Episode 16: How to Improve Your Confidence Levels in English

improve confidence in English

Confidence is so important when it comes to learning and speaking English.  In this episode, I share a few of my tried-and-testing techniques for improve your confidence levels.

Try them out and let me know what you think!

All the best!

Paul

Here is the full transcript:

How to improve your confidence levels in English? Hi there, I’m Paul Urwin and welcome to the Business English Community podcast where the world of business meets the English language. We discuss culture, strategies, techniques, vocabulary, grammar, and much, much more. Find out more at businessenglishcommunity.com.

Hi there, I’m Paul Urwin, and welcome to episode 16 of the Business English Community podcast. I hope everything is going really, really well with you. I hope you’re moving your projects forward, and well, I hope you’re improving your business English and I hope this podcast in some way is helping you to get towards those goals.

Today I wanted to talk about confidence levels and how really improving your confidence can really help you to get, achieve those goals and how having a lack of confidence is really holding you back. I’ll be talking about that in just a second.

First of all, I have a really special request. It’d be really grateful if you could help me with this. And it is as follows. If you like the Business English Community podcast, please take a minute to go onto iTunes and give us a review. It’s really, really important for us to have iTunes reviews because it helps to get the message out further, it helps us to really share the podcast and attract more people and share our information with more people around the globe. So I’d be really, really grateful if you could just take a minute to go onto iTunes and leave us a review.

Right, well, let’s get started with how to improve your confidence levels. Okay, well I should probably start out by talking about whom this episode is for, and it’s for you if you have a lack of confidence in certain areas within the English language. If you have a lack of confidence when you’re speaking in front of your boss, if you have a lack of confidence when you’re giving a presentation in English or when you’re writing something in English, if you have that sort of nagging feeling on the inside that someone’s watching you and that you’re just doing something wrong and someone is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, what are you doing,” if you have that kind of feeling when you’re managing issues or when you’re communicating in the English language, then this is definitely the episode for you because I’m going to help you really try and improve your levels of confidence and as a result of that, as a direct result of that improve your levels of business English.

The first thing I wanted to say is it’s really important to understand that a lack of confidence in English is only going to hold you back, it’s definitely not going to help you in any way at all. This is not something that is okay to have. It’s not something that is good to have. It’s something that really we need to address. If you lack confidence it will stop you from taking action. It will stop you from reaching your goals. It will also affect you. It’s not really going to affect other people. This is you. This is your English. This is your career. This is your life that this lack of confidence is going to affect.

Many people seem to accept that it’s okay to have a lack of confidence when speaking English or communicating in English, and well to a certain point I can understand that. If it’s not your native language, then of course you’re going to have a slight or certain lack of confidence. But I don’t agree that it’s acceptable to maintain that lack of confidence for any period of time. I think you should be focused on improving your confidence levels, on getting better, on making things easier for yourself. The first point is to understand that a lack of confidence in English is only going to hold you back and we really want to change that.

The next thing I wanted to mention is that I really, really want you to clear any ridiculous situations from your mind. I mean is this you? Do you have a sort of unreasonable sense of fear when you are speaking in English? Let’s say you’re going to give a presentation in English or you’re going to talk to your boss in English. Do you have … Yes, it’s an unreasonable level of fear. Of course, we’re all apprehensive in certain situations. We are all slightly nervous. Some nervousness is often good. It gets the adrenaline going. But if you could analyze your own situation, would you say that your reaction is a little bit over the top? Are you just filled with fear when you have to speak in English or do something in English?

Well, if that’s the case, I want to really highlight that nothing bad is going to happen when you try things in English. It’s really not. You’re not jumping off a cliff, you’re not participating in something really, really dangerous. You’re just speaking in English. You’re not going to lose your job. People are not going to laugh at you because you make a couple of mistakes in English. Other people have bigger things to worry about. They’re really not concerned about you making one or two mistakes in English.

So I think you need to put this whole thing into perspective and realize that nothing crazy is going to happen if you make a few mistakes in English because I think that’s one of the things that holds people back is this idea, this fear that something terrible is going to happen. Once you can establish that nothing terrible is going to happen, you’re only going to learn, you’re only going to progress, you’re only going to get better.

Then the next thing to consider or the next point I would like to recommend is to actively seek out situations in which to improve. Lots of times in life and in business these situations are not going to simply appear on our doorstep or come to us. We need to go out and find these situations that are going to help us to move forward. The type of situation that I’m talking about in terms of improving your confidence levels in English would be situations such as the following: giving a presentation in English, talking on a conference call in front of your boss, booking a hotel room in English or writing a report in English. Those are the types of situation that I want you to actively seek out. I want you to ask yourself is there a situation like that that you can actively seek out this week, and if there is then go and seek it out, go and actively pursue it, sign up to speak at that conference, volunteer to help your colleague or boss with something in English.

