Down at the Karate school where I train, we have the occasional board-breaking seminar. My instructor, Master Jason Hafner preps the students for their big moment by spending some time talking about all of the technical aspects of actually breaking a board. He covers body-weight shifting, targeting, proper hand or foot position, follow-through, board position, and numerous other technique-related issues.

Then he talks about the most important aspect of all.

Usually he has two of us large guys holding a board and with relatively little preparation he palm-strikes the board and snaps it in half. He then turns to the group and asks what it was that allowed him to do that. Of course, the responses range over all of the technique-related things that he had just covered, but, while they are all necessary, they aren’t the reason he broke the board.

The reason is that he has absolute confidence that the board is going to break. Oh, now it’s a confidence borne of successfully having done this hundreds of times, but even the first time he had to have had confidence that it was going to happen. Why? Because without that self-assurance, the would-be breaker tends to hold back out of fear of feeling pain, which usually means that the board wins.

The same idea holds for our networking practice. The first time we try out a new technique, we must have confidence of it’s ultimate success. If we don’t, the we won’t invest ourselves into the activity which means that it will be a false behavior — something that we aren’t feeling in our hearts. The person on the receiving end will feel that falsehood, even if they don’t know it’s origins and the technique will only serve to drive a wedge between you.

Take Gratitude Notes for example. If you write one of these notes with confidence, then your true feelings of thankfulness and appreciation will shine through every word. The result will be a closer and stronger relationship with the recipient. If it’s written without confidence, the the message it will deliver to the recipient is that the author of the note is “techniquing” them. No one likes to be manipulated like that.

In networking, confidence is one of the most powerful traits you can nurture in yourself. Have confidence not only in the techniques you use, but also in the value you bring to any relationship. Soon, you’ll be able to break through the barriers between you and others in the same way a Karate Master can break through a pine board.

And you’ll make it look easy, too.

Photo credit: Flickr user prw_silvan