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How to avoid being overconfident

Confidence is a big plus in the workplace. It shows you’re strong, can be relied on and trusted.

But what about overconfidence?

In a professional setting, having too much confidence can work against you. It can cause others to see you in a bad light or be wary of what you say and commit to. Overconfidence can also have a negative impact on your colleagues and workplace.

The challenge, for many, is identifying excessive confidence, and how to strike the right balance to achieve a healthy sense of confidence.

This expert article explores some aspects of overconfidence. It defines what it is. It gives examples of characteristics of overconfidence. The article points to the cause and shares tips on how to avoid it. It also provides examples of the negative consequences of overconfidence.

What is overconfidence?

Some professional psychologists say you’re overconfident if you think you’re better than you are and overestimate your talents and skills. You’re overconfident when you believe your ability is greater than reality (actual ability to perform).

What are the characteristics of overconfidence?

Overconfident people often exhibit certain traits, such as:

Know-it-all attitude. Overconfident people tend to think they know more than everyone else, including experts in other fields. They don’t believe they need to learn because they already know everything about everything.

Brag and boast. Overconfident people often boast. They never hesitate to shine the spotlight on their skills and achievements. When they’re right, they love to proclaim, “I told you so.” They big-note themselves in oral and written communications.

Focus on self. Overconfident people often talk non-stop about themselves and their accomplishments. They tend to do so in an arrogant way. They regularly talk with a first-person point of view, using pronouns like I, me, my, mine, and myself.

Can’t accept criticism. Overconfident people tend to argue when given constructive criticism. Instead of proactively listening, they interject and reject.

Blame others. Overconfident people tend to shy away from accepting responsibility when life doesn’t go according to plan. They instinctively look for others to blame and are vocal about who is at fault and why. They find it challenging to apologise and take ownership.

What causes overconfidence?

Ironically, overconfidence can stem from deep feelings of inadequacy and an inability to cope. Some psychologists say it’s a way to cover self-doubt – a mechanism that compensates.

How can you overcome overconfidence?

Ask for feedback. Ask others if you come across as overconfident. This isn’t something that’s natural to overconfident people but give it a go. Your boss, for example, may be able to share insights.

Challenge yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask if you’re overconfident. Are you covering feelings of inadequacy? Deep down, do you doubt yourself?

Think of the consequences. Critically assess the consequences of your overconfident decisions. What will happen, for example, if you don’t meet a deadline? What if you cause a budget overrun? Will your actions damage working relationships at multiple levels? Perhaps also damage your reputation?

Pay attention to feedback. Instead of arching up and reacting badly to constructive feedback, embrace it and learn from it. Then apply what you learn.

Listen to your language. Avoid bragging language and boasting. Don’t start every sentence with ‘I’ or other words that focus solely on yourself.

Be open to ideas and expert options. Overconfident people don’t know absolutely everything there is to know in life. It’s impossible to be an expert in everything. So be open to the ideas, knowledge and expertise of others. Instead of exhibiting a knee-jerk reaction to what they say, embrace and leverage their views.

Seek professional help. If dealing with your overconfidence is overwhelming (and it can be because it’s complex), seek professional support.

What are the impacts of overconfidence at work?

Actions of overconfident people can have negative impacts at work. The ripple effects can be far-reaching. Overconfidence, for example, can:

  • lead to hasty and/or risky decisions or actions
  • cause deadlines to be missed
  • create legal problems
  • cause budget overruns
  • breed conflict
  • have a negative impact on an organisation’s reputation
  • cause missed opportunities or deals
  • create a toxic culture and diminished morale
  • affect productivity.

Final tip

Confidence isn’t the same as ability. It’s a complicated trait that impacts on our behaviours and decision-making. It’s a positive trait, so embrace it, but beware of becoming overconfident.

Want to learn more?

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