The Awesome Power of Shared Confidence

by Andy Wood on January 21, 2015

in Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

Businessman removing a wooden card reading Confident from the pocket

Chances are, you instinctively know how important and powerful a little encouragement can be.  Now there’s scientific evidence worth paying attention to that’ll back that up.

This was reported yesterday in Fast Company.  A recent study published in the Basic and Applied Social Psychology Journal suggests that the more detailed and specific an adviser expressed confidence in a student’s potential for success, the more likely that student would be to take action to pursue that success.

The Experiment

Patrick Carroll, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University-Lima, conducted research to evaluate how social pressure can affect a person’s self-confidence in terms of feeling qualified for a certain job. He invited 67 undergraduate students majoring in business or psychology to meet with a career adviser, who handed them a brochure about an exciting new master’s program called “Business Psychology.”

There really isn’t such a program; the students were informed of that after the experiment.

All the students were asked to submit their GPA and to rate their self-confidence of successfully becoming a “business psychologist” in an initial evaluation.  Then Carroll divided them up into four test groups.

  • A control group was told there were no GPA requirements for the program.
  • A second group was told the GPA requirement was 10% below what they submitted as their GPA.  So they knew based on this that they were qualified for the program academically.
  • A third group was told the GPA requirement was 10% below what they submitted, and that these students were unlikely to be rejected by the program.
  • A fourth group also was told that the GPA requirement was 10% below what they submitted as their GPA, and that they were a perfect fit for the program. In addition to encouraging these students to apply, the advisor said there was a strong likelihood they would graduate with many business psychology job offers.

The results weren’t surprising.  How lopsided the results were, however, got some attention.   While the students who were encouraged to apply for the program were no more qualified than the students in the other three groups, they were far and away more likely to apply than the members of the other three groups.

Simply put, when they were told – and sold – they could do it, they did it.

Carroll made the following statement, again quoted in Fast Company:

 “Self-confidence played a key role here.  Students felt more confident that they could really be successful as a business psychologist when they received a detailed picture from their advisor… Sometimes students have the grades, the motivation, and the ability but simply lack the necessary self-confidence to whole-heartedly invest in the pursuit of a realistic new goal.”

What You Can Take Away from This

People are more likely to take bold action and more likely to succeed when they have the confidence to act.  And when they lack confidence sometimes they need to borrow someone else’s.

That’s where encouragement comes in.  To en-courage is to “put courage in” somebody based on your confidence and credibility, either in the person or in the arena or in God.  It takes both – confidence and credibility.

If you’re all cheery and gung-ho in your encouragement but you don’t know what you’re talking about, that eventually shows up and the results can be disappointing for everybody.  On the other hand, if you know what you’re talking about but are too self-absorbed to pass on your encouragement in someone else, they may never have the confidence to step out and fulfill their potential or calling.

Why Can’t People Figure This Out Themselves?

Some can.  Most can’t. We are social creations and from birth we learn to keep an internal score by the feedback we get from others.

Another reason encouragement is so important is that we have massive blind spots, and for many of us, the blind spot is in our points of potential, genius, or giftedness.  Your natural abilities are so natural to you, it’s easy to assume everybody has the same abilities.  They don’t.

A third reason we all need to be called out from time to time is that disappointments or past failures often etch themselves on our memories and scar our self-confidence.

The Leadership Implications…

…are extraordinary.  Chances are, you are who you are today because of the feedback or lack thereof you have received from others.  And if it’s true that performance is a product of self-confidence, then if you’re in a position of leadership, part of your job is to give your confidence away.  Sure, in a perfect world people would have enough initiative, discipline, and confidence to encourage themselves.  Then again, in a perfect world, they probably wouldn’t need supervisors, bosses or leaders either.

Catch somebody being a genius and let them know it.

Capture raw displays of talent on your mental radar and expose it.  Don’t assume your constituents know how good they are at something.

Tell somebody what they did right and specifically how they did it.

And when somebody is choking on a lack of confidence, don’t just tell them, “You can do it!”  Tell them why they can do it.  That’s giving your confidence away.

This Works in Side-by-Side Relationships, Too

One of the marks of a true friend is the ability to spot the gifts and talents of others and call them out.  Somewhere not far from you is a world-changer in the making, only they don’t know it.  The greatest gift you can offer them is intelligent, credible confidence that they have what it takes to do what must be done – whatever that is.

But Who Encourages You?

Now… you may be thinking, “All that is fine, but when is somebody going to encourage me?”

You big baby.

Just kidding.

Really I have two thoughts here.  First, you get encouragement by giving it. Confidence is contagious, and what you share you also receive back, sooner or later.

Second, the greatest encourager anywhere is the Lord God. Just read what He said to Joshua before he invaded the Promised Land.  Read what Jesus said to encourage Peter about the storm he was about to encounter.  Read what the Holy Spirit said to Paul about his weaknesses.

The same God who encouraged people through the ups and downs of their lives is ready to fill you with confidence – not in yourself so much as confidence in Him as He empowers you.

Learn – perhaps for the first time, perhaps again – the awesome power of shared confidence.  And practice giving it away to somebody today.  Your words may mean the difference between someone floundering in futility and soaring to new heights of excellence.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Orlando January 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

Andy, some days I believe I was born to be an encourager. When I taught school, I was constantly and consistently offering encouragement to my students in specific ways. I do hope it helped!
And when we need encouragement, we can turn to God each and every time.
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Angels Are Not Just Heard on High

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