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Re: What you refuse to see, is your worst trap

by demerphq (Chancellor)
on Jul 01, 2003 at 18:26 UTC ( #270590=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to What you refuse to see, is your worst trap

Im not so sure if I buy this "if you think you are good then you probably aren't". Ive noticed that most people that fall into the "i think i'm good" camp often are the same people who fall into the "I can do no wrong, and even when I do there is _always_ a damn good reason" camp as well. And IMO its the latter psychology that is really dangerous. Not being able to admit (to yourself) that you've done a stupid (forgive the juvenile term :-) is the biggest drawback to learning IMO. When you cant admit your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them over and over. Critical assesment is a crucial aspect of learning.

For instance I personally think im a pretty good Perl programmer. (For some such definition :-)But when I look at my code (from before today :-) im always thinking, "gosh that was dumb", "what on earth was I smoking there?", "oh jeeze, did I do that?" and the like. (Actually my most feverent desire when i review my old code is to completely rewrite it.) To me this is a positive sign. Ive learned something between when I wrote the code and when i read the code that im now factoring in to my assesment. However Ive worked with people who when you say "what were you doing here?" they then give you half an hour of BS about why they had great reasons to write buggy code that didnt work (or why they overwrote your newest source files by being careless with source control...) And the thing I've found is that next week they will have done the same thing again. And the week following.... The point is becuase they wont register the fact that they made an error they wont register the solution to the error. Its impossible to learn to NOT do something when you have managed to convince yourself that it wasnt an error in the first place.

Anyway, INAP, but I do think that there is a difference between the inability to admit you are wrong (or have done something stupid) and the type of ego that leads people to wander around telling everybody how good they are (and proving how bad they are with every extra word :-) The trouble is I think that virtually all of the latter are also the former. But occasionally you find someone who cant admit they are wrong but isnt an ego maniac. I think people like that are worse in some respects becuase its possible to develop a positive relationship with them and get fooled by their conduct for quite a while. Its only when you notice that _nothing_ is _ever_ their fault that you realize that youve been (essentially) conned. Ego maniacs on the other hand are readily identifiable so its much easier to be on your guard.

Anyway, thanks for yet another insightful node. Itll be weeks before I get around to reading all the cool links you've provided. :-)


---
demerphq

<Elian> And I do take a kind of perverse pleasure in having an OO assembly language...


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Re: Re: What you refuse to see, is your worst trap
by tilly (Archbishop) on Jul 09, 2003 at 02:20 UTC
    My apologies for taking so long to get back to you on this. I have been offline for a bit.

    I think that your first paragraph has a nice piece of irony in it:

    Im not so sure if I buy this "if you think you are good then you probably aren't". Ive noticed that most people that fall into the "i think i'm good" camp often are the same people who fall into the "I can do no wrong, and even when I do there is _always_ a damn good reason" camp as well. And IMO its the latter psychology that is really dangerous. Not being able to admit (to yourself) that you've done a stupid (forgive the juvenile term :-) is the biggest drawback to learning IMO. When you cant admit your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them over and over. Critical assesment is a crucial aspect of learning.
    The first sentence says that you don't agree with my observation that, if you think you are good then you probably aren't. However the second sentence goes on to say that, on the odds, if you are someone who thinks you are good, then you probably someone whose feedback mechanism is broken. Which is what I said, except that I went into more detail on how the feedback mechanism gets broken.

    About the rest of what you said, it is a good point that it is unwise to associate what I was talking about with a single stereotypical pattern of external behaviour. Likewise I think that it is important to not associate it with a single pattern. A note in the silver edition about a chapter written 25 years earlier says that, Looking over the first edition, I see that I was already protecting myself from blame in the way programmers usually do -- by moving to the meta-level. This is definitely true for me. Rather than take pride in my code, I take pride in how well I learn. Which means that when I am confronted with ways in which I limit my ability to learn from others (for instance by causing common communication issues to come up repeatedly, eliminating opportunities to learn), it is hard for me to accept that the pattern repeats itself, and that my behaviour has something to do with it.

    In other words I suffer the same problem. Just metaed a level or two up. Which might be a better place to suffer the problem (or so I tell myself), but it still has limited me...

      your first paragraph has a nice piece of irony

      Well spotted. I hadn't noticed the inconsistancy. I guess my desire to point out that not only "I am the best" types suffer from this "I can do no wrong" syndrome overruled my logical facilites enough to overlook the fact that if most of the former are also the latter then the your base point was valid. I should know better than to not think my reasoning through before I post. :-)

      Although I do think its a mistake to focus on the bighead aspect and its more productive to look at why people sometimes get themselves in a head space where they take no responsibility for their errors. I think that perhaps even attacking the latter syndrome probably ends up reducing the former. I think actually that one of the links you posted (excellent reads by the way, the Forbes one got printed out given to some people at work, in my company the Level 5 analysis is particular pertinent) said much the same thing. (Teaching people more about a domain leads them to more accurately predict how much they dont know.)

      Once again many thanks for yet another stimulating node. Please keep posting!


      ---
      demerphq

      <Elian> And I do take a kind of perverse pleasure in having an OO assembly language...
        Although I do think its a mistake to focus on the bighead aspect and its more productive to look at why people sometimes get themselves in a head space where they take no responsibility for their errors.

        Ummm...I am focussing on the "bighead aspect" because it is the best theory I have for why people get themselves into that headspace. The "big head" is not always expressed overtly, but it seems to consistently be there in a lot of different forms of defensive behaviour.

        Furthermore various comments that I have found suggest that knowing this tendancy is very useful in practice. Specifically being aware of the fact that perceived threats to egos generate often illogical defensive reactions helps in understanding and avoiding defensive behaviour in people. I have personally seen examples involving both myself and others where this seems to have worked. I have also had recent discussions with several people who I have known for a while are good at threading past potential conflicts, and been told that they know this theory already and use it conciously. And finally a number of comments that I have read through the years finally fell into place - upon subsequent re-reading I see how much good advice on dealing with people follows from this principle of human behaviour.

        That makes me believe that the theory is more important to learn than any specific dynamic that it clarifies. Which is why I focussed on it.

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