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January 19, 2006


Attendees: Prasad, Kamla, Srikanth, Manju, Vijay, Dinesh, Deepak, Nirmala, Senthil.

Session highlights by Vijay

The session started off with a question from Srikanth: "Why do I have self-doubt in a situation even though I have successfully handled a similar situation before?"

Dinesh talked about a workshop he attended called "Mindset Mastery." It explores the impact of our mindset on everything we do.

Manju asked how, as a speaker, she should handle a person in the audience who appears to be more knowledgeable about the subject, and is trying to fluster her.

The common topic that emerged from these check-ins was self-doubt, or more broadly, self-image.

Srikanth gave an example of someone who was very self-confident. He was not only very knowledgeable about his field, but was also never afraid to admit what he did not know. My thought: People who know a subject very well have no problem admitting their ignorance just like the people who know very little about the subject. It is the people in the middle who are sometimes afraid to appear ignorant about something they are "expected" to know. People have self-doubt because they want acceptance or approval by others.

Prasad felt that we don't need to have a rock-solid base of knowledge to feel confident. If someone made a comment in his class/seminar that is beyond his knowledge, he might say something like, "What you are saying sounds very interesting, but I don't know it. Can you help me understand it?" This approach makes the other person feel good by putting him (temporarily) in the position of a teacher. Of course, one must be sincere for this approach to be effective.

Dinesh said that a speaker should also be prepared to handle some typical "hot button" questions/remarks from the audience such as "you don't know anything."

Ultimately, self-doubt and self-confidence are linked to self-image. To achieve any self-development, it is essential to develop your self-image.

But what comprises our self-image? According to Prasad, our self-image is made of two parts - what we think of ourselves and what we receive from others. One way to explore our self-image is to pursue the exercise that was discussed in the previous session, namely, pick some people you admire and some you dislike, and list their major qualities/attributes.

One participant had done this exercise for five people, describing each with about ten words (mostly adjectives). Four people had mostly positive attributes, while one had a mix of positive and negative attributes ("enthusiastic," "manipulative," "loud-spoken," "gets things done," etc.).

Prasad noted some attributes (soft-spoken/loud-spoken, intelligent, enthusiastic, honest/manipulative, etc.) that were frequently used to describe the five subjects. If somebody else had evaluated the same five subjects, he might have used some completely orthogonal attributes such as generous/stingy, strong/weak, tall/short, etc. Thus the list of 10-15 attributes selected to describe these people are more a reflection on the person doing the evaluation, than on the people being evaluated. In other words, these 10-15 attributes are the key components of his/her own self-image.

Dinesh had a suggestion for dealing with people with mixed (+ve and -ve) attributes. Pick three of their positive attributes (such as " enthusiastic"), and write them down on a slip of paper. Stay focused on these positive attributes when interacting with them. Eventually, your difficult interactions with them will turn around.

In summary, the key to building self-confidence is understanding and developing your own self-image. You can understand your self-image by evaluating other people (using the attributes exercise above). You can develop your self-image by improving your interactions with others (by focusing on their positive attributes only), and by forgiving yourself for your own negative attributes.

Posted by Ragu at January 19, 2006 03:36 PM