fuck your confidence

from evy's notebook

These carefully cut magazine snippets have rested on this canvas for days. It feels wrong to glue them down, to take a complex opinion and put it on display as three aggressively confident words.

Perhaps I can do my thoughts more justice here.

I encounter so much information on a daily basis. Words allegedly spoken by famous people, the latest science on covid-19, ways to avoid writing bugs at work. It's a lot to take in. I'd love to be able to carefully question and research every piece of information I come across, especially if I might use it to make decisions, but I just don't have the mental bandwidth for this. Instead, I choose which information I'm happy to simply accept as probable truth so that I can move on with my life.

Some information that I accept as probable truth turns out to be wrong, and this is fine, but sometimes it feels like I took the easy "just believe it" route largely because someone spoke confidently about its validity. I'm frustrated by this phenomenon, but what really annoys me is when people say that speaking confidently is just a style of communication, as if sharing this communication style would have helped me see how they could have been wrong.

It doesn't feel like it's just a different communication style. It feels like a less accurate communication style.

Someone once told me to just pretend that they said "I think" before any statement they made, since it was too difficult for them to remember to add this every time. But that doesn't solve the problem. Sometimes people communicate ideas they're quite certain of, and sometimes they communicate things they're unsure about, or that they know are personal opinions.

These three statements have very different meanings to me:

I want to interact with people who communicate these differences in their communication. I don't want to interact with people who say "your code is bad" and expect me to understand what they mean.

Someone once told me that "when a person in a position of power expresses opinions strongly, it removes the space in which people can have a dialogue", and I notice this often. I even find that it removes the space for my mind to naturally question and explore the stated opinion.

These consequences are strengthened by power and seniority. For many years, I was the most junior engineer on my team, and it was easy to think that my confident senior coworkers knew much more about writing code than me, and that the confident things they said must usually be right. It surprised me how often nagging doubts I had turned out to be actual problems.

Why didn't I speak up more? Perhaps an easier solution is that I should be more confident? At least, that's what people keep telling me. Confidence has helped me voice nagging doubts, it has helped me advocate for things that feel important, it has created space for me to challenge the information I see confidently spewed around me.

I do think there is value in developing confidence in my thoughts and abilities, and that it's useful to phrase things confidently when I'm communicating something that I feel is likely true. And there are certain contexts where I can figure out that someone is less confident about something than it might appear from the way they're communicating. But it would also be nice if people would stop phrasing things to sound so certain when they know they could easily be wrong. Fuck their confidence!

Ok it's pretty hard to write about this topic in only a day, so this still feels half-baked (I guess that's today's experiment!) but I think this at least feels a bit more represenative of my thoughts than the collage art.

Maybe I'll return to some more ideas later: