Ten Steps for Building an Acceptable Level of Confidence
Many women lawyers appear to lack confidence because they require too high a level of confidence before holding forth. They are not used to experiencing temporary setbacks (partly because few of them participate in competitive sports, where loss is not seen as catastrophic). Women perceive the consequences of their mistakes to be graver than those men must face. Many women lawyers feel open to harsh criticism, humiliation, even job loss.
Women also feel conspicuous. They are usually in the minority in their firms, and the number of women partners is woefully small. Feeling as if their behavior is under constant scrutiny, women are particularly concerned about being caught off guard. To reduce their anxiety, they try to know everything before speaking up. But this caution exposes them to another risk - being perceived as insufficiently confident to be an effective attorney. In other words, they are just as likely to fail if they don’t take risks.
THE TEN STEPS
Following these ten steps can help you build the confidence you need if you are to take those calculated risks so vital to your success:
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE CRITICIZED
When you are criticized, take appropriate responsibility for your error without denigrating yourself or absolving others of their own responsibility. Try to keep in mind that your critic’s anger is more likely a reflection of feelings of frustration, pressure, and being overwhelmed than any enduring judgment of your competence.
Try to separate the facts you’re hearing from your own feelings about them. You made a mistake - that’s all. Consider all of the temporary reasons you might have made this error - don’t attribute failures to your basic ability and intelligence.
Don’t apologize or ask for permission to speak. Don’t hesitate, repeat yourself, or embroider your statements. Speak in a convincing, unconditional, authoritative way and make your statements strong and powerful. Claim authorship of your ideas.
YOU HAVE MORE TO GAIN THAN TO LOSE
Remember what you stand to lose from not taking a risk: