Confidence means Competence

Does it happen to you to have the impression that otheradvance much faster in their careers?

What’s going on?

Your contribution is not being seen and recognized. Often people are simply not great at assessing competence and perceptions of competence are just as important for success as actual competence.

It’s difficult to disentangle actual drivers of performance, including how much luck and difficulty level played a role. Because of this, people tend to evaluate competence based on other factors, meaning you have to do more than produce results to convince them of your expertise. 

One way to do this is by demonstrating confidence in your abilities.

A pioneering study from 1982 went over the connection between confidence and perceptions of competence. 2 Psychologists asked 48 subjects to rate the competence of 60 imaginary people who were facing a tennis game or a class final examination. Subjects received two crucial pieces of information: 1) what the imaginary people predicted their performance to be; then 2) the people’s “actual” performance. 

After that, they had to rate each imaginary person’s competence.

It results that the person’s prediction had a strong influence on how subjects perceived their competence: Observers evaluated those who made optimistic predictions as much more competent than their modest contemporaries. Even with an optimistic forecast and a horrible result, they were still rated as almost twice as competent as those who accurately forecasted their poor performance. 

This seems to suggest that if someone asks how you expect to perform, you should give a positive, confident response!

Over the last few decades, researchers have scrutinized the effects of projecting confidence versus modesty, gathering rather contradictory conclusions. This found that projecting confidence does lead to positive effects, but only when it is non-comparative. In other words: praising your competence seems to be fine as long as you do not claim that others are incompetent.

But why do people view confident others as more competent, even when their performance suggests otherwise? 

We tend to believe what we are told, and to confirm our beliefs by selecting information that supports them. The term for this is confirmation bias. So if you project confidence, others tend to believe you know what you’re talking about, and they will then filter ambiguous information to fit their initial impression.

It’s instead unwise to project fake confidence when you know you won’t be able to have a good performance and being too modest likely won’t serve you well either. Modesty is regarded as hedging against possible failure and avoid critics. 

If the expert doesn’t trust in his or her abilities, how could anyone else?

In order to convince others of your abilities, you should make it a habit to communicate that you are good at what you do even if it doesn’t always come easy. To be more authentic in demonstrating your confidence you have to convince yourself at first.

Ask yourself: What am I good at? What was my greatest success so far? Why should others be led by me? What do I know that they don’t? 

If you want to ensure that your achievements are recognized, think about how your manager and colleagues see you and your abilities. Do you think they have a good sense of your competence and expertise? If not, you could demonstrate more confidence in your tasks, this doesn’t mean praising yourself at every opportunity; rather it means projecting an optimistic attitude. 

By showing confidence in your abilities, you set yourself up to be recognized for your competence and your contributions.