One morning, when I was in my early 20s starting out in my corporate career, I walked out of another meeting with my head slightly bowed. I hadn’t said a thing during the entire hour.
Again, I kicked myself silently for not contributing a good idea that I was holding inside, hoping the perfect moment would present itself (it never does).
All I remember is that an annoying colleague spoke non-stop. He was notorious for taking up way too much air time in every meeting, and my quieter colleagues resented him.
Slowly, I realized something as the months passed.
Opportunities, responsibility, and significant salary bumps were highly correlated with how confident and visible you are. And if you’re less visible, then — well. You’re on your own. No one can give you the boost you deserve but you.
Here are some confidence hacks I’ve mastered that helped take me from a $75,000 income to a $500,000 income within five years.
1. Be down to disagree
It’s so easy to just nod in agreement with other people’s ideas, right? Our subconscious minds are running a risk-reward analysis in which the conclusion is that there’s less downside with simply agreeing (particularly with more senior colleagues) than there is by challenging someone else’s input or ideas.
But anyone can do this (even someone who doesn’t speak the language of the boardroom — think about that for a second, because it’s hilarious). It’s more than OK, if you’re polite and concise, to say what you mean. In the end, we’re paid to think and be creative and strategic — machines can do pretty much do everything else.
When I stopped complaining and started contributing, big shifts came my way. But don’t just disagree to be contrarian. That gets tiring, fast.
Here’s a master hack: Speak within first eight minutes of every meeting – say something, anything. A tag point can work wonders. “I agree with that point, Tom, in addition we could …”
After eight minutes, you’re far more likely to lose your nerve. So just say it!
2. Stop tagging every statement with a question
Tag questions are what we add to the end of a sentence that converts it from a statement by adding a question, e.g. “That’s something we can do, right?” See how the tag (“right?”) is assurance seeking? It weakens the statement. Once you’re aware of tag questions, it will surprise you how overused they are at work. Drop ’em.
3. Let your last name live!
The first female CEO I ever worked for taught me something that I’ve never forgotten. When you introduce yourself — in any setting — use your first name and last name to accompany your (firm) handshake. It’s not “Hey, I’m Susie.” it’s “Hi, I’m Susie Moore.”
Trust me on this one. It’ll feel weird at first, but it’s assertive and empowering. You’ll start noticing people standing straighter for you. Pay attention to who already does this in your world, whenever an introduction is involved. They’re probably people that you consider important!
4. Say no to yes
There’s an old adage that if you want a task done, give it to a busy person.
Taking everything on as a people pleaser can, in many cases, have the opposite effect you intend it to. There’s nothing like a firm, high quality no to come across as self-aware, strong and self respecting, e.g. “Jane, I’d love to assist with this new project but my hands are full until the end of the month with X. I think Liz would be a great co-pilot! Or I can get involved in two weeks from now when my schedule opens up.”
Sticking with the disease to please is like taking a weakening drug.
5. Sit up front and center
Remember how the naughty kids would always sit at the back of the bus? It ain’t so different now. It’s just a different setting.
Take a front seat in any group gathering and see how it feels (and check out who will sit beside you — it will be the leaders, I bet you). Be conscious of your posture, too. A simple shoulders-back, chin up, and smile will make you appear the most confident person in the room. These small shifts go a long way in projecting self-assuredness.
Think for a second … how can you be visible if you’re not seen at all?
6. Stop saying sorry so much
Try eliminating the word (unless spilled your iced coffee on someone or did something else where it’s truly necessary) for just 24 hours.
Thank you is a far more powerful statement, e.g. “Thank you for waiting” when you’re four minutes late to a conference call versus, “Oh I’m so sorry I’m late.”
The number of times I hear someone apologizing for getting in or out of a busy elevator for example is nuts! What are you sorry for, exactly? Having a body? Just get in or out with as little fuss as possible. Then smile (and if you wish) repeat that magic word: thank you.
This article first appeared on Business Insider.