Three Dangerous Little Words

Have you ever overestimated your reach? How about a skill set? Have you ever overestimated your effectiveness in a given situation? I sure have. We all know this moment, right?  We believe an upcoming situation will, go a certain way, based on our efforts. With confidence we might even say–to ourselves or to others–I got this. But once we’re in that situation, well…not so much.

 

Why does this happen? Why sometimes does, “I got this,” evaporate before we’re done with our super-hero attempt? The phrase itself may give us a clue to the answer.

 

“I got this” is slang for, “I’ve got this covered, or handled.” We use it when we are expected to deliver on an important goal and we want others to know we can handle it. It’s also used to deny help from another person.

 

The trouble spot with begins before the phrase is completely uttered. It starts going south with the first word. The word, ‘I.” Consider this. There’s an interesting cognitive bias in psychology named, The Dunning-Kruger effect. Here’s how Steven Novella over at the Neurologica blog summarized Dunning’s words:

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Dunning summarizes the effect as:

“…incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are,”

He further explains:

“What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

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Well there ya go. That last paragraph sums up why we, at times, (yes all of us are incompetent now and then) might grab those three little words too quickly and get ourselves into a mess. It’s true that some humans may more regularly  display the Dunning-Kruger effect than others. But be careful not to self-select out of this one. Because if we believe we’re free from the Dunning-Kruger affect, well…um…might that be the first sign that we’re not?

 

One of the best ways to move humbly and yes, confidently, into a situation then is to take with us a healthy skepticism about our own ability and a healthy apprehension about the complexity of the situation. If we keep those two ideas in mind, we might use the phrase, “I got this,” less often, or not at all.

What do you think a better phrase might be?

2016-03-18T07:41:17-04:00

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Written by Dave Fleming