Don’t give up too soon – the 4 stages needed

By Mark Rhodes | Social Confidence

People often give up far too soon when looking to develop a new skill.

This is very often the case with learning to talk with confidence to people we don’t know.

They usually give up because they feel uncomfortable every time they attempt to start a conversation or talk to someone.

They give up because it feels like they will never improve or conquer their fear.

What they fail to appreciate is the four stages of development and learning.

We only feel totally comfortable once we are able to do things on autopilot without even really thinking about them. In most cases the “thinking about things” (or the over thinking) is what causes us to hesitate and become uncomfortable.

The four stages

Before we can truly master anything and be totally comfortable with it we have to go through the four stages of learning and development which are:

1: Unconscious Incompetence

2: Conscious Incompetence

3: Conscious Competence

4: Unconscious Competence

So, if you are able to realise that you are actually in one of the four stages you would then notice as you move from stage to stage and it will be less likely that you’ll give up too soon.

What is probably happening at the moment is your assuming it’s an “all or nothing” situation. You are either able to talk to other people comfortably or not.

With this way of looking at things it is very difficult to notice the progress being made.

Let’s explore each of these stages in turn and I’ll use an everyday example that will make this become really easy to understand. The example I will use is learning to drive a car because it fits so well with every stage of the process. If you have never learnt to drive a car you may recall learning to swim or ride a bike, or something similar where you developed a particular skill.

Stage 1

For most things unconscious incompetence applies when we are really young.

This is when we are not only unable to do a particular skill but we don’t know that skill even exists. Therefore, we are unconscious or unaware of the skill and even if we were aware of it we wouldn’t be able to do it anyway i.e. we would be incompetent. So that gives us Unconscious Incompetence.  Using the learning to drive example this would be when a child is 1 years old. They can’t drive a car and they are not aware that the skill of driving exists.

Stage 2

The next stage is conscious incompetence when we realize a skill exists but we know we can’t do it. The driving example would be as the child gets a little older they can see adults driving cars, so they know the skill exists, but they also know they cannot do that skill.

With respect to getting confident to talk to people this is the lowest position you could be at – level 2. You are aware the skill of talking to others exists (after all your reading this article!)  but you don’t feel like you can do it, or do it well.

Stage 3

The third stage is conscious competence – this is when you can just about do something but it feels very uncomfortable and you are probably not very good at it. So with driving this will be the early driving lessons. Yes you can make the car go along the road but it is hard work. So much to remember, all those steps. The mirror, signals, turning the wheel, off the throttle, down on the clutch, move the stick, back up off the clutch while edging the throttle back down at the same time! Most people are at this stage getting the car moving along but in sheer panic and sweats – welcome to stage 3 of 4 conscious competence.

With talking to people this stage would be you that can, in certain circumstances, force yourself to start a conversation or ask someone something. It probably involves a lot of hesitation, over thinking and panic though.

Stage 4

Then comes stage four unconscious competence – this is where you’ve mastered the skill and can do it without consciously thinking about it too much – you are on autopilot.

With driving you are going along changing gear and direction paying no attention to the controls, they follow your thoughts like synchronized swimmers. In fact often you are wondering if you looked at the junction you just passed, where the lights red? You don’t remember much about the journey – you were on autopilot.

Your future at stage 4

So how great will it be when you get your talking with confidence to stage 4?

This is when you’ll see someone, think of something to say, and just say it.  You’ll be so calm and relaxed that even those rare occasions you get an unexpected response or no response, you’ll ignore it. You’ll assume they were shy or didn’t hear you correctly, or maybe they didn’t think you were talking to them. Most of the time though you’ll be making new friends and having engaging exciting experiences and interactions on a  daily basis. Turning boring moments into interesting encounters with new people.

If you are not yet at stage 4 then get the Free eBook and Coaching Course today, by completing the form below, and let’s change that for you.


About the Author

Mark Rhodes is a Motivational Speaker, Published Author, Coach and Entrepreneur who has "been there and done it" in business. He now helps others achieve their own dreams and goals and have more confidence and success, lead teams and win more business and sales.