Can we ‘Magpie’ Confidence from Don Draper?

I love ‘Mad Men’ – the fashion, the hustle and of course, the ultra confident, complicated and charming leading man, Don Draper.

Thus, when I saw this YouTube video entitled, ‘How to be Confident in Any Situation,’ based on Don Draper, I thought it was worth the watch. And it was! Click below to see Don and his swagger in action below.

Over time, I’m really coming to see how we can gain confidence by seeking to borrow from people who demonstrate lots of it; just as if we were a writer, we might look to the habits of successful writers in the hopes of emulating their success.

In teaching, we often call this ‘magpie-ing’. Kids are encouraged to read out their incredible narrative phrases and the rest of the class are able to magpie (steal) words or phrases, and make it their own.

Here’s a summary of what works for Don:

  1. He has super relaxed, confident body language, in any situation.

    This means:
    – He makes himself ‘bigger’.
    – He doesn’t fidget.
    – He sits back even when he’s trying to sell to a client, reversing the power dynamic and causing the client to persuade him to sell to them.
    – He leans in to make eye contact for important points.

  2. He is non-reactive, which makes him feel and appear more powerful.

    He’s comfortable in his own skin which means he can retain his calm confidence in uncomfortable situations. He isn’t driven by his thoughts and he’s isn’t afraid to pause.

  3. He doesn’t try to convince people or badger them.

    He approaches client meetings like an equal partnership and is always willing to walk away.

    This reminds me of a job interview tip: to flip the power dynamic by asking the interviewer questions, and making them persuade you to work for them. Highly effective!

  4. He believes that no matter what, he’ll be okay.

    He does this by doing the really scary things that he thinks he wouldn’t be able to cope with. At least in the last few series, he opens himself up to vulnerability.

    My favourite mantra is ‘whatever happens, I’ll handle it‘ which echoes this sentiment. And in fact, a huge chunk of these strategies and sentiments are echoed by the research in body language expert Amy Cuddy’s book, ‘Presence.’

    If we learn to think of confidence as a skill – something that we can build and grow through practise – then ‘fake it until you become it’ as Cuddy says is very much attainable.


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