How to support the shy and tips to develop confidence

"Rachael is a mature, quiet and reserved member of the form. She hides her light under a bushel."

These words were derived from my school reports and is a theme I had running throughout my school years from the age of 4 until the age of 18 when I left the system. 

I was painfully shy as a child. 

And I wasn't always aware of how much this held me back. 

I remember my first year of school, aged 4 and not being able to say "yes, I am present" to morning registration. Unfortunately and probably a little detrimental to my own development, someone had to declare my presence for me.

I just couldn't speak to people. 

Fast forward a few years, many folk can't quite believe this when I tell them and so when I got a message from a former school classmate asking how to help her with improving the confidence of her colleague, it touched my heart.

I felt strangely accomplished, proud and compelled to help. 

Her message asked if I had any advice on how to help an intern of hers be more confident in customer meetings and networking environments. 

My answer: 

Lack of confidence really comes down to a sense that you’re not good enough.

And telling her that she IS good enough isn’t necessarily going to change things.

Here’s the tricky part, getting her to operate outside of either idea (whether she thinks she’s good enough or not good enough) is where she’d really shine.

I get that’s a difficult thing to do. Let alone try and support someone else to do. It’s something that really comes with practice.

What she needs to do:

1. Develop the courage to step outside her comfort zone

 Speaking up in those meetings is outside her comfort zone. It's unknown, unpredictable and therefore, rather terrifying. It's normal to be afraid of that. However, if she wants to grow, she will have to practice speaking up in those meetings whether she thinks she’s good enough or not, confident enough or not and ready enough or not. And that's the key, she may not feel ready and she may be afraid. Choosing to be courageous and vulnerable in spite of all that is hard. But, it's certainly possible. What is more, she'll be proud of herself if she does. 

2.  Develop a strong empowering reason as to why she would want to do that.

This will give her the self-motivation she will need. How will she benefit from doing this? What opportunities can she see? How will this aid her development? What is she going to gain from it? 

3. Develop a strong sense of self-compassion.

This whole process can be hard. I know. And we're never going to be perfect. Being shy is actually ok. Own that if she must. Sometimes, she just won't be able to speak up and other times, she will. The key is practice. Through all of it, she will need to develop a strong sense of self-compassion. 

There's an amazing article about self-compassion linked to here:

What you need to do:

 1. Get curious

From a non-judgemental place, ask how she feels about the networking and customer meetings. 

2.  Understand her

Normalise and validate her feelings based upon what she shares. Share your own experience especially if you've felt anything similar. This way she will feel related to and understood.

3. Reflect her potential  

You notice she's quiet in these meetings. Let her know you see that she's not fulfilling what you know to be her true potential. 

4. Get permission 

Ask whether she would like to step out a little more or not. You can't help anyone who doesn't want to be supported. If so, you can get permission to support her around that. 

5. Take away the pressure 

Ask what her motivation is for wanting to step out more. What is the opportunity available for her in doing so? Asking her this will create more self-motivation vs. pressure from someone else to do so. 

Additionally, let her know that you're not attached to whether she does or not but that you also see something for her in it. This lets her know that it is all about her and there's no hidden agenda. 

6. Acknowledge her

If and when she does speak up (no matter what the outcome), make sure to fully acknowledge her for doing so. It will make it easier for her to do it again.

Never ever shame someone for being shy.  

Aside from all of this, confidence is a really tricky thing. We make ourselves feel ashamed for not being more confident which only fuels its absence. The trick is to be both bold and gentle. Take ownership of your fears, it's ok to be shy and tackle any shame you have around it with self-compassion. It takes time and there will always be room for more growth but having support can be a really great thing.

If this has helped, let me know.