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Three Overconfidence Smells

Published 11/26/2018

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
We all believe in ourselves. Even those of us who struggle with imposter syndrome, and most of us do from time to time, we feel that it's important to believe in ourselves. And this is an overconfidence bias. It's not necessarily always on purpose. In fact, most of the time, it's probably not on purpose that we portray a sense of confidence and we don't really have a good reason or good evidence to explain why we're portraying that confidence. But it's a little bit tricky because people who have confidence and people who fake confidence often look quite similar. And in today's episode, I'm going to talk about three kind of confidence smells or overconfidence smells that you can use to kind of establish a picture of your current situation, whether it's for yourself, when you start displaying these particular symptoms of overconfidence or with someone else. Finally, a word of caution before we jump into this episode. If you do indeed find out that you are working with someone who is displaying overconfidence, remind yourself that number one, this is incredibly common. And number two, the best strategy to deal with it is most likely not to tell them that they are overconfident. Unless you have established a clear relationship where you can provide that kind of negative feedback with this person, explaining to someone that they are overconfident is perhaps one of the most difficult things you'll do in your career, in your interpersonal relationships in your career with your coworkers because more times than not, our overconfidence is difficult to diagnose in ourselves. It's difficult to see that we're being overconfident. This kind of unwelcome criticism, especially when you don't already have kind of suspect that it's true, is likely to be rejected right out of the gate. So let's talk about three smells of overconfidence. My name is Jonathan Cutrelll and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you connect to your career purpose and do better work so you can have a positive influence on the people around you. And before we dive in any further into these smells of overconfidence, I want to talk about today's awesome sponsored digital ocean. Digital Ocean provides scalable compute services, flexible configuration size for any application in industry leading price to performance ratios. You'll get pricing that is consistent across all of your regions at any usage volume. You have rapid provisioning, which means you can get up and running very quickly with new servers and replica servers. You'll get monitoring included, by the way, this is something you usually have to add on and configure yourself, but monitoring and alerting are both included with digital ocean. And finally, and perhaps most importantly and excitingly, you're going to get $100 worth of free credit just for being a developer, T listener. Head over to do.co slash t that's do.co slash t a to get that $100 worth of credit. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So let's talk about these three smells of overconfidence. Very simple things, very simple smells that you can identify in others and in yourself. Now, of course, we're using the word smell in case you're not familiar with this, I encourage you to go and Google code smells. This is kind of a heuristic. It's not an absolute truth. If you see these things, it doesn't mean for sure that you're experiencing somebody with overconfidence, although basically everyone will have the experience of overconfidence at some point. But these are more like heuristics. There's signs that could be one thing or another very often they have to do with overconfidence. The first smell, the first overconfidence smell, wherever there is absolute certainty about almost anything. And for someone is portraying the sense that they are 100% convinced of whatever a particular opinion is. And it seems obvious, but we do this quite a lot. This happens in particular when we get into arguments. When we have to take one side or the other, we very often portray that we're fully bought in to our side of the argument. We wrongly think maybe that this is going to help us win the argument, but very often it actually does the opposite. It drives the other person to back further away into their corner of the ring. Being absolutely certain of really almost anything is a near impossibility. There's almost always a variable that you're not considering. If you shift the context of a given opinion into a different context, then perhaps things have changed once again. We often hear this kind of language when we're talking about code. There's a lot of kind of should language, right? The language where code should be one way or another way. And we're probably leaving guilty of this on Developer Teaexplaining how code should be. This kind of absolutism is really damaging when you're trying to find an optimal solution, when you're trying to be a flexible coworker, when you're trying to be a flexible worker in general. And a good developer understands that everything has to be taken within its own context. So whenever you see somebody or you yourself catch yourself with language that portrays that you're absolutely certain about a given opinion, then you're probably being overconfident. Okay. The second smell. And there is a culture of do it yourself is a... Perhaps the most profound thing that I've learned in my career this far is that if I rely on myself, if I always rely on my own intuition, on my gut, on my experiences, my opinions, my perceptions, if I rely only on myself, then I'm short-sighting myself. I am kind of giving myself a bad setup, a bad basis to work from. This isn't because my opinion is invalid. It's also not because I'm wrong all or even most