13 ways to demonstrate competence

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You work hard. You’re organized, smart and always on time. You complete tasks faster than anyone else. You’re always seeking professional growth and opportunities to learn new skills. You might think others automatically think you’re great at what you do. But you need to do more to demonstrate competence.

The hard truth is that being competent doesn’t guarantee that others see you as competent.

Proving competence is vital to advancing in your career, whether you’re an entrepreneur looking for funding or climbing the corporate ladder. Business is a sport for gladiators – a sport that those who can master how to show competence will win.

Understand how you’re perceived

There are two types of competence: actual and perceived. Actual competence is your skill set – what you’re actually able to accomplish. Perceived competence is how others assess your skill set – what they think you can accomplish. Before you can learn how to show competence, you first must understand how others see you.

Use confirmation bias

Another important concept for proving competence is confirmation bias. This is people’s tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms their own beliefs. That means that when you act confident and competent, people tend to believe that you are. If you act uncertain and insecure, people will begin to see your weaknesses over your strengths.

Don’t be modest

Confirmation bias teaches us to act confident, but that can be easier said than done. One way to demonstrate competence is to start taking credit for your accomplishments. People tend to think that being perceived as a team player will earn them recognition, but making sure others know how you’re contributing is what will really get you ahead.

Change your physiology

Another way to demonstrate competence is to change your physiology. Your body language doesn’t just communicate with the world – it tells your brain what to feel. Smile, even if you don’t feel excited. Take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back and hold your head high. You’ll automatically feel more proud and confident.

Master your emotions

When you master your emotions, you’ll know how to show competence and act like a natural no matter what situation you’re in. Instead of exploding in a frustrating meeting or getting stuck answering tough questions on a conference call, you’ll look like the most competent person in the room.

Use power speech

Body language is one part of communication in the workplace. Speech is also important. Speak quickly and confidently, and make sure you’re loud enough for everyone to hear. Cut out hedge words like “I think” and even “please.” To demonstrate competence, use definitive words like “must” and “will” instead.

Don’t overdo it

We’ve all heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” But there are limits. Spending half your salary on a Porsche or wearing Balenciaga every day won’t necessarily demonstrate competence. Always make sure you look put together, and dress in a way that makes you feel confident. Then let your actions speak for themselves.

Focus on first impressions

First impressions are made on the judgments of two traits: warmth and competence. One study showed that people rated low on warmth were seen as more competent. When you want to demonstrate competence, focus less on building rapport and more on reading your audience and determining the best way to communicate.

Have an opinion

Leaders are decisive. They know how to show competence by making decisions and taking action. You can incorporate these skills even if you’re not in a leadership position. When faced with a new task or problem, think it through. Do some research. Come up with your own solutions. Even if others don’t agree, you’ll demonstrate competence.

Ask for advice

Proposing your own solutions is a way to enter the conversation and appear thoughtful, knowledgeable and curious. It doesn’t mean acting like a know-it-all. Asking for advice can actually help you demonstrate competence. That’s because when you show you value someone’s opinion, you make them feel good. They’ll feel good about you in return.

Write things down

Whether you’re learning a new skill, being trained on new software or listening to advice, make sure you remember it. The best thing to do is write it down. If you can’t, make a recording on your phone or repeat key points out loud. Asking clarifying questions is fine, but asking someone to repeat themselves is never a good way to demonstrate competence.

Be honest

Telling the truth is the best way to demonstrate competence. Hiding or distorting events will not work in the long term. The truth always comes out. Taking 100% accountability is the only way to build trust – and trust is essential for leaders. If you made a mistake, come up with solutions. Show that you care and that you can help fix the problem.

Use the halo effect

Honestly is necessary, but proving competence is about framing the truth in the right way. When you use the “halo effect,” you make your presence known while delivering good news and focus on yourself very little when delivering bad news. Be honest, but quickly move on to the positives and always propose solutions. As Tony says, “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.”


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