Confidence vs. Cockiness: What’s the Difference?

Self-confidence means having and demonstrating an overall general sense that you will be successful.

Be careful here, though, as the line between confidence and cockiness is paved with peril. For me, confidence is best displayed by the assuredness that you will be able to accomplish a task. Whether it’s winning the business, meeting the deadline or smoothing the ruffled feathers of a relationship gone awry, you have the capacity to maintain the cool demeanor to get the job done. You may experience some obstacles, but you’ll do what’s necessary to make it happen.

Here are five examples of confident behavior:

  1. Listening to others and considering their viewpoints, regardless of their ranking in the organization
  2. Sharing the credit with others
  3. Not equivocating with decision or direction
  4. Using reason, not melodrama
  5. Evenly arguing a contrarian point of view

Emulating confident people can result in greater self-confidence. Here are my top three candidates for the Persuasively Confident Hall of Fame:

  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: He guided the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, and his most famous line is a resounding endorsement of self-confidence: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
  2. Neil Armstrong: Imagine the confidence it took to say stand at the exit of Apollo 11 and say, “Yeah, I’ll go first …”
  3. Sandy Koufax: He left baseball at the top of his game; less confident people remain long past their prime.

Cockiness, on the other hand, is simply acting like you know it all without actually delivering.

Here are five examples of cocky behavior:

  1. Brashly talking about what you’re going to do
  2. Stating in an argument that you’re being “disrespected”
  3. Participating in one-upmanship
  4. Feeling the need to always add your voice to the conversation, regardless of whether you know what you’re talking about
  5. Engaging in overly aggressive body language.

You don’t have to look far to find cocky people. The world of sports is ripe with cockiness. Fans want athletes to win and be humble — unless those athletes play for “their”  team. My choices for the Cockiness Hall of Fame include such bigmouths as Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump and Miley Cyrus

As Ben Franklin said: “Well done is better than well said.”

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