The Participation Blog

The Confidence Sweet Spot

The value of humility can’t be overstated when it comes to preventing and reducing conflict. It seems counterintuitive to professionals who have worked hard their entire lives to develop a high level of expertise and confidence in their own abilities in their respective fields. So, to be asked to be demure about it, well, doesn’t feel very good. But it’s effective when you’re working with people who are acting or reacting from an emotional perspective. In those situations, you’ll never out-argue them and whatever proof you provide will cause them to dig their heels in deeper. When you take a step back, acknowledge their right to feel how they feel, and concede their salient points, you start lowering the temperature. That allows you to ask questions, which oils the conversation and steers you in the direction of a solution.

Another, even more interesting but tougher aspect of over confidence in science and engineering is admitting to what isn’t known. And the truth is there’s a lot that just isn’t known. Again, a little humility boosts trust levels. Almost no one likes admitting to what they don’t yet know, but that admission serves as a starting point for joint fact finding, the co-production of answers. And when you engage those people who don’t yet trust you in the search for answers, you build verifiable solutions and relationships.