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President’s Column: Poise + Enthusiasm = Confidence

Nov 01, 2018

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Have you ever tried to influence a practice change on your unit? It’s not always easy.

I remember being a CNS trying to influence the purchase of a piece of equipment we needed in the ICU. I had good evidence to support the need for the equipment, but I still wasn’t successful.

Looking back, I see that my approach was all wrong. I talked on and on about the value of the equipment, providing a litany of data to support the need. And when my recommendation was questioned, I became frustrated and defensive because I thought my expertise was not valued and respected.

Then I saw a study trying to determine whether men are more successful than women in pitching equally valuable products. The researchers looked at 185 videos of entrepreneurs pitching their innovative products to potential investors.

And guess what? The study findings do not support the hypothesis that gender is an indicator of success. What determined if a potential investor backed an entrepreneur was verbal and nonverbal behaviors. A poised and enthusiastic presenter was the strongest predictor of a successful pitch.

What does a study about entrepreneurs have to do with nursing?

The finding that poised enthusiasm is predictive of success can be adapted for any situation where you are trying to influence a decision — such as purchasing new equipment for the ICU. It might seem unbelievable and perhaps unfair that decisions are made based on qualities as vague as poise and enthusiasm. It makes sense if you think about it, though. People tend to put their faith in someone with confidence, passion and enthusiasm — because it’s easy to spot when it’s being faked. A comfort and belief in the value of a product leads to an authentic confidence that others can trust.

So, what does it look like to have authentic confidence when using your voice for nursing? I think author and radio personality Celeste Headlee gives good advice in her Ted Talk on how to be poised in conversations:

  • Don’t pontificate; assume you always have something to learn
  • Try not to repeat yourself
  • Diving into too many details may be distracting
  • Keep it brief
  • Be “all in” the conversation; be present
  • Listen with the intent to understand

When I think now about my example of trying to influence an equipment purchase, I broke nearly every rule of being poised in conversation. I let my emotions take over and lost the authentic confidence needed to establish trust and influence the decision.I now know: Our strength is in our voice. A confident, enthusiastic voice.

Let me hear your confident, enthusiastic voice at OurStrength@aacn.org.