Four Rules for Confident Conversations

Forgive me if I rant a wee bit, here:

  1. If you know a lot about the subject (more than those around you) then speak up confidently and share what you know.
  2. If you know a little about the subject (less than those around you) then ask constructive questions—share what you don’t know.
  3. If you know nothing about the subject, then shut up and listen—eventually you’ll come to understand at least a little.
  4. If no one in the conversation knows what they’re talking about—change the subject.

Notice that in none of these cases do you have any reason to hesitate, self-deprecate, or apologize for speaking up. Certainly, you should distinguish opinions from factual claims, and express reservations or qualifications some of the time. But whenever I hear a fake apology: I’m not a scientist, but… or I don’t know that much about economics, but obviously… I’m going to assume you’re in case 2 or 3, pretending to be in case 1.

Short version: if you have to apologize for what you’re about to say, don’t say it.

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