We do it almost every single day, although we’re not always consciously aware of it: selling ourselves, our skills, our knowledge, our ideas or beliefs in order to get attention, acceptance, support, a job or even to win over the partner we long for. Knowing how to sell yourself is more than just a certain technique, it’s an attitude. While persuasion or influence can be described by a set of rules, entailing concrete tactics and strategies, often with the aim to achieve a certain goal, like selling a product for example, knowing how to sell yourself (or to appear competent in any situation) aims to build an inner attitude which helps to master every situation.
In his bestselling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion“ Robert Cialdini covered six “weapons of influence”: Scarcity, Liking, Reciprocity, Social Proof, Commitment & Consistency and Authority. These techniques can be applied rather easily by many different groups, from companies to politicians to sales people- anybody looking to achieve a special goal. While these techniques work very well in certain situations, they’re probable success is limited to this certain goal or purpose. It is also more than just self-confidence, although self-confidence is a major part in order to be successful. While self-confidence and a strong belief in yourself and your abilities allows you to face every situation with a positive attitude and a winning charisma, it focuses mainly on your own appearance rather than other people and situations.
The ability to sell yourself is far more than certain persuasion techniques you can use. It entails the core of who you are, your attitudes, beliefs and your whole character. Knowing how to sell yourself, no matter what the situation, allows you to feel comfortable as well as being able to focus on other people and happenings around you. This instead of missing out on important information and impressions while busy sorting out your own performance. The benefits are clear, so what are the attitudes that help people to show their best side? And can these attitudes be learned? Definitely! Although it’s not as easy as applying a set of certain techniques.
The attitudes I outlined and the suggestions how to develop and /or improve these is not a definite list, but in my opinion entails the basic principles in order to be able to sell yourself in every situation and leave a permanent impression.
As Rene Descartes has put it: Cogito ergo sum-”I think, therefore I exist”. The capacity for introspection is a powerful tool to assess your own strength and weaknesses, your motivations and dreams as well as your fears and doubts. Knowing yourself in and out, allows you to play your cards right, and use your assets when they are needed. Also it allows you to understand difficulties that you might face and how to control feelings of uncertainty, anger or sadness. Self-awareness also allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you and to control your emotions and behavior so you can make changes you want. Developing a strong sense of self-awareness is really a matter of practice rather than reading books. By focusing your attention at least a few minutes a day on the details of your personality and behavior you can train your self-awareness and understand what really drives your behavior and emotions.
Self-confidence is another essential component of persuasion, although can’t be effective on its own as it doesn’t allow for focus on other people and happenings in a given situation. The two main factors that contribute to self-confidence are self-efficacy and self-esteem.
We develop and grow our self-efficacy when we see ourselves (and people we perceive as similar to ourselves) mastering tasks and achieving goals. This is the confidence that, if we put enough effort to it, we’ll succeed; and it’s exactly this type of confidence that drives people to accept difficult challenges and persist in the face of defeat and failure.
This overlaps with the concept of self-esteem, which is a more general sense that we can deal with what is going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy. To a certain extent, this comes from our belief that the fellows around us approve of us- something we may or may not be able to control. Furthermore, it also comes from the feeling that we are behaving accordingly to our values, that we’re competent at what we do, and that we can compete successfully with others.
Self-confidence is very important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to build it. There is no perfect and complete how-to guide. From my personal experience, I believe that starting with the right outward appearance, like a good posture, in addition to a positive mindset and the setting and achieving of goals (even small ones) are the first steps to build resilient self-confidence. The often cited technique “fake it til you make it” can be a powerful tool to start the process of building a stronger self-confidence.
EI refers to the ability of a person to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer are leading researchers on EI. They published influential research in which they defined EI as, ”the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions”. They developed a model which highlights four major factors of EI: Perceiving Emotions (accurately perceive emotions, which in many cases involves understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions). On this point, see Joe Navarro’s famous book ”What every body is saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’S Guide to Speed-Reading People”. The second contributing factor is Understanding Emotions, especially what caused them and why. The third is Reasoning With Emotions, which involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. This helps us to prioritize what we pay attention to. The last one is Managing Emotions, a key part of emotional intelligence which includes regulating emotions and responding appropriately to our own as well as the emotions of others.
Good social skills faciliate interaction and communication with others. It allows us to have easy and comfortable communication and build strong rapport with the people around us. People with good social skills can generally control the feelings that emerge in difficult or unpleasant situations and respond appropriately, instead of being overwhelmed by their emotions. Just like the other factors that contribute to the ability to sell yourself in almost every situation imaginable, social skills also can be improved. A great read to understand people and improve your own social skills is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win friends and Influence People”. Although this bestseller was written almost a century ago, it hasn’t lost any of its power and is still up-to-date as it was in 1930.