Self-doubt can cause you to get in your own way. Doubt can lead you to get defensive, take command of the conversation rather than making it reciprocal, or cause you to appear overly confident through over self-promotion as you start listing out all the wonderful things that you have been up to. Doubt can also steer you to make an excuse to leave or slowly shrink to the sides of the room. In addition, doubt can lead you to freeze up right in the conversation as you get bogged down with the running commentary of negative thoughts, second-guessing, and self-criticism.

How do other people view that kind of behavior? In the first situation, people may view you as aggressive, cocky, narcissistic, or overly confident. Above all, definitely not the type of person they may want to get to know better. In the next two situations, others may interpret your behavior as being disinterested, disingenuous, bored, or perhaps looking for someone better to spend time with. Doubt is the enemy of effectiveness with others. The people around you don’t recognize that you are fighting off that nasty name you call yourself, like: not good enough, not smart enough, boring, unattractive, and unlikeable, to name a few. Instead people draw their own conclusions based on their own perceptions of their experiences with you. Doubt doesn’t let others see you in your most favorable or realistic light and leads to you being misunderstood.

So how do we break the cycle of being misunderstood by others? First, think about your last social interaction. Specifically, think of a time when you let doubt direct your behavior causing you to boast, retreat, or avoid. Now ask yourself: “If a friend was in this exact situation and was acting this way, what would I think of that person?” Next, ask yourself what is the real message you want people to receive?  Think of ways you can modify your behavior to give that message. Third, act in a situation the way you would like to be treated by someone else. Fourth, take a genuine interest in the person you are with and ask specific questions about them or the topic of conversation. Fifth, share information about yourself only as it’s relevant to the conversation. Bragging is not cool. Sixth, don’t leave. Recognize that we all have something valuable to share. Last, try your best to shake off the nerves. You can do this by knowing nervousness disappears the longer we stay in an uncomfortable situation. Stop focusing on your discomfort and participate in the conversation. Also, recognize that you must be worth it since there is someone spending the time to talk with you. Get out there and have the courage to show the world the message you want them to receive.

About the Authors

Leslie Sokol

Leslie Sokol,Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, is the co-author of Think Confident, Be Confident.

Marci Fox, Ph.D.

Marci Fox, a licensed psychologist and international speaker, is the co-author of Think Confident, Be Confident.

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