From the May 2004 issue of Startups

When you enter a room, have you noticed that there's often someone who stands out from the crowd? You don't need to engage with that person to notice how others are drawn to his or her magnetism.

Most people wonder what makes these people so inviting. It begins with self-confidence. The way you feel about yourself, as opposed to how you try to look, sends silent signals to others before you even utter your first word. This silent dance where we "size each other up" influences how people react to us and our messages.

If you've ever had someone ask you "What's wrong?" while you were deep in thought, then you know that unspoken signals send out messages as strong as spoken words. Without even realizing it, we sometimes sabotage new business relationships by our negative thoughts. Our self-doubt gives our potential clients the opportunity to dismiss our ideas, no matter how innovative.

To develop a positive attitude and attract the success you deserve, simply:

1. Present your "best" self at all times. Confidence comes from always giving what you have to offer. Stand up straight, and speak confidently about yourself and your business. This sends the message that you are doing the best you can at any given moment. We all want to work with people who are positive, because we believe they will help us succeed. Their energy resonates with our hearts as well as our minds.

2. Leave your self-effacing chatter at home. Do not try to turn self-doubt into strength by joking about your weaknesses or covering them up. You may believe this gives you a "human edge," but conviction about your goals is a much stronger sell.

3. Turn negative "subconscious expectations" into positive ones. When you approach a meeting with negative energy, it may indicate to other people that you are a skeptic, that you are used to things not working out. People want to do business with those who are upbeat, not beaten down. Start by letting go of past failures you continue to carry with you. Tomorrow is exciting, and it holds many possibilities, no matter what happened yesterday.

4. Stop seeking the approval of others. Fear often prompts us to try to impress others. Do not sabotage the good things you have to say by putting negative energy around them. You do not have to continually explain yourself to others or justify your work. Find your voice by speaking about the unique aspects of your business and what you are trying to achieve. Most people do not have the time for judgment; they would rather help you proceed toward your goals.

5. Always speak positively. Catch yourself when you are about to act from weakness. The "but what ifs" we place at the end of our thought processes, even without our realizing it, dampen our enthusiasm, cause procrastination and eventually sabotage our efforts. Always conduct a quick internal check before speaking. Does the remark you are about to make or the answer you are about to give benefit your business and other people? If not, keep silent. Silence is often stronger than words.

Take command of your life. It is important to take personal time to build your confidence by reflecting on past achievements. The time spent in this way is a much better investment than any brochure or business card you could design. You have accomplished a great deal in your business. Let your confidence put you above the competition.


Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.