In his book, Confident Pluralism (opens in a new link), John Inazu (opens in a new link) identifies three elements of confidence although he uses the term “aspirations” in lieu of elements. These elements are: tolerance, humility and patience. I sense that he prefers aspirations to elements because we humans aren’t naturally inclined to tolerance, humility and patience. Regardless of which language you prefer, here’s why his insights are so helpful.
When we hear the word tolerance, we often equate it to “putting up with” whatever behaviors, beliefs and values that differ from ours. Tolerance goes beyond putting up with, it requires us to respect others’ values, beliefs and life choices. We must demonstrate respect for ideas that don’t jibe with ours if we want our values, beliefs and choices to be respected.
The highest level of tolerance is demonstrated when we pursue divergent ideas, for it indicates to others that we don’t have all the answers, that we are interested in gaining knowledge that will help not only us, but all with whom we interact. This brings us to the second element: humility.
I find it easier to understand humility when I contrast it with arrogance. In the moments in which I’m arrogant, my mind is closed. I’m certain of my position and nothing that anyone might say is going to move me off that position.
One of the consequences of a habit of arrogance is that people are quite willing to let you fail. Indeed, they often relish the fact that despite knowing that what you’re proposing will fail and that your resolve is unshakable, they get to watch you fail.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is humility. In moments of humility we readily acknowledge that:
- We don’t have all the answers.
- We regularly make mistakes.
- There is something to be be learned from everyone we meet.
Some of the advantages of humility is that we can disagree with others’ ideas without creating defensiveness. Our humble approach involves asking questions which is a form of exploration rather than challenge.
We also find that others are more willing to help us when we are genuinely interested in their perspective. This desire to help us is enhanced by our earlier attempts to assist them in the pursuit of their goals.
Another advantage of humility is that we are continuously learning new things that can help us make better choices in the future. The knowledge we gain also enhances our ability to enrich the lives of others.
Tolerance and humility would not be complete without the third element: patience.
To use Mr. Inzau’s language, this is more an aspiration than an element for me. I assimilate information quickly, decide quickly and am quite willing to live with the consequences of my actions. That does not bode well for my ability to be patient with people who are more deliberate in their decision-making process.
Yet, in those times when I’m successful in being patient, I find that life is much simpler and the result more enjoyable for having been patient. When I’m patient, I avoid feelings of frustration, anxiety and the stress associated with both.
In my moments of patience, I realize that my frustration and anxiety are self-inflicted wounds…wounds that I can avoid by pausing at the first sign of impatience and allowing the emotion to subside.
Patience isn’t limited to just human interactions, it relates to goals and expectations as well. One of the insights that helps me be more patient in the pursuit of my goals is awareness that I can only control the effort; I can’t control the outcome.
This insight helps me realize that if I’m not getting the result I desire, it’s because there’s a piece of the puzzle missing. This attitude keeps me focused on continuing my efforts while keeping the antenna up for that missing piece. It also created my belief: everything in its time.
Having said that, I have found that tapping into the power of my subconscious mind by asking “How can I….?” often accelerates the achievement of my goals. Often, not always.
So, what does this mean for you?
If you’d like to be more confident and have others view you as a confident person, then you need to develop the three elements (aspirations) of tolerance, humility and patience.
My advice: don’t attempt all three at once. Instead, consider which is the easiest for you to achieve. I know that’s counterintuitive, but I have found that success begets success and the natural byproduct of success is confidence. So begin with the one that you’re more likely to achieve quickly.
Each morning shortly after rising, remind yourself that you’re going to be more [tolerant, humble, patient] today. Then each evening, shortly before retiring, review the day’s activities. Recall those instances in which you were [tolerant, humble, patient] and notice how much simpler your life was because you exhibited that behavior.
If during your recall, you note instances where you weren’t as [tolerant, humble, patient] as you intended to be, determine what you will do differently in the future when similar situations arise. Recognize that what you’ve learned is going to make you even more effective in demonstrating [tolerance, humility, patience] in the future. Knowing that you learned something will help you avoid beating up on yourself.
For our kids
Share these three elements of confidence with your kids. First, by living them. Kids mimic the behaviors of the adults in their universe. Then, by highlighting the behaviors seen in others that demonstrate the impact of tolerance, humility and patience. The discussion that ensues will solidify the importance of all three in your child’s mind. It will also help them develop into the confident, caring people they deserve to be.
Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts and experiences in a comment.
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