of the time. Instead, there's a compounding effect of relying only on yourself. When you're wrong about one thing, and then you work with someone else and they're wrong about something different, you can kind of cross-check each other. I may be wrong about one thing, but my coworker is more right about that thing. We end up averaging each other out. If we choose to work with people who see things in the same kind of collaborative spirit that we do, then very often we uncover blind spots, we uncover biases, we uncover these lack of skill areas perhaps, and even check each other, for example, on our overconfidence. But if I only work in a silo and in echo chamber, even if I just work with people that are a lot like me or that defer to me, they always agree with me, they always give me the floor. If I work in a situation where I make all of the decisions without any checks, then being wrong about one thing and thinking that I'm right about it, and then being wrong about the next thing and thinking that I'm right about it, this is going to continue compounding because I'll create a whole chain of decisions where I was wrong at multiple locations, rather than making mistakes along the way and improving. So the basis for forming new beliefs, if that basis itself is already flawed and those new beliefs are also wrong, they're also flawed, then the new basis becomes even more flawed. This is where we breed problems in this scenario. So it's very important when you experience, when you have somebody who is rejecting external input. For example, if they say that, oh, well, all of those business books on the wall, all of those researchers, they all say different things. So it's all just opinions anyway. And this blanket minimizing or rejection of external input, external experience, external research, if you see somebody doing this kind of rejection, then it's very likely that they are confident and perhaps overconfident in their own opinion. And they are probably following something that is at the very least, under representative of a larger group, a larger collaborative group, and at the very worst, a breeding ground for more flaws. So watch out for cultures of do it yourself as them. Where you think that everything that comes in from the outside is bad, whether that's opinions or tooling or processes, whatever it is. Another version of this is the not invented hear syndrome. Sometimes the not invented hear syndrome is not necessarily related to overconfidence as much as it is related to fear. So watch for this rejection, this culture of rejection to the external, especially if it's uniform, if the immediate response to anything incoming is either negative or at best neutral and then moves towards negative. Alright, the third smell, when nothing sounds like a surprise, this one's a little bit more nuanced, but we've all had these kinds of conversations with other people, where we're talking about some kind of subject, let's say it's we're talking about some kind of research, even research that we did, the person that's presenting this, and the other person presents as if they know everything that this person is saying. They almost automatically say, right. Of course. I knew that. And the feeling that you get as the person sending this message to the other person is that this person has seen it all, that they've done it all. They're so experienced that there's nothing new that I can bring to them that they haven't seen before. This is almost certainly not true, and at some point you will see this person experience something that they've never experienced before, hear about something they've never heard before, and still avoid expressing any kind of surprise. Whatever the underlying mechanism is for this, that tells us that it's going to make us come across as more confident or more trustworthy, very often this does, the opposite. Very often it makes you look like, and know it all, or someone who doesn't really, you don't really want to tell that kind of person a story. The opposite of this response is to listen intently and learn something new in every conversation, context, shift, and asking questions and learning more about this new situation is a much more open way to respond. So it's very important that we think about these things when we go about our day to day work. It's not just that we shouldn't be overconfident, of course this creates negative scenarios in many ways, but it can also be very frustrating to work with an overconfident person. Overconfidence tends to create situations where people are closed off. They don't really want to hear any new opinions very often. It's hard to work with these kinds of people because if you have a differing opinion, then that opinion is very likely going to be not accepted very well. And ultimately the opposite of what that overconfident person desires ends up happening. They end up being ostracized and moved to the edge so that people don't have to try to convince them of their opinion. So I encourage you to always cultivate confident humility. Always be looking for opportunities to ask questions, to be inquisitive, to be curious about what your coworkers think. And then also recognizing that the things that you see are not the whole picture. That there's always new perceptions, always new ways of thinking, and that the gateway to those new ways of thinking is interacting with the people around you. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode. You can get $100 worth of credit on Digital Ocean by heading over to dio.co slash te. That's dio.co slash t. Get started today. Thank you again for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode and you don't want to miss out on future episodes like this one, I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're currently listening to this episode with. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.