Keep the praise genuine. Learn good listening skills, and then ask good questions. Nothing helps someone feel acknowledged like a considered question followed by good listening.
Too many people think 'constructive criticism' is making one nice comment in order to pave the way for a list of what isn't working. It's especially important not to use this approach with young people. It's far better to ask questions. 'I like what you did here, but I have questions about this other part. Could you explain what you were trying to do here?' This can lead to them figuring out for themselves what didn't work out and how they can improve it, and gives you a chance to compliment their problemsolving, which raises instead of lowers their confidence.
How can we encourage young people to persevere while ensuring they never feel pressured?
Give them tools so that they can feel in control and make choices for themselves. Teach them about SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-based) goals, for example. It can help to give them the idea of a mountain that you can break down into boulders, then rocks, then pebbles. How can they break the goal they are trying to achieve into smaller goals, and what is the one small step (pebble) they need to do next?
Is there a positive link between setting attainable goals and confidence and if so can you tell us a bit about this link?
The brain's reward system ensures that each time we complete an assigned task we get a boost in dopamine levels leading to a positive sensation. We can therefore increase motivation through setting and achieving small goals. Dopamine levels can be increased with positive feedback, so you can establish a virtuous circle. If you fail to achieve a goal, try some self-compassion, and move on to the next small task to return to the positive cycle.
What are your top confidence boosting tips?
Never compare young people or compare finished projects. If you do give praise to raise self-esteem, give exact detail. So 'great project!' becomes, 'great project, I especially liked the way you compared the two methods and the pictures you included were very helpful’.
How can volunteers develop their own confidence in order to be a more positive role model for young people?
Do what you love. It sounds simple, but so many of us get so caught up in doing what looks good on paper, or what impresses our family and friends, we forget this simple maxim. Doing what you really love raises your energy, gives you more enthusiasm in life, and shows self-respect.
Pick one thing that you love doing and make a non-negotiable weekly commitment to it, whether it's a dance class or practising a foreign language online. It might sound unrelated to being a good leader, but it will change the way you come across.
Gratitude is another easy but proven way to feel better about yourself as it makes you focus on what is going right for you. But you do need to be consistent with it. Try attaching it to a daily habit like teeth brushing, coming up with five things you are grateful for as you brush.
Make it even more effective by then coming up with five things you accomplished in the last 24 hours, no matter how small, such as having a good conversation or making a nice lunch for yourself, for example. You can, of course, include bigger accomplishments, too.