Overconfidence – Avoid False Certainty

Have you ever gone on a long road trip without a map (or GPS) and continued by refusing to ask for directions even when lost? Or thought you were smarter than you actually were when you skipped the studying for an important exam? Or how about thinking of yourself so invaluable to your employer that you risk showing up late for work, thinking you’re never going to get fired? I am confident each one of us have thought this before.


Perhaps you’ve had so much confidence in yourself to a point where you can’t sing to save your life, but still think you’re amazing so you try out for American Idol. That’s overconfidence. Or how about believing that your spouse or significant other loves you so much to ever leave you, so you take advantage of them by treating them poorly, eventually, driving them away? That’s overconfidence.

Celia Gaertig and Joseph P. Simmons at the University of Pennsylvania concluded, “Thus, because there is compelling evidence that people dislike advisors who lack confidence, scholars have concluded that people dislike advice that lacks certainty. However, that need not be the case, as the confidence with which advisors communicate may be different from the certainty implied by what they say. For example, although recipients of advice may almost always dislike advisors who speak in a way that makes them seem unsure (e.g., “I’m not sure, but I think the stock price will increase”), they may not dislike advisors who confidently communicate uncertainty (e.g., “There is a 60% chance that the stock price will increase”).”

Confidence, if used correctly, can actually serve you instead of harm you. But what is the difference between having a healthy dose of confidence and being overly confident? Expressing confidence coupled with uncertainty could actually help you get your point across much better. People will most likely trust you more if you express your certainty in something, sprinkled with a little bit of doubt. “I’m not exactly sure, but I’m fairly certain…” or “there’s an 80 percent chance that the Patriots will win” as opposed to statements such as “I have never taken a surfing lesson before, but I know I’ll do great” or “I know he’s the greatest boxer of all time, but I’ve never lost a match with my buddies before.”

No one ever knows exactly how situations will pan out. What might have worked in the past, might not work this time around. You are more likely to influence others when expressing slight uncertainty along with a confident statement.

About the author


Writer Staff