We’ve all met them – people are abysmally wrong and yet incredibly confident. We see it night after night on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! TV show as he sends out camera crews to catch hipsters bluffing about things they know absolutely nothing about. Well, writer David Dunning in Pacific Standard magazine has written a remarkable piece on the research into why we are all confident idiots. I strongly encourage you to read the article because it will explain so much about people. But here’s some highlights that stood out to me:
Life can throw us a lot of curves. Our childhood, our parents, physical challenges, early experiences on the job, all indelibly imprint us with bad behaviors that are hard to shake. A woman abused as a child, a man whose father told him he’d never amount to much, a person who lives with insecurity. Big or small, they damage our relationships, the quality of our work, and our chances for success. But there are three specific personality “quirks” that really set people back from achieving all they could become in life. I’m not a psychologist, and don’t have all the answers for fixing these problems, but I’ve discovered that
Way too often in modern business, competition makes us feel that we can’t ask for help. We think it will show weakness, and as a result, we lie. We try to make everyone think we can handle everything, when the truth is, we have lots of questions. Here’s my take: Insecure people are terrified that people around them will think they don’t know what they’re doing. But people who are secure, have the confidence to ask for help. As a result, they find answers and move ahead of everyone else.
Driving in India is quite an experience. There are far too many cars, gas powered rickshaws, busses, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles, and the occasional herd of cows. On first glance it’s total chaos, people trying to cross, moving into the flow of traffic, squeezing in and out. The first rule of Indian driving is that traffic lanes aren’t a requirement, they’re simply a suggestion. But the great surprise is that in the middle of what looks like total confusion, there are very few accidents, and in most cases, those that happen are just minor fender benders. It’s amazing really. But then, after you’ve been there a few times, and made the effort to really look at it closely, you notice something important:
It’s one thing to recognize petty and insecure people in your workplace, but something else entirely to learn how to deal with them. Early in my career I had the opportunity (yes -“opportunity”) to work for one, and it gave me an education into human behavior. It’s particularly challenging when your boss or client is petty and insecure, so particularly if that’s your situation, here’s a few tips about what to do:
Proverbs 18:2 says: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Maybe you know a few people like that. I work in the media business, so I deal with petty and insecure people all the time. What drives me crazy is how they suck the life out of their team. They’re so obsessed with being in charge (and getting credit) even to the point of being willing to drive the organization into the ground. So if you’re wondering if that might be you – or someone you work with – here’s a handy chart to help you identify the petty and insecure people in your office:
Let’s talk about insecurity for a minute, because organizations around the world have employees (and leaders) who are riddled with it. Both religious organizations as well as Hollywood (interesting combination) are literally filled with people who suffer from insecurity. It’s a complex issue, and there are various resources available that cover the subject. The biggest problem for us is the chaos it creates in the workplace.
When I was young in my professional life, I was insecure and needed to be right all the time. Yes – I was annoying. But after maturing creatively, I realized that it’s not about being “right” – it’s about finding the solution. Today, I don’t care who nails the idea, I’m just happy to be part of the team that made it happen. If you find yourself being too concerned about “being right” then it’s a red flag about your creative development. It will marginalize you, and eventually
I starting thinking the other day about my work as a media consultant for non-profit and religious organizations. At Cooke Pictures, we have some wonderful clients, who are genuinely attempting to do great things in the media, and we’re thrilled to be part of their team. But as I look over my career, I realize now that I’ve spent at least 35-40% of my time at many organizations negotiating the minefields of overly sensitive people. I’m talking about people who are insecure – people who get their feelings hurt at the drop of a hat, or think every suggestion or change in a project is a personal criticism of them or their past decisions.