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Written goals boost confidence

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Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The next time you're feeling a bit down on yourself, you can regain your confidence — and make a good impression on others— if you take time to write down your aspirations and ambitions, a study reveals.

Writing two paragraphs outlining your goals will help you feel more confident and energetic, Gavin Kilduff, an assistant professor of management and organization at New York University, says his research shows.

Individuals who used such an exercise to pump themselves up showed greater initiative during initial group discussions and appeared more competent to teammates, experiments with Adam Galinsky, a psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School, showed. That competence gave them a higher rank within the group.

Once you project confidence to a group and its members perceive you well, the effect can be lasting.

Specifically, individuals who initially acted more confidently set up patterns of assertive communications that continued.

“We thought the effect would be more fleeting,” Kilduff says.

Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president of Dale Carnegie Training, says the experiment demonstrates how critical it is to show confidence when communicating if you want to be successful.

“No one wants to admit that they're not confident,” she says. “But you can improve it by mentally talking to yourself.”

If you don't have time to write down your ambitions before going before a group, mentally review your achievements and goals. That should help to boost your confidence level, she says.

Palazzolo has other tips to show off confidence:

•Be prepared. “Confidence comes from knowing you've done your homework. You have to come into a group like you own it,” she says.

Whether you're networking for a new job or entering a weekly meeting, do your research so you're up on the latest news and prepared to discuss the issues thoroughly.

•Look the part. Keep your back straight, make eye contact and dress appropriately so others see you're confident before you say your first “hello.”

•Show interest. “People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions,” she says.

You can use the office break room as a chance to interact with others you may not see often and express an interest in their lives, Palazzolo says.

•Don't be a snob. Nothing can be more off putting than someone who lapses into business jargon or uses technical words that others may not know.

•Be gracious. A person who takes time to write a thank-you note to a boss for advice or thank a colleague for pitching in on a project helps establish rapport.

Being seen as a positive communicator and someone who gets along well with others helps establish a reputation of confidence and professionalism, Palazzolo says, “and that can contribute enormously to success in the workplace.”

You need only 5 or 10 minutes to sit down and write out your goals or accomplishments, Kilduff says. And the benefits can be lasting.

“It's the power of positive thinking,” he says. “Confidence is so important.”

Write Anita Bruzzese in care of USA TODAY/Gannett, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va. 22108.

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