Confident Lies and Hesitant Truths

We Prefer a Confident Lie to Hesitant Truth

Once upon a time I was a manager at a library. As part of my managerial duties I controlled access to the areas behind the desk that included many offices. The only problem? There were no identification cards or passes so I had no idea who to allow and who to stop. My ingenious solution was to let those in who looked like they knew where they were going. The kids who attempted to walk to the back while looking around confused I would stop and point in the right direction. If anyone wasn’t supposed to be in the back, but walked past with confidence they would go by no questions asked.

Confidence breeds trust and belief. The only problem? Knowledge does not breed confidence.

Einstein famously said, (and many others iterating a similar notion) “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” The more you learn about anything the more you recognize there is even more to learn than you realized at first. As you learn and grow and recognize how little you comprehend it becomes extremely humbling.

Because of this learned humility true experts may seem the least confident about their subject. They realize what they know is dwarfed by the information that they don’t.

On the other hand, those who are confident and certain about such and such are blind to what they do not know. They think what they understand is all that exists and unfortunately it is usually a minuscule amount of information.

What do we do?

The first thing to do is to become aware of this confidence bias as you listen to others. Don’t take someone’s statements as fact just because they are confident when they say it. Likewise, do not judge or blow off someone else who attempts to teach with more humility. If you ask questions and prod you will most likely find you have much more to learn from the ladder.

Secondly, try to catch yourself when you act as if you know more than you do. While discussing an issue look for you own blind spots on topics and do not act as if you ever have all the information.

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