How do you know if you are too ‘up yourself’?

#3 The managing overwhelm series

Do you have someone in your world who tends to become an expert on something very quickly? They might have done something once or twice, or even for a while, and now they are the walking expert. I’ll start with a self-confession. That used to be me. I can see my brothers’ sly smile already.

I remember backpacking through Türkiye (was known as Turkey then) in my early 20’s. I travelled mainly down the west coast. We met lots of fellow travellers and the locals who owned the hostels and rug shops (the apple tea they served was amazing). 

One day we hired a bus and local driver (who spoke no English) to take us to gorgeous Bodrum Beach. It was an 8 hour round trip from Istanbul. We shared our lunch and music with the driver. Smiles and laughter had by all. On the way back, he took us off the main roads. Suddenly, we were in a local community that looked really poor with no electricity and things looked a lil’ scary to be honest.

He ended up taking us to his home, to meet his wife and 4 kids. After much talking between him and his wife (that we didn’t understand) we were asked to sit on the floor of his home. There was only a carpet in the room (no chairs or tables). They were clearly not well off. And they shared all the food they had in their fridge with the 3 of us. Just whoa! It was an incredible experience. The generosity and love. One local in the village, who spoke some English, told us that because we shared our lunch with him, he was compelled to return the favour.

And from there, I became an expert on the generosity of the locals! Not just that small community. But all of Türkiye. Yep. Fraid so. Oh to be young and know everything again! And I would defend my position even if others thought differently.

I’d love to say it’s just a youthful trait that wears off as we age. But no. I have met and have been a know-it-all, with little knowledge, across all ages. So why does this happen so easily? To be a know-it-all only with little pieces of knowledge to show for it?

We all tend to have some form of this cognitive bias where people (with limited knowledge or competence) in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge or competence. Basically, we think we are smarter than we are. 

There is a name for this too. It’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We don’t recognise others’ expertise enough nor are we interested in it. Our ego needs to be very clever and very right. Or we fail to recognise skills in others – because we are the more knowledgeable one right?!

How else can this present?

  • You’ve made one great decision that paid off and now you’re the expert in that domain
  • You may have been around for a long time so you just know whether a project will fail or not
  • You may think you know what a new project is all about and fail to ask enough questions
  • You are a teenager. The end.

The moral of this? When it comes to managing overwhelm, don’t over-estimate your ability and therefore underestimate the cost/time/effort to get this done. Or not seek out the advice and expertise of others. Otherwise you’re a little too up yourself and you are making things harder than they need to be. Chances are people won’t let you know either.

Are you feeling overwhelmed at work right now? Do you want practical solutions to get some clarity and reduce the stress? Then come along to my workshop on Taming the chaos. Mastering overwhelm in the workplace. Check it out and register here.