Ever wondered why some people in your industry appear to be more competent than you while evidence tends to show that they are, in fact, not? Or why while you are busy at doing a good job, others seem to be advancing much faster in their careers?

It is because perceptions of competence seem to be just as important for success as actual competence.

A pioneering 1982 study by psychologists Barry Schlenker and Mark Leary was recently replicated with very similar results: when a sample of tested people were asked to rate the competence of 60 individuals facing a tennis tournament or a class final examination, results showed that the people who had made optimistic expectations of their match or exams results were perceived by the tested sample as more competent than those with more modest predictions, no matter how accurate these predictions were, or how well they actually eventually performed.

This means that projecting confidence will have positive effects on the perception of competence. Modesty, on the other end, will tend to do the opposite. One explanation is that we have a tendency to believe what we are told, and to confirm our beliefs by selecting information that supports them. If you project confidence, others tend to believe you know what you’re talking about, and they will then filter information to fit their initial impression.

So in order to convince others of your abilities, you should make it a habit to communicate that you are good at what you do. This doesn’t necessarily mean praising yourself at every opportunity; rather it means projecting an optimistic attitude. By displaying more confidence in your abilities, you set yourself up to be recognized for your competence and your contributions. For more on this, read “Convinced!: how to prove your competence & win people over” by Jack Nasher.

 We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: www.bcw-sport.com