This post is an excerpt from a project I’m currently working on: The Little Book of Big Confidence
Here’s a pernicious myth about confidence: Confident people are dominant.
It’s easy to think that dominance indicates confidence. After all, people who speak louder than others, or take up all the space, or control the conversation do come across as being pretty sure of themselves. But while dominant or bold behavior might indicate confidence in some people, it certainly doesn’t do so for all people.
Bullies show plenty of dominant behavior, yet bullies often hold deep seated insecurities and very a very shaky sense of self-worth.
Some people who try to dominate a conversation or an audience are putting on a show of bravado as a way of compensating for gut-wrenching fear.
And sometimes dominant behavior is fueled by other emotions, like anger or exasperation – two feelings that probably don’t factor into most people’s concept of confidence.
For women, dominant behavior is even more divorced from confidence. When we’re establishing our positions within a group – or establishing our authority as speakers – we tend to look for common ground, to connecting with one another, or to use other, subtler social signals to signal our role within the room. This isn’t to say that no woman uses dominance to establish her position – we’ve all encountered queen bees or battleaxes who seek to dominate in a group. There are also many outstanding women leaders who have more dominant personalities and who use their dominant traits both respectfully and effectively. But by and large, we women are less likely to use dominant behavior to indicate confidence.
You absolutely do not need to be dominant in your personality or in your behavior to be a confident presenter. Even though you might be in the spotlight persuading people to take a certain action or vigorously defending your choice or viewpoint, you don’t need to dominate your audience to persuade, to lead, to inspire trust, or to feel completely comfortable owning your position at the front of the room.