Posted by: aboutalbion | November 17, 2013

Reserved returns

I am always encouraged when news media find a place for reporting research that concerns people who are identified as introverts because I identify myself as one.

My Saturday newspaper recently found space to report the findings of a University College London Professor whose substantial work on personality assessment draws on studies in more than forty countries.

The newspaper summarized the research in this way: “There are many positive aspects to being modest, introverted and having insecurities because it keeps people grounded, stops them from reckless risk-taking and encourages them to strive for improvement.”

The report continued by highlighting the pitfalls of overconfidence because it can lead to a culture where “confidence is mistaken for competence”.  At work, “employees have little respect for grandiose bosses”.  While at home, “the more confident people are, the more they reported an intention to cheat on their partners”.

I suspect that this Professor has based his research on (over)developed countries when he “estimates that more than 70 per cent of the population suffers from overconfidence and that the world is experiencing an epidemic of self-importance”.

Rather, the Professor argues that people should learn to embrace their low confidence and their insecurities “because it leads to a better balance between aspiration and achievement”.

He acknowledged the life-long effects of early childhood.  “All of us have natural dispositions and ways of seeing the world.  …  They’re heavily influenced by whatever happens to us in the first five or ten years of life.”  He is equally clear that these natural dispositions are not set in stone.  “You have to find solutions within the realm of what’s possible and feasible.”

Overall, introverted people are “less likely to be in debt, less likely to overestimate their abilities and are more likely to find that there are social benefits associated with modesty … there’s a lot to be said for quieter people who don’t blow their trumpet all the time.  They tend to be good companions …”

And the reason for this …  Those who lack confidence “are realists and are unable (or unwilling) to distort reality in their favour”.  Whereas, those with confidence “fabricate alternative realities – lying, not to others, but to themselves”.

Yes, indeed … it’s quite all right by me to say that the glass is half empty if that is the reality you see.

[Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2013) Confidence: The surprising truth about how much you need – and how to get it.  Profile Books.]

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