Now a lot of people when they actively seek out such situations, they misunderstand me and they think that I’m talking about a big situation, a massive conference in front of 500 people. Well, it doesn’t need to be like that. You can look for what I refer to as quick wins or easy wins, quick wins or easy wins. Start with something small and use those small tasks to build up your confidence in English.

So it could be something as simple as writing a short email in English. It could be something as simple as writing a short email in English, or even writing a list or even having a chat with someone on LinkedIn or some other social media network in English. Those would be examples of quick wins or easy wins. Why are quick wins so great, why are they so amazing? Because they help to build up your confidence and quick wins or easy wins take you on to bigger and bigger and bigger wins, and before you know it, if you set off down this path, then you are going to be giving that conference in English in front of 500 people and doing it successfully, doing it with confidence.

The other point that’s worth mentioning here is that for many of these situations it is possible to prepare beforehand. Many students have that fear, have that lack of confidence, because they think that they’ve got to be this natural superstar or this natural genius in order to succeed. But the reality is quite different. The reality is that behind every superstar, behind every or most geniuses there is an awful lot of preparation that has gone on behind the scenes.

So preparation is the key to success. And you don’t need to put yourself in these situations without preparation. You can prepare beforehand. But because many people don’t prepare, that only makes things worse because then when they get into the live situation they’re going to make mistakes. That knocks their confidence and then they don’t want to do it again. Don’t let that happen to you.

You can practice presentations. You can prepare likely questions for a meeting and you can have someone check your emails before you send them. Those are all examples of preparation that you can do in advance. And you don’t need to do this on your own. There are many, many people out there who can help to review your work in order to give you the confidence that it’s correct. Imagine having a presentation checked by a native speaker. You then have the confidence that you don’t have any misspellings in there or you don’t have any grammatical errors in there. That should give you the confidence to focus on your presentation.

There are many, many things that you can do in order to prepare beforehand. If you want some help with preparation, then come and join us over at businessenglishcommunity.com. We offer feedback to students on their presentations, on their pronunciation, on their writing and so on. That’s a great way to get feedback.

And finally, another way of improving confidence is to employee a feedback loop. What do I mean by that? Sounds a bit complicated, employee a feedback loop. Well, what I’m referring to essentially is the idea of correcting mistakes and then trying again and obviously the second time trying to improve. So the feedback loop goes essentially as follows. Try something, make some mistakes, review those mistakes, correct those mistakes, and try again. The second time you try something you’re still probably going to make some mistakes but hopefully you’re going to make fewer mistakes but go through the same process. Try something the second time, review the mistakes, correct the mistakes, and then try again.

It’s kind of an iteration where you are getting better and better at something. If you can imagine writing a text, having someone correct it for you, trying to write a similar text, having someone correct it for you, then you’re only going to get better and better. But unfortunately many people don’t employee any kind of feedback loop in what they do, and therefore they don’t get any better.

Driving is a fantastic example because many people are afraid to criticize or monitor their family members when it comes to driving. People tend to be quite sensitive about their driving skills and people don’t like to be criticized. That really has led to many people not saying anything about other people’s driving, at least not when you’re in the same car. I think it’s very easy to criticize people in other cars, but when you’re actually in the car it’s more difficult to criticize people. You don’t want to become a backseat driver after all.

But what is the effect of that around the world? And this happens all around the world. The effect of that lack of feedback is that most people when they get to a certain level do not get any better at driving. Sure, they get a bit more experienced over the years, but people don’t really improve that much because there is no constant, continuous, ongoing feedback loop for people’s driving.

But in English and in business English there is a feedback loop. You can find people to help you improve your business English, to help correct the mistakes that you are making and then have another go and then improve. Of course, this is all related to confidence, because if you can see yourself improving, then your confidence is going to improve. And as your confidence improves, you’re going to improve your level even more. So it’s this kind of amazing circle of improvement if you like. But really, really important to have some kind of honest feedback.

That’s pretty much what I wanted to share with you today. Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back. Don’t let it affect you. Work on your confidence and your level will improve. Understand that it is possible to improve your confidence levels over time. Many people just think that they are either confident or lacking in confidence and that’s the way that they are. Well that’s not true. You can improve your confidence over time. You can improve your confidence levels by participating in different activities, by putting your name forward for something, volunteering for something, giving it a go, preparing it, doing it, doing it successfully and then doing it again.

I hope you find these techniques useful. I hope you can improve your confidence levels over time. Please, let me know if there is any way in which I can help you. I’d be only too happy to help. Of course, you can contact me via the website, businessenglishcommunity.com, or you can send me an email info@businessenglishcommunity.com.

There are some amazing resources on the website, so I would really, really recommend that you check those out. And if you’re looking for something a little bit extra, if you’re looking for a little bit of personalized help, if you’re looking for video courses and audio courses, and a forum where you can have all of your business English questions answered, then why not come over and join us at businessenglishcommunity.com?

Thanks so much for listening. It’s great to have you here. Once again, please let me know if there’s any way in which I can help you. Have a fantastic week and I’ll be back next week. All the very best. Bye for now.

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