Chances are, you have seen the low-confidence death spiral up close at some point in your life. You go to a meeting and someone gets up to give a presentation. He clearly doesn’t have command of the material, so he talks softly into his collar using a shaky voice. Someone asks him to speak up and he loses his composure. While people may feel bad for the speaker, compassion won’t change the fact that any chance he had to convey his point is lost.
The reason that your own level of confidence matters is that people often need help making judgments about quality. The psychologist Dan Ariely performed an interesting experiment. He had people contemplate the value of him reading his own poetry. For some people, he first asked them how much they would be willing to pay to hear him read his poetry. Others were asked how much they would need to be paid to hear him read his poetry. Later, people felt that Ariely’s poetry was more desirable if they were asked how much they would be willing to pay than if they were asked how much they would need to be paid. (In many ways, this is like the story of Tom Sawyer charging people to paint his fence.)
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