Growing up with a speech impediment, I was constantly in awe of confident people. Not only the way they talked but the way that they moved and made me feel when I was around them.
But it didn’t occur to me until much later that the one quality all my friends seemed to share was great confidence. I must have subconsciously chosen to hide behind them as a way to feel protected, to mask my own insecurities. After all, sometimes the safest place for the quietest kid to sit is behind the strongest.
Fast forward to age 23, when I did something really stupid: I got a sales job. Finding myself in this intimidating environment, I did what I always did and I buddied up with the most confident people in my office. It wasn’t because I grasped the strategic importance of allying myself with well-liked people, it was just out of instinct — find the most confident people and hide among them.
This recurring defensive move has turned out to be the smartest thing I’ve ever unknowingly done. And after decades of doing it, I’ve picked up on a few common characteristics that are consistent in confident people — and in the process — I’ve managed to boost my own confidence. Below are eight of those traits.
1. They avoid pressing their own agenda
The truly confident know they will get what they want out of life in due time. As a result, they don’t run around telling everyone they meet about their grand plans. Instead, they possess an “I can and will learn from everyone” attitude and enjoy nothing more than learning about the perspectives, thoughts, and feelings of the people around them. This is for the simple reason that they like people and they want to do good by them.
Next time you’re in a group setting, take note of who guides the conversation and how: Who asks the most thoughtful questions, and who listens more than they speak? Confident people don’t need to control a conversation. They know their own agenda; they want to learn about the goals, dreams, and passions of the people around them.
2. They proactively connect others
Confident people are givers and they are constantly on the look-out to help other people achieve their goals. One way they do this is by sharing their network and connecting like-minded people every chance they get. Not only that, but when it comes to introducing people they take the time to do so in a thoughtful way.
How do you feel when someone introduces you like, “You’ve got to meet Todd. He was the guy I was telling you about who has a knack for thinking outside the box.” Pretty incredible right? It’s much better than just, “Hey, this is my colleague Todd.”
3. They share their ideas freely
In addition, to sharing their network, confident people do not hog their creative insights. In fact, they freely give them away as often as they can.
How can I help Nick solve the problem he is facing? How could Lisa get more eyes on her project? What is Ian missing from moving his business from good to great? Confident people ask themselves these questions because they receive great satisfaction from helping people to reach their goals. Plus, they recognize that life is short, and the best way to see their ideas turn into reality is by giving them to other people.
4. They persevere intelligently
Confident people know what they want, and they have the gumption to keep fighting for it, even when the odds are stacked heavily against them. Then again, plenty of people do that. What separates the truly confident from the overconfident is their ability to seek out advice from people with varying points of view.
Not only that, but confident people aren’t afraid to change their minds when they are presented with a better alternative. It’s not a question of who’s right or wrong. If there’s a better idea, confident people adopt it, then thank the person for their advice and pay the favor forward.
5. They don’t get hung up on things that are outside their control
Confident people fight to get things right. But they also recognize that much of what happens in life is outside their control and they have an almost stoic resolve to let things run their course after they’ve done everything in they can.
Weigh the options. Seek out advice from people you respect from both sides of the aisle. Make a decision. Let things play out. Like most advice this is easy to say and hard to do — but confident people don’t shy away just because something is difficult.
6. Their verbal and non-verbal cues line up
Researchers have found that the congruence between what’s said out loud and what’s communicated without words is crucial for establishing trust.
Confident people understand the importance of this and when you’re in their company you’ll not only see that they’re being attentive, you’ll feel it— in the way they position their bodies and make eye contact. They lean in when they sense something means a great deal to you and they’re not afraid to give a subtle touch when warranted to show you that they truly care for you.
7. They don’t seek approval from others
Attention feeds the human appetite on some level for everybody, but the truly confident, as Kareem Abdul Jabbar once put it, just want “to play the game well and go home.”
I recently overheard someone say, “Surely you heard about what I did?” The crowd thinned out pretty quickly after that one. Confident people play for the name on the front of the jersey and deflect the most attention onto the team — or onto someone who went unnoticed. They know that sharing the spotlight is far more satisfying than going it alone.
8. They celebrate the success of others
If you know what you want and are on a path to achieving it, what’s stopping you from truly being happy for somebody who fought hard to achieve one of their goals?
Confident people take real pleasure in seeing other people succeed and recognize the importance of supporting others. They remember how they, too, are empowered by others at key times in their lives. After all, being truly happy for other people has this funny way of adding to your own happiness.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned, though, is that while we all have fears and flaws, the key is not letting them get in the way of being you and going after what you want.
My friends taught me that, and in turn taught me the true definition of confidence: Taking care of your own and giving them the power to one day take care of others.
This article originally appeared on Medium.