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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups - Sally's Journal
December 12th, 2005
10:40 am

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Learning styles, and the fallibility of grown ups

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From:geekette8
Date:December 12th, 2005 11:57 am (UTC)
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Hello, are you me?

Well, OK, I'm not doing a Phud, but I've only recently realised that this is why one particular bloke in work *really* rubs me up the wrong way. He's officially above me in the project hierarchy, but nevertheless there are bits that are MY area of expertise that I've thought about a lot and have a much better idea about than he does. However I do feel the need for him to rubber stamp a lot of my stuff and the way I present it tends to lead to him saying things like "No, do it $this_way instead". (Even though $this_way is clearly (to me) inferior because of a whole load of reasons that I can't articulate to him because I'm feeling put on the spot and made to feel small and stupid and Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.)

The good news is that having recognised this in myself a few months ago, the simple act of changing the way I phrase things has helped a LOT. And you've recognised it much earlier than I did, so good for you!
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From:atreic
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:02 pm (UTC)
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But I don't want to change the way I phrase things. Because I still believe that I'm fundamentally right, that the world would work better if people didn't pretend to be certain when they're not certain, and becoming another person who pretends they're certain doesn't make the problem any better.

Still, swallowing principles for self advancement is a good step on the way to becoming a Proper Grown Up. < /cynic > Become powerful, and then change the world ;-)

From:yrieithydd
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
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Because I still believe that I'm fundamentally right, that the world would work better if people didn't pretend to be certain when they're not certain, and becoming another person who pretends they're certain doesn't make the problem any better.

That makes sense, but you need to remember that lots of people do do certainty far more than you and not be intimidated into believe that they must therefore be right!

Perhaps you are also too uncertain, which has its own flaws. It would be good if our certainty about our correctness was actually proportionate to our correctness, but it isn't. There are some people who have lots of self-confidence and so tend to be more certain of their correctness than the facts warrant whilst others of us lack self-confidence and so tend to be less certain of our correctness than the facts warrant. This results in a very doomed situation is the less confident people are actually the ones who are more right!
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From:geekette8
Date:December 12th, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
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My Dad always says that with any of this three sisters, their certainty about any given fact is inversely correlated with the correctness of said fact :-)
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From:simont
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but within the spectrum of not pretending to be certain when you're not, there's still a wide range of possible wordings with different degrees of certainty. You quoted above "Do you think the flow reverses at this point? I was wondering if that might be what happens", for example; now that, to me, doesn't say you've been thinking about it for hours and are reasonably convinced. That suggests that you've only just thought of the possibility and have no idea whether the details stand up to rigorous examination. If you said reasonably assertively "I think the flow must be reversing here, do you agree?", you'd come across completely differently and yet not be dishonest or bad. Certainty is quantitative, not qualitative; you shouldn't pretend to be 100% certain when you're only 90%, but neither should you accidentally appear to be only 10%.

I get a lot of stuff done at work by going up to someone and starting off with "Just check I'm not going completely mad here" and then expounding my current view of the world. It's clear from the start that I'm not pretending to be certain about the surprising conclusion I've reached, but at the same time that form of words makes it clear that I've been thinking about it for a while already and already tried unsuccessfully to find obvious idiocies in my viewpoint.
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From:the_alchemist
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:15 pm (UTC)
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Yes, exactly.

And just stating your theory in non-question form with no qualifiers doesn't necessarily indicate certainty. We have phrases like "I am certain..." for that.
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From:ixwin
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
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just stating your theory in non-question form with no qualifiers doesn't necessarily indicate certainty

I tend to assume that it does.
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From:the_alchemist
Date:December 12th, 2005 01:22 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps it depends on what you mean by 'certainty'. I tend towards the opinion that nothing is absolutely certain, or at least nothing that people seriously discuss is absolutely certain, so if we reserved speaking without qualifiers for absolutely certain things then we wouldn't do it at all. I therefore use it for things I believe, things I'm reasonably confident about, things I have a lot of evidence for and no evidence against. If I'm absolutely certain about something, I say so.
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From:samholloway
Date:December 12th, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC)
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Snap. There's a delicate balance: you want to do enough research on your own to check it isn't something stupid, but you need to know when to wander to your colleagues with the "am I stupid? this isn't working". You know you get it right when they reply "I have absolutely no idea". :-) (Happening very much here in the office today: we've just moved to a new compiler version and different people are becoming the first to hit each problem.)
From:cjp39
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
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I suppose it's a "people skill". You can insist the whole world acts like you (or, I suppose, timidly ask whether the whole world thinks that your way is better), or you can accept that the only person you can change is you, and learn to deal with people who don't understand that your timidity is merely lack of confidence, not lack of being right.

Thank you, by the way. You've increased my understanding of others - and myself - and that's rare and valuable. I think I have a confused mix of assertive-quickly-followed-by-timidity, and probably stay assertive around timid people, and become timid around assertive people. Which is back-to-front. Oh, how beta-male.
From:feanelwa
Date:December 12th, 2005 12:54 pm (UTC)
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See, you can change more people than just yourself, she just did.
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From:geekette8
Date:December 12th, 2005 10:34 pm (UTC)
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I've been pondering over this some more. I don't think I'm trying to recommend pretending to be certain when you're not (although I guess that can be useful in some cases).

I think what I'm trying to say is that it sounds as though you are under-representing your level of certainty, and $other_person is over-representing theirs, and this is where the imbalance comes in. You can't do anything to change the way $other_person presents their level of certainty, or at least not without some seriously awkward conversations, but what you *can* do is a) realise that they are over-representing themselves and b) try harder to accurately represent your own level of certainty. I don't see that as a matter of swallowing principles or pretending to be certain when you're not, personally...
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