Do you know someone who’s painfully shy and insecure?
Well, be a good friend!
There are things you can do to make them feel a little better, and they’re quite easy to do.
Here are 10 kind ways to help someone who clearly lacks confidence.
1) Don’t make a big deal out of things
People who lack confidence are, simply put, sensitive. They can easily take things the wrong way, and even the smallest hint that something might be wrong can put them on edge.
That’s why you need to be a bit more careful about how you act around them.
Come at them a bit too strong and you might just put them on the defensive.
So if there is a problem of some kind, the best way to deal with it is to not make a big deal out of it.
It is what it is—did they mess up? Well, mistakes happen.
By making it clear to them that it’s not really that big of a deal (at least when you’re involved), they will slowly lighten up around you.
2) Giving them sincere praise
Praise and recognition does a lot in helping people with poor confidence feel better about themselves.
So when they do something right—like a presentation or performance of some kind—then give them a sincere thumbs-up and congratulations.
I’m a shy person and let me tell you…my heart melts whenever I see people give me a thumbs-up or a wink after I do a speech. It tells me that someone approves of all the effort I have made and that I’m not so bad.
You can also do other ways to praise them. If they’re onstage, maybe whistle or shout their name, as in “Go Katie!” or “We want more!”
These kinds of playful gestures of support mean a lot, especially to those people who’re not sure of their abilities.
3) Lighten the mood
When you’re dealing with poor self-confidence, you just can’t just be all coach-y and serious around them.
They will be able to handle things better if you were to give them a bit of levity and be a bit more lighthearted.
If anything, simply acting like you’re their personal coach might actually end up annoying them in the long run.
Instead, try to pacify their anxiety by distracting them with laughter.
Crack a joke! It can be campy, it can be groan-worthy, so long as it’s the kind of humor that can take their mind off the things they’re anxious about.
4) Nodding when they talk
Picture this. You’re anxious because you’re not sure if people are even listening to you, and no matter how much you speak people are simply standing still.
This is a nightmare scenario for people with low self-confidence.
That’s why when someone is talking or trying to explain something, don’t just sit there stone-faced. Nod along! Make them know that you’re listening to them.
This also applies when they’re doing something challenging, like a public presentation. A smile and a nod will tell them that they’re doing great.
5) Listening without interrupting
But just as feeling unheard can really knock someone’s mood down a few levels, getting interrupted while they’re trying to speak will also frustrate the living daylights out of them.
It tells them that perhaps nobody cares for what they have to say, or that they aren’t good enough at speaking.
The solution to this is in concept, easy—just let them talk. Listen to them with all your attention and then ask them to clarify every now and then to encourage them to talk more.
Things aren’t that easy, of course. Knowing when to listen and when to interject is a skill that takes time to master.
But even if you haven’t exactly mastered that skill, the simple fact that you’re trying means a lot.
6) Calling them by their name
In an environment where people are expected to be cold and impersonal—like the office— being seen as a person can do wonders to make people feel confident.
This is especially the case if their self-confidence issues are rooted in them feeling ignored or isolated.
Perhaps people simply haven’t bothered to remember their name, for example, or maybe they were always the last choice in everything.
Being called by their name makes them feel recognized and heard. It helps create a personal bond—if often temporary—that really boosts one’s morale.
So do remember their name and address them by it. It’s a simple act but it can definitely boost their confidence.
7) Sharing their feelings
When someone who lacks confidence says “Gosh, I’m not qualified for the position” or “Nah, my work’s not yet that good.”
It helps a lot to remind them that they aren’t exactly alone.
You can say something like “That’s exactly how I feel too, but then SOME people actually love my work!”
Most of the time, people who lack confidence are mired in shame twice over.
Not only do they feel ashamed over them not being good, smart, or pretty enough… they are also well aware of their poor self-confidence and are ashamed over that too.
So by reassuring them that other people also lack confidence (and that it’s totally normal), it will make them be a bit gentler with themselves.
8) Let them vent
Sometimes what people need isn’t you trying to encourage them or help them get things done. Sometimes, what they really need is someone willing to listen to them… and perhaps become their shoulder to cry on.
It should come as no surprise that people with poor self-confidence, often overwhelmed, break down in tears every now and then. If not that, they might have a lot of tension all bottled up inside.
It might not directly “fix” their self-esteem issues, but having someone they can trust to listen and vent with can do a lot to help them keep going another day.
9) Emphasizing their strengths
We all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s simply impossible to find people who are without their flaws, or those who have no strengths.
So if you want to help someone who lacks self-confidence, try to look past their weaknesses and try to focus on what they do right.
You can give them a simple praise like “Wow, you’re really good at organizing.” or “This is why I feel safe around you.”
Don’t overdo it, of course. Most people with self-confidence issues can sense it easily when you’re just saying it to “help” them, and they won’t like it.
In fact, you could be doing more harm than good if you overpraise them because it would sound like you’re patronizing them and are being insincere.
10) Be gentle
If you have to evaluate someone who obviously lacks confidence, be very gentle with them.
Do the basics.
Always start with praise. I’m sure you don’t like doing this because it seems fake, but trust me, they prefer it than if you just go straight to saying the bad stuff.
And if you have to give negative feedback, be extra mindful with your words. Instead of saying “it’s boring”, say “It’s really interesting, but I think it needs a bit of oomph”.
You’re saying exactly the same thing, but one is definitely less crushing to one’s self-esteem.
Some of us start off with less self-confidence than others. But the good news is that it’s something that we can all grow in ourselves with enough time and effort.
People who lack confidence might simply need to get more familiar with what they’re doing, to know more people, or learn a few skills, and they’ll be confident enough before you know it.
What they need, ultimately, is an environment where they can make mistakes, learn, and thrive.
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