Some good replies to the post "Conflict of Interest: On Confidence, and Confidence."
One of things that stood out to me is how a couple commenters assumed that because they're reasonable, other people should also be reasonable. I mean, if a doctor checks something carefully in a reference book in front of me, I think that's a good thing. You probably do too.
But many people don't think that way.
A lot of people have unrealistic expectations of the world, especially of professionals like doctors.
There was a brilliant comment by Kate Johnson, who is a veterinarian. Kate writes -
I’m a veterinarian and I find this to be completely true in practice. I think people want to be able to have an almost god-like faith in your abilities. Sometimes what people are asking you to do is make the decision for them – that is why they are paying you, that it why they came for your advice. It can be hard to explain to someone with a very different educational background that a dry reference book would not necessarily be able to inform decision making if you didn’t already have a broad understanding. It can be helpful and supportive to present a confident exterior (confident in the notion that it is up to you, rather than in the idea that you know everything) and consult with colleagues/reference manuals in private rather than in front of an anxious client. Sometimes the most professional thing to do is not force the client to watch the process but just explain the outcome clearly and confidently.
"I think people want to be able to have an almost god-like faith in your abilities. ... It can be helpful and supportive to present a confident exterior (confident in the notion that it is up to you, rather than in the idea that you know everything) and consult with colleagues/reference manuals in private rather than in front of an anxious client."
Really, really good feedback there Kate. That's probably also true for most kinds of professionals - people don't want to see uncertainty from their doctor or veterinarian, but probably also not any other skilled professional they hire.
I'm a huge believer in research and double-checking yourself, and any skilled professional should do that. But Kate's comment is a good reminder that we need to think about our "bedside manner" and making clients comfortable with decisions. The vast majority of people do not want to see uncertainty in a profession, so spend time thinking on how you can both be well-informed and take good care of people and their expectations.
Great comment Kate, extremely insightful. Thank you.
I commented on an article at New Scientist a bit back called, "You say sin, I say disease" -
Here's my comment -
More and more, I'm starting to come to the awful conclusion that most people have very little control over how their lives go. They maybe have a few key decision points in their life - but maybe not all that many.
And the rest is autopilot. They watch some subset of the new movies, new TV programs, websites they stumble across. They eat whatever's more or less served near them and eaten by people they associate with. They pick the political party that matches their friends and relatives, or no party, or maybe they pick up a book that has an emotional impact on them and swear loyalty to that. Maybe.
I hate this idea, because it seems to subtly advocate for totalitarianism, which I've been against my whole life. But then there's nagging voice that says, "well, just ban all the food that's unhealthy, and people will eat better..." - but we know where that road leads.
One habit that I have found very disheartening is that of comparing myself to other people. I have a tendency to try to think of myself as being in the most favorable reference class* that makes any sense, and so then when I compare myself to other people, I naturally pick people from that reference class. Since I picked the nicest reference class in the first place, these comparisons usually don't work out well for me. I end up feeling depressed about my position in life, and it's very unproductive and unhelpful.
I have two strategies that I use to counteract this. The first is to try to think purely of myself in relation to myself, and not in relation to other people. Comparing myself to my past self is almost always a favorable one, and more helpful than favorable comparisons against other people, because it doesn't breed a superiority complex, and it demonstrates to myself that I can improve. So that's a better tactic.The other one that has helped me a great deal is thinking about myself in terms of trajectory instead of position. Focusing on position isn't actionable. It tells you that you're better than other people or positions you could be in, so you can rest on your laurels. It tells you that you're worse than different people, or alternate versions of yourself, but suggests no methods of improvement.
Thinking about your trajectory, on the other hand, changes all of that. If you're thinking about trajectory, you're not thinking about where you are currently, you're thinking about how your position is changing. So it doesn't matter if you're in a really bad situation, what matters is if your situation is improving or getting worse. And this lets you go meta, which is always a good thing: the second derivative, how how your situation is changing is changing.
This is really useful because, while the thing you actually care about is your position in life, you can't choose your position at any given moment. But you can, more or less, choose your trajectory. And your trajectory now determines your position later.
For instance, a few months ago I was in a really good position, but just sort of treading water. Not really improving or getting worse. Now I'm in a really similar position (that's what happens when you don't have a positive or negative trajectory, you're still in the same position later!), but I've started a new project (this blog), have two more projects that will be starting soon (National Novel Writing Month and a youtube channel), have made significant progress on two new games for my business, and am moving to Brooklyn in three weeks. My present situation hasn't changed much, but I'm setting myself up to have a lot more success in the future.