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Sources of Confidence - Men Vs. Woman


Related to my post of yesterday regarding our blind spots, one of my favorite cerebral thinkers, David Brooks of the New York Times, raises interesting questions about gender based attitudes connected with CONFIDENCE.

Does our source of confidence differ by gender? How so? And if so, can our organizations achieve higher levels of performance, decision making, and behavior by optimizing sources of confidence throughout an organization?

To tickle your curiosity:

Access the 3 minute YouTube video referenced in David’s piece:  and see the excerpts below.  Hopefully I've hooked you in and you'll access the full piece directly.


The New York Times

April 22, 2013

The Confidence Questions



 I’m wondering, as we make this blend, whether most of us need more of the stereotypically female trait of self-doubt or the stereotypically male trait of self-promotion.

... many women are too self-critical about their looks while many guys are too self-flattering.

 I thought this might be a job for crowd-sourcing sociology. I’m going to throw out some questions. If you (women and men) send answers based on your experiences to, I’ll quote them in future columns. Please describe personal incidents, along with general observations.

1. The first question: A generation after the feminist revolution, are women still, on average, less confident than men?

I’m not sure we’ve achieved parity when it comes to elemental confidence. When you read diaries of women born a century or centuries ago, you sometimes see them harboring doubts about their own essential importance, assumptions that they are to play a secondary role on earth, and feelings that their identity is dependent on someone else. How much does that mind-set linger?

2 …the second question: Are women still more likely to flow into different domains in your organization?

Some psychologists have observed that male self-confidence tends to be based on efficacy, how they perform tasks, while female self-confidence tends to be based on self-worth, on more general traits like integrity and compassion. If that’s true, men may be more eager to prove themselves by leaping to do the hard jobs.

3. Do we undervalue the talent for self-criticism the women display in that video [the main Web video in the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign]?

... you want people to be assertive enough to leap forward, but you also want them to be self-aware enough to honestly evaluate themselves.

We have piles of evidence to show that people overtrust their judgment and overestimate their goodness. Also, there is no easy correlation between self-esteem and actual performance.

Maybe the self-criticism those women displayed in the Dove ad is a rare skill to be harnessed and valued, at least to a degree. Maybe the self-observation talents that lead to bad feelings because we are imperfect also lead to better decision-making and better behavior for those capable of being acutely aware of their imperfections.

4. … my final question: In society generally, are more problems caused by overconfidence or underconfidence?

Access David Brooks' Article And The New York Times:

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