On Second Thought…

Some interesting research shows that on first impulse we tend to not judge our own abilities very well. We usually overrate but occasionally underestimate our abilities, and it’s only after a moment’s reflection, during which our brain gets a chance to bring its full capabilities to the evaluation, that we can estimate our skills more accurately.

You’ve probably heard of the studies where almost all drivers rate their driving as better than other drivers, a patently unrealistic self-evaluation. (Although, truth-be-told I’m pretty sure my skills do put me in the top tier of drivers. J)

Clearly, we could often do a better job of evaluating ourselves.

When studies go back and re-ask self-evaluation questions after a moment’s pause, people’s answers are a more realistic assessment. How good are you at estimating time? “Excellent?”

Pause – How excellent? “Oh, pretty good when I’m paying attention” “I mean I’m ok.”

This information may be particularly important for those who have a tendency toward impulsive and overly-hopeful projections. Consider those times when you’ve quickly answered a question about when you will be home with “Half an hour!” After pausing for a minute to consider and work out the actual undertakings involved, you might agree that most likely the correct answer would be an hour or more.

If you can develop the habit of pausing before estimating, you will give yourself time to tap into your ability to compute details and you’ll allow your intuitive side time to process relevant unconscious information and experiences. Your reliability is crucial to your reputation and long-term prospects so don’t answer “Sure!” without a pause to deliberate. Put the brakes on your old habit of spontaneous answers; practice a specific reply that is both cooperative and announces that you’re going to take a second to consider your answer.

“Can you take on this new project? It’s due Friday”

Pause. Take a breath. Now, schedule a longer pause by saying, “Let me check my schedule and task list to be sure I give you a realistic answer.” Knowing what you’d like to answer is not the same as knowing what you’re likely to answer under pressure.

Practice! You’ve practiced saying yes for years, that’s what you’re likely to say unless you practice the new response, “Let me check my schedule and task list to be sure I give you a realistic answer.”