|Daily Dose of Reason - Psychology & Self-Improvement|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2012 00:00|
People who can’t be criticized—and who react with great hostility at any hint of criticism—are revealing something important about themselves.They reveal that they don’t hold their convictions and viewpoints about various matters through carefully reasoned out, fact-based judgments. Instead, they form conclusions based only on emotions. Naturally, they feel threatened when one of these non-rationally based conclusions is questioned by a thinking mind. In a sense, they expect you to respond to their emotions as they do: By treating them as equivalent to truth.
Consider the mindset of a person who is not hostile to criticism. “I arrived at my conclusions through facts, reason and logic. I’m prepared to explain how, and am happy to do so to any
As a result, you get a calm, patient and substantive answer when you raise a question. Any impatience you find in a rational person will only be minor and occasional. This is because patience comes from confidence, and confidence comes from certainty. Be careful, though, when you consider “certainty.” There’s a type of person who’s “pseudo-certain.” I know it’s a contradiction in terms, but I’m making it up only to illustrate the point. A pseudo-certain person is pretending to know something that he in fact has not yet verified through an independent and rational process of fact gathering and reason. Maybe he’s going on faith from someone else. Maybe he’s going on a gut feeling that, in all honesty, he’s not sure about. Maybe he’s just making it all up as he goes along. Whatever the context, such a person seeks the trappings of certainty without the inescapable mental and intellectual infrastructure that makes certainty possible:
What happens in practice is that such a person becomes a blowhard, at least in the areas where he’s trying to fake certainty. He tends to preach, intimidate and cut you off. He’s pompous and impatient. These are the psychological manifestations of the anxiety created by trying to fake something. There are other manifestations, as well.
Some knowledge-fakers fawn and swoon with reassuring comments such as, “Of course!” and “Oh, that’s exactly right, just what I thought.” Such people are nicer to deal with on the surface, but as you get to know them you understand that just because they claim to know something doesn’t mean they have verified it—or even have any knowledge of it at all. Ultimately you come to see them as their methods betray them to be: Superficial.
The only way to tell the difference between a genuinely competent person and a pseudo-certain person is to watch them over time. Check the correlation between asserted knowledge and actual truth. Are they almost always right when they claim to be certain? Or are they often wrong? If the latter, then find out what their reaction is when confronted with the contradiction. For example: “I know you told me that the party is on Saturday. It’s actually on Friday.” A blowhard will become defensive and irritated, acknowledging little or no ownership of the error. A superficial type will be nicer about it, but you will still find no acknowledgement of error.
The confident, competent person will admit the mistake and move on. People who engage in pseudo-certainty are reluctant to let go of the illusion that they know more than they really do. As a consequence, the responsibility for seeing them for whom they really are now falls on you.