I wanted to take a moment to focus on the chaps so here goes.
Male pride huh? So many chaps out there shrug off any idea of reaching out for help with personal confidence, preferring instead to stay in the their caves (in later life perhaps a shed) and just hoping that things will resolve themselves or simply just go away. It just seems a bit ponsie to ask for help as this could dent their ego or worse make them look weak.
It is all Gok’s fault!
We are faced with a barrage of adverts and TV shows showing women embracing their inner confidence, usually by getting fitter, or wearing a certain type of clothing or even eating a yogurt. Gok Wan has worked miracles for women in helping them with the C word; but what about the men?
I coach lots of men of all different ages and increasingly I am finding that there are a many chaps out there who would like to feel well, more confident. Of course they rarely use the C- Word, God forbid! Instead they say “I would like to feel more in control of my situation” or “I want to be able to speak my mind and get my point across well” and when we discuss these things further it is clear that they lack confidence.
Empowering a man is no mean feat. For a start he has got to want you to do it, and he has to decide how you do it and often it needs to be his idea, even if it isn’t. For some men it is about control, and it is important for this type of man to understand what he has control over and what he doesn’t. Once this is done, it is important to attach a value to it.
I have a client we’ll call him Lawrence, he has just been given the authority to look after the management accounts of a business, but he is not confident that he will be able to create reports with enough accuracy and that he will end up being a laughing stock. Talking this through with him, it would have been an easy win to reassure him that he will do a good job and to trust his technical ability to it. However in this case, as confidence was the missing element, it was vital to reinforce to him that as the business had the confidence in his ability it didn’t mean he shouldn’t. So began the process of transferring it from the business back to him. I asked him why he thought the business had chosen him to take this on. He told me that he was well qualified, was committed, and that another manager, Ben, had said that he was good with complicated information and that he could be trusted, even though his experience was not with this senior level information. So is the issue that the information is at a senior level then? I asked. Lawrence said maybe. Not satisfied with this, I asked him how he felt about Ben recommending and referring his skills. He said he was flattered at first and that it had meant a lot, as Ben who normally did this was well respected too. So I asked him how it felt to be recommended by a person who was respected. Here Lawrence said that he was concerned that he could not live up to Ben’s standard and expectations and might let him down too.
Now we were talking about two issues.
- Letting the person who referred him down as he was unsure of living up to those standards.
- Working through and delivering information at a senior level.
I asked Lawrence to imagine each of these problems in a weight scale. Which one would be heavier and therefore be more of a problem. What do you think his answer was?
The issue was letting Ben down of course. His confidence had been dented through worrying about this and not as he thought working on senior reports. Once Lawrence recognised this, it was possible to free up his concerns over the senior management reports and concentrate of something more positive, returning control. I asked him to meet with Ben for a coffee and discuss some things based on his concerns. Lawrence was worried this would make him look weak, but I assured him that it is far better to sense check what the expectation is than to get it wrong, and asked Lawrence to suggest ways that he could ask for guidance. Immediately he said that he could ask about the people who would be receiving the reports and what they expect based on the information Ben had on them. Also he said he could ask to see any reports that Ben had produced to get a feel for the format and content as a guideline. Terrific.
A week later I received an email from Lawrence saying he had done what he said, and has submitted his first report, for which he has received a great email back from his manager. He has no problem in doing these any more as he feels more control.
Control is important to men; it keeps things ordered and allows them to feel confident in what they are doing. However if a man is only focused on the results and output and not on the contributing issues that can mask behaviour, then the problems and doubts can appear. One of the reasons for this is down to the choices a man is presented with or the lack of choices. In a previous blog about Assertiveness- Stand Up and be Counted I talked about how choice plays a role in how we behave. When we have more choice available to us, we feel more control and become more assertive. However, if choice is removed, then confidence takes a dive and the resulting behaviour could be seen as passive or aggressive. So the answer to control is about having the ability to choose, just like Lawrence had to in order to regain control and gain confidence.
Start with a Mindset: Fit for Purpose
Men like to feel confident and strong. This in turn also contributes to that all-important element of control. Exercise and fitness plays a role, especially competitive fitness such as team sport or personal challenges, as a man who is strong, fit and healthy is perceived to be more likely to succeed. Fit for purpose.
As a TV personality once said “I do not want to do business with men who look like they have spent too much time eating power lunches, wearing nasty suits that are far to tight sweating at the merest exertion.” I tend to agree, and the image that men create for themselves is equally as important as those created by their female counterparts. Think about the way you look, take some pride in what you wear, keep yourself tidy, eat healthier and perhaps do some more exercise. I know this sounds simplistic and superficial, perhaps it is, but one thing I do know, is that people take notice of people who look good. As Oscar Wilde once said “it is better to be looked over than over looked.” Men don’t have to be chiseled and have model looks, they just have to look like they care and this in itself exudes extra confidence. There was an article on LinkedIn I think it was, on whether people prefer to do business with good-looking people and the result was an overwhelming yes. So chaps build yourself an arsenal of confidence building kit and in turn build your personal confidence.
Don’t Forget the P’s & Q’s
When dealing with men, don’t be led into thinking it is all about the banter. Men appreciate the niceties and good manners too. It goes a long way. Just as you would with anyone, never forget to use please and thank you, as this will foster repeated behaviour. Men appreciate being thanked, and as natural hunter-gatherers the feeling of being taken for granted is not welcome and is often kept well hidden, again under a veil of banter or worse, silence. It need not be a gushing over the top appreciation, just a simple thank you. As body language and communication experts tells us, men speak fewer words that women, which in the evenings lead their partners into believing they are not interested in talking, but this is not true it is just that they have used up all their daily word count by the end of the working day. So keep it short.
Nice Guys Finish First!
It is often said that nice guys finish last, well guess what, they don’t, they often finish first. The sad fact is that in business and in life there are people who think that being nice is a sign of weakness. I train a lot of really nice guys, true gentlemen who are gracious and well mannered and have a great deal of respect from their peers and colleagues. Often when it comes to being assertive and having a lack of confidence they blame it on them being ‘too nice’ this is an easy excuse and total rubbish. Being ‘too nice’ as they say should be used as their starting point to gaining confidence not a reason not to. In world where good manners would seem to be getting scarce we need more nice guys and girls around to restore some values. As an aside read this terrific book by Doug Sandler it is incredibly good.
Go Get Some.
We often forget that men need to feel confident and empowered. This doesn’t just happen, it needs to be crafted and nurtured so that a man can feel a sense of pride and control in what he is doing and what he wants to achieve.
Now for all the men out there reading this, you deserve as much confidence as you can get, you are worth it, and never forget to value who you are and what you have achieved. Now, about that rugby and tennis, you can close this down now and delete it from your history too, it will be our secret, you know where to come if you need some pointers though right?
This blog forms part of Serialtrainer7 one to one coaching and assertiveness courses for people looking at personal development. If you would like some help then please contact me, Simon Hares at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in confidence 07979 537824.