Can confidence be rebuilt through listening?

Becca Timmins
Becca Timmins

For a while now, I’ve been noticing how many women I work with seem to lack confidence in their abilities.

When I ask in the early stages of coaching female clients, or even in development reviews “What is it you would like to achieve?” I often hear answers like

  • “I just want to feel more confident”
  • “I would love to communicate more confidently”
  • “I think if my confidence improves, a lot of other things would follow”
  • “I wish I had more confidence around …”

You name it – there’s a lack of confidence around it. And I think it’s more than just a bit of healthy self-doubt.

What is particularly striking is that no amount of seeing themselves achieve amazing things seems to boost their confidence. But the smallest thing seems to knock it.

Our own negativity bias is stacked against us, and so is the data.

Recently, a new coaching client brought a profiling outcome to her first session. It mapped her results against the “norm”. A graph that basically said “this is where you fall short”. I was gobsmacked!

This is an incredible woman, achieving amazing things in her career, and this self development tool had just served up a major confidence blow.

And where did she score particularly low? In “Self-Efficacy” of all things!

Self-efficacy, a concept originally proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura, refers to an individual’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments. (Source – Wikipedia)

Having read Caroline Criado Perez’ book “Invisible Women” I would hazard a guess that the data on which “normal” was based, used predominantly male subjects.

What erodes confidence?

I don’t think we start out lacking confidence though, it’s a result of our environment and experiences. 

When I was 8, I decided I wanted to be a Doctor. I fully believed that was possible for many years (until A-level chemistry got the better of me!).

Gradually though, as I entered the “grown up” world, my confidence waned. My own self-efficacy ended up pretty low. Everywhere I turned, the world seemed to think it knew better than me. Bosses so super confident in their own opinions that they undermined mine, people everywhere asserting that they knew better than me (gradually of course convincing me that I must be wrong). 

All compounded by media (social or otherwise) showing me images of perfect mums holding down their high-powered jobs in their perfectly kept houses with their perfect size 8 figures……

This lack of confidence extends to finances too. This article for Unbiased suggests that women are more financially vulnerable than men for a variety of very practical reasons (longer life expectancy, more likely to take a career break etc). At the same time, it cites a lack of confidence stopping women taking an active role in managing their money.

So, what can we do?

How can we rebuild our confidence (and that of our female clients and colleagues?)

I think step one is to build our confidence in our ability to think well, for ourselves.

I regularly and deliberately create space for myself to think with a skilled Thinking Partner, and in doing so, I am learning to trust myself more fully.

By hearing myself think, and working through my own issues, without someone else interjecting their thoughts (unless I ask them to) I’m seeing that what I think is often pretty cool, sometimes impressive even! I am intelligent, I problem solve well, I can be creative. 

I am learning to care more about what I think than what anyone else thinks of my thinking. Building my self-efficacy. It is liberating and empowering. 

Give a woman you know some time to think

We can do this for each other, for our friends, for our colleagues, and most definitely in Financial Planning meetings.

Giving someone the time to think through their own issues is incredibly valuable.

Listening with a promise of no interruption, without feeling the need to reply, or interject. Listening with palpable attention, deeply interested in where the other person will go next with their thinking. Listening until they think they have gone as far as they can and really want you to rescue them and tell them what to do. Then asking “and what more?”. Show them that you believe in their ability to think this through for themselves. 

Giving someone else the courage to go to the cutting edge of their thinking because they feel safe enough to do that with you is a rare gift. It’s also pretty simple, just not necessarily easy.

As they build their courage, they build their confidence.

Coaching to build confidence

I’ve noticed with my coaching clients that those who come seeking more confidence, gradually gain it. Not from any brilliant insights on my part, but from being given space to think for themselves.

I often hear Financial Planners talking about building clients’ financial confidence being a core part of their job. But most Financial Planners I know say that they know they talk too much in meetings! 

When listening and coaching skills are brought to the Financial Planning relationship we support clients to think truly independently. In doing so we can help them build their confidence, delivering an improvement in multiple pillars of their wellbeing. Mental and social, as well as financial.  

And that’s a pretty big value add, especially to female clients.

Where else could you listen to build confidence?

Listening to ignite the thinking of another person (rather than listening with an expectation that you will reply) is a skill that benefits pretty much any situation, and absolutely helps others to build their confidence. From listening to our kids, partners and friends, to colleagues who are struggling with a tricky problem.

As Managers and Leaders, it empowers us too, taking away the expectation that we need to solve everyone’s problems. Which is the biggest cause of overwhelm in the majority of Leaders I meet.

If you would like to develop your listening and coaching skills to support your colleagues or clients to build their confidence, check out the courses I run on my website. Or just book in for a chat here. I would love to hear from you. 

And if you would love to work on your own confidence, maybe coaching is for you. Let’s have a cuppa and a chat so I can hear what you think.

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
Social share CTA

Becca Timmins

Becca is an accredited Time to Think Consultant, Coach and Facilitator. She has extensive experience coaching and developing people within a Thinking Environment framework, working with individuals and teams at all levels, primarily within financial planning businesses.
Social share CTA

Keep in touch

If you would like to be added to our mailing list and receive our blog and details of future courses and offers just leave your details below.

Subscription Form

Similar Reading


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *