In a professional environment, it does little good to be a shrinking violet. When trying to grow and advance in your field, you want to put your best foot forward. You want your clients to trust you, you want your peers to respect you and, perhaps most importantly, you want to show your higher-ups why they hired you.
You want to showcase your knowledge and experience, while also showing that you’re a team player who is an asset in the workplace. However, you don’t want to be brash about it. You don’t want to be the person garnering groans and eye-rolls whenever you open your mouth. You want your words to carry weight and your actions to be respected.
Whether it's because you’re trying to overcompensate or you just want to be recognized for your achievements, it can be easy to bypass confidence and make a left turn into Smug Town. But being truly confident requires different qualities, ones that cocky people are simply lacking. Below are six traits exhibited by confident people that set them apart.
1. They're knowledgeable, but know that they don't know everything.
Confident people are secure in their knowledge and abilities, but they accept their limitations Knowing that you don’t know everything is half the challenge of being a competent professional. People who are truly confident understand that their knowledge is limited.
On the other hand, cocky people are all about showing off what they know and tuning out anything else. Confident people aren’t concerned with feigning the thin veneer of invincibility. They’re willing to share their strengths and their weaknesses. As a result, they are more likely to work collaboratively with others and be receptive to their colleagues’ thoughts, suggestions and constructive criticisms.
2. They welcome feedback.
Confident people welcome the feedback of others in their field. They listen. They engage. They know they don’t have to accept every piece of advice they receive, but they are appreciative of others’ insights and experiences.
Confident people are secure in their personal and professional identities because they are active participants in their own growth. They are constantly looking to sharpen their skillset, bolster their productivity and turn their weaknesses into strengths. This means that confident people are comfortable with taking an honest look inward and taking stock of where they’ve been, where they are and where they’d like to go.
No one finds success in a vacuum and confident people know this. Because of this, confident people frequently gain a loyal tribe of positive mentors, trusted colleagues and other individuals whose counsel they trust. Remember: no one wants to collaborate with a blowhard.
3. They lead from behind.
As leaders, confident people aren’t afraid to let those under their leadership shine. Whereas cocky people may cling fiercely to the front of the pack, showing off their status as frontrunner, confident people are okay letting others take the reins for a bit.
But don’t mistake this willingness to momentarily take a backseat as passivity or idleness. Confident leaders know there is value in letting others forge their own paths, build their strengths and make decisions for the team. As opposed to the brash racket of a cocky figurehead, people secure in their role as leader lead with a cool confidence.
They aren’t threatened by the ambitions or talents of others. In fact, they thrive in the company of driven individuals and want to see them succeed. As a result, groups and organizations led by confident individuals are happier, more productive and more successful.
4. They give credit where it's due — and they're not afraid to share the spotlight.
Because confident people are secure in their identities, they aren’t afraid of being one-upped or overshadowed. Of course, being human, they want to see their efforts acknowledged and their hard work come to fruition. However, they aren’t obsessed with their own success — and that’s what makes them successful.
If another person comes up with an amazing idea or proposal, confident people don’t put a negative spin on it. They aren’t idea killers. They aren’t worried that someone else’s success will take away from their own. They don’t dull others’ shine. Rather, they know that there is more than enough shine to go around and that everyone’s lives will be brighter because of it.
5. They pick their battles.
Another difference between confident and cocky individuals is that confident people choose their battles wisely. Even the most casually confident person isn’t immune to getting annoyed or intimidated from time to time, particularly in the company of someone whose goal may be to elicit those exact feelings.
Still, confident people pick their battles. They don’t get riled at the first sign of trouble. They aren’t immediately reactive. They think before they speak. They remain calm and measured. They don’t throw their weight around in the pursuit of justice. Instead, they reach into their diplomatic toolbelt and utilize a frequently underused weapon — tact.
Confident people are thoughtful and careful. They don’t let pride get the best of them, and they understand that while we’re all sometimes inclined toward fits of ego, we don’t need to indulge it at every turn.
6. They’re stealthy.
Quietly confident people truly are the ninjas of the professional world. Because they don’t need the constant approval of others, they aren’t interested in broadcasting their every move. While cocky people are busy telling you how good they are and what they can do, a confident person will show up and just show you without showing off.
Candace is a practicing attorney, freelance writer, and a proud mom.