October 4, 2021

Redefining Our Confidence in Decision Making

If we’re not right, we’ll simply be labelled as wrong.

At least, that’s how many of us think.

It takes a lot of mental effort to say “I’m only 80% sure about this”. Yet, instead of occupying the shades of grey between right and wrong, we hedge our bets on being right in an ‘all or nothing’ approach.

But, if we redefine our ‘confidence’ in decision-making, this might be better for ourselves and those around us.

Better for us

If we incorporate uncertainty into our decision-making now, the small seeds of mental effort may just grow into a tree of wisdom down the line.

“We win bets by striving to calibrate our beliefs and predictions about the future to more accurately represent the world.” — Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets.

Here are a few reasons why we should redefine our ‘confidence’, for our own benefit:

  1. Calibrating our beliefs towards an accurate conclusion over a preferred one prepares us for being wrong. If we’re betting on something to happen and define our confidence at 75%, we won’t be let down for the 1-in-4 times that we’re wrong.
  2. As a result of the above, we’re less judgemental towards ourselves. If we were 100% confident about our decision and things didn’t go our way, we’d be 100% wrong. The hurt of being wrong is stronger than the pleasure of being right.
  3. Making small adjustments in our confidence levels feels better than the gross downgrade of being ‘right’ to ‘wrong’.
  4. If we believe that we’re 100% correct, we close off the opportunity for others to collaborate with us in order to get closer to the truth.

Better for others

How we define our confidence plays a big part in how we interact with others and how they view us.

Here are a few reasons why we should redefine our ‘confidence’, for the benefit of others:

  1. Saying that we’re 80% sure informs others that we’ve given serious consideration to both sides, inviting a psychologically safe environment for them to offer up new information.
  2. Much of what we believe is influenced by ‘motivated reasoning’ (biased reasoning to justify our decisions). If we tell others that we’re 100% confident (which is often unrealistic), we are likely to support it by infecting them with our biased reasoning.
  3. Smart people close themselves off to those who express their beliefs on two extremes — they can see through the motivated reasoning behind strong, unsupported convictions. If we communicate to them that we’re not 100% sure about what we’re saying, they’re less likely to walk away.

If you want to appear confident in the short-term, continue to chase the extremes and simply being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

If you want to seek truth, make better decisions and invite collaborators in the process, redefine the confidence of your decisions.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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