Monday, January 14, 2013

Illusion of confidence



Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.


Kept wondering why “Confidence" is considered to be one of the most important factors in the game of life till I realized that we are oblivious to the fact that confidence is one of the heuristics we use to judge people. We come across different kinds of people in our day-day life and we are constantly expected to respond to various stimuli. We have no choice but to adapt to the situation by first assessing the situation using some heuristics and then choose our response.

Let’s say, we go to a party and meet some people. Invariably, we end up meeting some super confident individuals and our response/judgement  to that at a subconscious level would be:

  • Knowledgeable hence Genuine respect for the person or
  •  Get Intimidated
We live in such a competitive world that we have almost forgotten the virtue called reverence. It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept that somebody is more knowledgeable than you. But you judge somebody using a heuristic called “Confidence”. It is important to know that due to limitations in our cognitive capabilities, we are subject to illusion of confidence. What it means is that we tend to assume that somebody is knowledgeable if they sound confident. Most of often we would have judged candidates in an interview based on their confidence only to realize that there is a vast difference in projected capabilities versus actual.

It is very important that one does not fall prey to the illusion of confidence.   If you want to handle the illusion of confidence, here is a simple trick.

First of all, drop all you belief systems and pre-existing internal knowledge that you are likely form based on the stimuli and just increase your sensory acuity. Sensory acuity involves the ability to make refined sensory observations and this can happen if one can reduce or drop all preconceived notion/ pre-existing internal knowledge. Let me elaborate  the difference between power of sensory acuity versus how we lose out on valuable information because of preexisting filters. Ken Norris, a desert biologist, used his graduate students to observe a desert lizard.  While Norris has 6 pages of observation, his students had just one page. This was largely due to their preexisting knowledge. So what happens when you increase your sensory acuity? Just based on adjusting Physiology  ( changing body language)or eye accessing cues, one can access truthfulness or congruence. 

The second approach is to pose some simple unassuming questions on the same topic. Usually people who sounds confident without enough subject matter will get stuck at some point and will be exposed.

The next time you meet a super confident person do not fall for  the illusion of confidence. Take your time,observe and then judge them, confidently!!!

5 comments:

Views of Venkatesh Hariharan said...

Interesting read. I could add that a confident listener is a good response to a confident speaker. Thus confidence in one's self can assist in lesser judgement's!

Rajesh Rangarajan said...

Awesome... Well said

Venkat Raman said...

Great article Rajesh. Sometimes we are forced to believe the energy and the confidence level the person has than his knowledge. But experience gives us a clue to identify/judge things in the first meet itself.

Rajesh Rangarajan said...

Totally agree Venkat

vineetak said...

Keep coming back to this post Rajesh. Truer here in the US, where self-promotion is as much a value as humility/acknowledging that there is so much we don't know in eastern cultures. Not promoting oneself is construed as lack of confidence which is construed to mean lack of competence!