Monday, June 22, 2009

"Of course I'm sure!"

The title does not reflect the way I think. But, apparently, people prefer to get advice from someone who is sure of them self. I saw an interesting article at the New Scientist website titled, "Humans prefer cockiness to expertise". It says that we will even forgive the confident person some errors if they remain confident. This saddens me for two reasons. One is that it is scary that leaders of our country and the people who run our companies are like this, too. They are not making decisions based on whether the advice they get comes from someone who has proven themselves in the past. They are listening to the blow-hard who is sure of himself. No wonder we get into wars we shouldn't and our economy is on the rocks. No wonder we make bad decisions about whether it is better to feed the hungry or make a new model of car that uses even more gasoline.

The other reason this saddens me is that I do not give my advice confidently. At least most of the time. I almost always couch my opinions in layers of options and other possibilities. Internally, I'm sure of my opinions but I don't want people to just believe what I say just because I said it. I want to offer them evidence that should be weighed against other evidence they may receive. And this is the reason that my advice is so often ignored! I could say that the world is wrong and I am right and that people should be accepting advice from trusted sources and looking at the track record of these confident people instead of blindly accepting their advice. But I'm not going to change the world. The trouble is, I'm going to have a hard time adjusting to this. Giving advice is too important to me to change the way I act just to get people to take my advice more often. The thought that someone might take my advice and be hurt by it inhibits me from just saying everything more boldly. I am not always right and neither are the confident people. But many of them don't care. To them, it more important to win the fight. It is more important for them to have their views accepted.

Last week I didn't have a chance to write down some stories about my father like I hoped I would. But here is a little bit about him as it relates to this topic. He told me once that he was surprised by how often people accepted his ideas and advice. I recognize now why that was the case. He was very confident. He was sure of himself. He wasn't a blow-hard and he wasn't after power but when he said something, you just believed him. In my father's case, though, he didn't necessarily want people to just believe him with no other opinions being considered. He looked at it like I do (of course, I get this trait from him) - that you need to get a variety of opinions and then make the decision. You don't just accept something someone says because they're confident. Another trait I got from him was that we tend to distrust the advice of people who see too confident. In my father's case, it was an unconscious ability to sound confident. Even if he wasn't!

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