• Audrey Tang

Being "brave" is more important than being "confident"...and a lot tougher

I'm reclaiming the phrase "be brave". I too have known the head tilt "you're so brave" actually meaning "I think you have little talent, but well done for putting yourself out there", or the "Be a brave boy/girl" which is - though not maliciously - often the start of not accepting our more negative emotions.

Indeed, one of the most common questions I get asked in training sessions is "How do I build confidence?"...and often, when we get into coaching, it's much more about "How do I find the inner strength to do something I might fail at."

The secret - confidence is simple - you just have to do it...and keep doing it. It's like learning to walk, ride a bike, drive a car - the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Confidence is also potentially derailing because it can lead to over-confidence - doing less preparation because you can "wing it"...or fiddling with the radio and sat nav, while holding a conversation in the car.

Confidence takes practice

When I say "easy" - it still takes practice...and that's why people like to ask the question - but don't often like my answer. There is no short cut. You practice, you get better. This also means practicing the ACTUAL skill not around the skill. Although being a great writer may help you structure a presentation, it's only rehearsal out loud that will improve your performance. You may know all the theory you need to know about management - but unless you get out there and try to lead you will not practice the appropriate skills.

The stumbling block is doing.

This is where being brave comes in.

You need - especially as an accomplished adult - to be prepared to start from scratch. Perhaps to take lessons where you are not "in control", much less CEO or Head of anything. You need to take advice from others - some of whom may not be the most helpful, compassionate teachers. You need to accommodate this new thing into your life...and habits are comfortable! You also might need to accept you're not great at it, and with all the will in the world, you may never be as good as someone with natural talent, or who has grown up with/doing it. ...and given that it is often accomplished adults with whom I work - this is a very scary prospect.

Coping strategies

...and doesn't your unconscious know it!?

This is where I then get faced with "coping strategies" - all very reasonable reasons as to why you are not able to face that fear.

"I have no time to train..."

"I need to think about my family..."

"I have other pressures..."

"I'm sick..."

...actually, with the "I'm sick" method - I believe it. The thought of doing whatever it is that is holding you back (along with an unconscious sense of the worries in the earlier paragraph) can indeed lead to the stress-response engaging. The brain doesn't know the threat is (arguably) of your own making, and it simply engages "fight or flight" - often with the result that you freeze.

Not only that, but how am I supposed to break down those - perfectly reasonable - reasons!? People ARE overworked; raising a family IS hard; you MAY WELL be in a situation where you are picking up more than you need on behalf of others.

The truth is...

You simply need to find a way of addressing that need first...and I can help encourage you as you do that. But I'm not there to tell you to change your priorities, or judge your life choices. All I can ask you is: How much do you want it? (...what will the world look like if you do X...what will it look like if you don't?) And, will you be content WITHOUT at least giving X a go?

Skepticism is good - but don't be King Canute!

Sometimes the worry is about learning a new skill that is permeating your industry. In my own I'm now asked to rework my training into online sessions. I am still an advocate of face to face - especially for the topics I teach, so I've resisted doing so personally, but that doesn't mean I haven't learned some of the software. I am fully aware of the futility of trying to "hold back the tide" of technology in education, and there are many excellent online learning developments such as "adaptive learning" for which I have much respect. I simply believe that some things are still best taught a certain way, and I will try to do that for as long as possible...but that doesn't mean I won't learn new methods of delivery.

If you are happy foregoing learning because you can otherwise "make it work" - that's fine

I would just ask - why did you ask my help in the first place? Why are you trawling Google for things that validate your current opinion? Why are you more and more frustrated when others - especially your peers - achieve the thing you haven't dared try? ...and worse still - is it making you more sick? I cannot tell you it will be easy - it won't be; and what you will do will make you all kinds of uncomfortable at first. What I do know is that "quick fixes" may work to keep things ticking over for now, but will not address the real problem.

There is no substitute for just doing it!

So, be brave - yes, it might not go as planned, but well done for putting yourself out there...because it means you have taken a huge step forwards. (...and my head is firmly focused forward as I say that!) Now you can practice, and you will improve. It will take time, and you will feel frustrated - and of course if it's really not for you then give up (you're an adult) - but my job is to show you that you have the tools within you to try, the strength to keep going, and the ability to succeed. I am your personal cheerleader, instead of giving me barriers to break through (which of course we will do too!) - give me something to cheer.

Quick bravery tip

Remember that taking the first step to make that change is an achievement. Don't put pressure on yourself to make it perfect/see immediate results (that's the quickest way to spiral back into "I wish I hadn't") - for now you've done the brave thing, keep doing it and everything else is a bonus!

Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (2018) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (2016) She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She consults, coaches and often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, as well as being part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and provides psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.

She is happily now on "grade 3" books in her "wipe out 44 years of bad habits" singing lessons, and intends to perform later this year without the ability to hide behind set, character voices and theatrics! Website: www.draudreyt.com Twitter: @draudreyt Insta: @draudreyt

#bravery #copingstrategies #resilience #coaching #personaldevelopment

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