Confidence

Most of my regular readers will know this is a problem for me.

My biggest problem with confidence is however, not whether or not I have it, but how people treat people with it. Too often confidence and presentational skills are confused with ability, rather than treated as a veneer behind which all sorts of inadequacies. Too often in interviews I have been told I didn’t get the job on the grounds “you seemed bright enough- but weren’t very confident.” It’s not just in interviews; people appear less interested in listening to what you have to say if it’s less confidently expressed.

During the Oxbridge “elitism” scandals, lack of confidence was often cited as the reasons kids from ordinary state schools, as opposed to grammar and public schools, failed the interview process for Oxbridge colleges (mischievously referred to as Impbridge by old Cantabrigian friends). Direct experience with even people I would call friends has shown to me that this is little more than a veneer of arrogance that such schools try to instil, which some luckily learn to turn off at will. There is nothing wrong with elitism- choosing the brightest and best, but everything wrong with choosing the most confident and those with the best backgrounds – that’s snobbery.

People who rely on confidence as an indicator of ability, or who value it as a virtue in its own right have always bothered me. If you’re bright enough to do the job, what does confidence have to do with it? As far as I can tell confidence is usually disproportionate to ability, many of the most confident people I know simply have the ability to be very wrong with authority, and lack important listening skills vital to communication.

I had hoped that with the negative feelings towards spin would force a sea change in people’s attitude to confidence, if not in the work environment, in the general environment. Politicians, with the notable exception of Bush, are often respected for their shear force of personality rather than the brains behind it all. And life is no less difficult for me today than it was 7 years ago.

Of course some people are so over confident don’t pay attention to anyone but the little voices in their own heads, but that is another story. Hopefully we can change attitudes so that the unconfident can be treated as people with valid things to say, rather than letting flash empty-heads run the show all the time.

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