Learning to Talk: Education and Confidence

I don’t believe that education will solve the world’s problems. A world this screwed up can’t be solved intellectually. But I have seen that knowledge is power to a degree, and I suspect that education can solve at least one problem: confidence.

Lemme ‘splain.

Julius Caesar said of his legions: “Without training, they lacked knowledge. Without knowledge, they lacked confidence. Without confidence, they lacked victory.” They hadn’t been trained to fight so they didn’t know how, and since they didn’t know how they were scared and because they were scared they lost.

But that can be reversed. Here’s how it’s worked in my life.

I’m an introvert, meaning that interaction with people saps me of energy. Making conversation and being outgoing doesn’t come naturally. My default setting is lone wolf. It’s not that I didn’t want to be outgoing. I just didn’t know how. I was scared.

Then some people came into my life who recommended me books like “How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People” (Giblin) and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (Carnegie). These books said that people all have basic needs and characteristics. They have a need to feel important. They need to feel accepted. They need to be listened to.

I read about making conversation. I learned simple ways of beginning small talk, and keeping it going by listening to clues in the other person’s answers to my questions. And I began to practice these principles. For instance, I would sometimes go to the mall and set goals for how many people I would say ‘hi’ to, or make basic small talk with.

I also learned how to talk to people like they were valuable, remembering their names, taking an interest in them, or just practicing common courtesy. Heck, I learned to smile at people. This gave me confidence, especially in dealing with service people. The courtesy and value I showed them often brought positive results.

Oh, there definitely were failures, but there were many successes, and “success breeds confidence” (Lombardi Jr.). I find it ironic that I now work retail. Sales is a classic extrovert’s game, but here I am, an introvert, selling clothes and loving it.

Now, by NO means am I a talkative person (unless you get me started on writing) and by no means do I make effortless conversation. I have to FORCE myself to start a conversation. Education isn’t the end all, be all. It takes courage to act on knowledge, and it also takes discipline. I have really had to work on being courageous, and I’m still working on it.

I’m still an introvert. And heck, I’m proud of it. But I’m a confident introvert and I do believe that was because of education, coupled with discipline. Discipline is the fertilizer that causes knowledge to grow into results.

So what do you think about this? Are there instances in your life where education has resulted in confidence? Or do you disagree?

And also, if you’re an extrovert, is it really that easy for you to make conversation or is that a myth we introverts pass around?


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