May 29, 2015

Are You Sure, or Are You MAN Sure? May 29th, 2015

No doubt this will come as a shock to you, dear reader, but I am knee deep in yet another book.  Before I tell you what it is about, however, I want to point out that sometimes (maybe even usually) hanging around with people who are different from you is a great way to encourage you to try new things.  See, before I met Mike, I was entirely devoted to fiction.  Mike, on the other hand, did not really see the point in reading anything that wouldn’t provide him with information or knowledge (although we’ve definitely had *that* debate about how truly educational fiction can be).  Mike now reads some fiction, and I read some non-fiction.

When I was looking to get my next titles for book club, I faced that modern dilemma of the book-buying public: my order was just over $20, but just under $25, so either I needed to choose another book, or pay for shipping.

As if that is even a choice.

I decided to grab a non-fiction book entitled “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know.” It’s written by two women (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman) which can lend it a bit of an odd feel.  For instance, upon entering a building and spotting a crazy glass sculpture:

…”Extremely Dr. Seuss, we remarked.”

I suddenly had an image of the two authors whipping around and saying to each other “JINX!  You owe me a SODA!”  That, or some weird kind of mind meld.

In any case, it’s a breezy but interesting read about the difference between knowing something and having the guts to rely on your belief that you know something.  Interestingly, it reflects perfectly a concept I thought I had invented.  Several years ago, I noticed that there are two kinds of “certainty.”  There is the certainty that comes of bravado, and there is the certainty that comes of being abso-freakin’-lutely sure that you fully and entirely understand what you are saying.  The first, I’ve dubbed “man sure.”

I would like to point out that this particular turn-of-phrase entered my lexicon far before “mansplain” became a thing.  If you’re not familiar with the term (even though I suspect what you’re thinking is likely correct), here is a great definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary.  Lest I be run through with the righteous sword of man-nism, I should explain that this is a question of tendencies, much like men tend to be taller and stronger than women.  It’s not to say that Serena Williams couldn’t take down Peewee Herman with the lightest of taps from her mighty tennis racquet, but I think you’ll agree that in general women tend to need to rely on their superior intellect to combat the brute force approach of the average male.  Okay, again with the generalizations…

Getting back to “man sure,” though, thus far this book has informed me that this is actually a measurable thing.  That men overestimate their own ability to do something and women underestimate.  The fascinating part comes when their beliefs are artificially manipulated.  If women are told they are good at something and then asked to do it, they’ll do far better than they would have without this confidence booster.  Men do this automatically. Crucially, the overall differences in how well men and women accomplish tests, their rates of success, almost entirely even out when their beliefs about their abilities are eliminated.

Isn’t that mind-boggling?

It occurs to me that I would not believe this without some back-up, but I have spent a lot of time doing research this week, so I’ll direct you to the book for their research, or let you do your own googling.

I guess you could look at this as a question of: do women need to add something to their approach to life, or do we need to remove something? Because I’m all about de-cluttering here, and getting rid of things I don’t need, I’m going to say that we need to cast off notions about our own limitations.  Kay and Shipman make the analogy of treating oneself the way one would treat a friend.  If a friend says “do you think I can do X?” and you have even a bit of confidence that s/he can, you enthusiastically support them and encourage them to go for broke.  Why not do this for ourselves?

What a great concept.  I am going to go out on a limb here, too, and suggest that men who lack confidence could also benefit from taking this approach.

And I would like to suggest that when your darling husband tells you he is “sure” that the concert starts at 7:30, or he is “sure” that the ticket was paid in time, or that he is “sure” he remembered to lock the door…it really doesn’t hurt to inquire as to whether he is “sure” or just “man sure.”*

Day 210 scorecard: 1050 down, 775 to go.

* this has saved us time, money, and frustration.  I assure you.

 

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