How to Build Confidence in New Situations

I think all parents want their kids to have a healthy sense of confidence, especially when they’re going into a new or unfamiliar situation — like attending a new school, or moving to a new neighborhood.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a proven way to do that in exactly those situations? Well, it turns out, there is. And it’s a method professor Art Shriberg had success with every year with his new MBA students at Xavier University.

In the past three decades, he’s worked with literally thousands of students from dozens of countries around the world. And over the years, one of the things he noticed is that the foreign students — who are a long way from home and whose first language isn’t English — often come into the program with less confidence than the local American students. And in some courses, class participation and group projects made up a significant part of the grade. So that put them at a real disadvantage.

Dr. Shriberg’s solution was to organize a soccer match.

Each year, he arranged for all the students to play soccer as part of new student orientation week. His reasoning was that the international students were almost always better than the Americans at soccer. They’d grown up playing it. And that showed on the field. Having those early victories on the soccer field gave them confidence and helped them win friends and earn the respect of their peers.

He noticed the foreign students did much better in their studies after he started the annual soccer matches. And the confidence it helped them build is the obvious reason why.

It’s really a simple concept. A sure way to build confidence in a new environment is to do at least one thing you’re already good at. It builds your own confidence while at the same time building the confidence others have in you.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Why do you think the foreign students weren’t as confident as the American students?
  2. Do you think it was fair for Dr. Shriberg to pick soccer as the game for all the incoming students to play, instead of baseball or American football?
  3. If someone were new to your school, how could you build their confidence in a similar way?
  4. Next time you’re in a new school, grade, job, etc., what kind of thing could you arrange to participate in that you’re already good at to build your confidence?
  5. What’s an example of a situation where you’d want to completely immerse yourself in something new and not do anything old and familiar?
  6. Who do you think is going to win the World Cup this week? Me? I’m pulling for Croatia.

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Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

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