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How To Coach Confidence In People Who Are Feeling Defeated

Source | FastCompany : By TED LEONHARDT

Around half the population of the United States woke up on Wednesday morning to enormous disappointment. In a stunning upset, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the race for president, leaving Trump supporters elated and many Clinton backers devastated.

But in my work as a coach, I’ve found that even the most crushing defeats can ultimately be channeled into energy for forging ahead. Regaining confidence is an uphill battle, and it takes a crowd—or at least two people, talking things out—to pull an someone out of a funk. Here’s how it can be done.


During my first coaching with a client called Molly, I asked what salary she’d like from a company where she was interviewing for a competitive position. Her reply sounded familiar.

“Wait a sec,” I asked. “What’s your current salary?”

Molly shrugged. “It’s the same. I know—You expect me to ask for more. But after what happened, I don’t think I’m worth even that.”

Molly was a senior-level copywriter. She was well-liked at her current job at a prestigious brand where her skills had helped the company succeed. Nevertheless, she’d been outmaneuvered for a promotion. Molly was so crushed that all she could do was keep plugging away at her work. But her heart wasn’t in it anymore.

Six months after the demotion (that’s how she thought of it, anyway), Molly came to me for coaching. As someone who helps creative professionals negotiate during some of the toughest times in their careers, I had no trouble recognizing her sense of defeat. An acquaintance of Molly’s asked her if she’d like to interview for a position to lead a team at his company, which was a similarly prestigious brand. “Perfect,” Molly thought. “I love their brand and they do really courageous work. I’m going for it!” Problem solved, she thought.

But then the fears set in. New opportunities after a setback don’t always erase the feelings that the setback instills. That self-doubt lingers, and it can sabotage even the most promising of steps forward. Here’s what I’ve learned it takes to reignite someone’s self-confidence after hitting a low point.


In my experience, self-doubt, and its cousin, anxiety, can actually compel us to make our work better. But before we can get motivated (or re-motivated), we first need to feel confident. And that’s something anybody can help do for someone who’s feeling down. To take on those coaching duties yourself, here’s what to do.

Meet them where they are. Listen before you challenge assumptions. The worries might sound silly, but they’re quite real to the worrier.

Be specific in your feedback. Empty praise will either boost someone only temporarily, or it’ll come off sounding as hollow as it is and crush your credibility. Give details and keep it real.

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