strange behaviors

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Conclusion: Recognize What You Don’t Know

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 9, 2009

Men are more prone to overconfidence than women.  That is, we think we know more than we really do, and worse, we act on it, especially in areas we regard as male domains, like fixing the computer or investing in stocks.  Overconfidence leads to mistakes.  Studies routinely find, for instance, that male investors trade stocks significantly more often than do females, with the result that we do worse on the extra commission costs alone. We also tend to own riskier stocks.  (But could we not talk about that right now?)  Among psychologists, the general explanation is that women are more comfortable expressing fear and uncertainty. So they act more cautiously.  Men, on the other hand, are more comfortable with anger, male bravado, and aggressive decision-making.

Overconfidence isn’t entirely a bad thing.  Having positive illusions helps people deal with adversity, explore unknown territories, motivate allies, and bluff rivals. Unfortunately, it can also get you killed.  So is it possible to get the upside of male optimism without, say, demolishing a national economy?      Psychologists offer these pointers for overconfident males: When you have a great idea, let it ripen for a few days. Have somebody (what about a woman?) serve as the devil’s advocate, assigned to explain the possible hazards.  Separate decision-making, where overconfidence leads to mistakes, from action-taking, where overconfidence can boost morale. Be comfortable, finally, calling in the experts, particularly when a problem is complicated and the feedback is infrequent and ambiguous. That’s where overconfidence is most likely to get guys into trouble.

Keep in mind finally, that in some areas, like figuring out how to resolve a conflict, women may be the experts.  At one company, the male vice president was brilliant but afflicted with a minimal attention span.  He was obsessed with attracting a few glamorous high-dollar clients.  But his staff couldn’t get him to focus on the ordinary clients that were the firm’s bread and butter. What to do?  Men tend to view conflict through the lens of hierarchy and social dominance.  A simple disagreement can seem like an act of aggression, competition, and confrontation.  So we often just ignore a problem instead and hope it will go away.  Women are more likely to lay it on the table, in the nicest possible way, and work through the problem collaboratively.

A female manager named Laurie asked the attention-short vice president if he would play along with an idea she had, and when he showed up at the next meeting of their team, there was an elaborately wrapped gift in the middle of the table.  Every time the vice president strayed off topic to his high-dollar prospects, Laurie moved the gift farther away from him, and every time he dealt with the bread-and-butter clients, she moved it closer.  “Finally my boss uttered the magic words, ‘So you’re saying we really make our money….’  We all stood up and shouted ‘Yes!’”  Then everybody laughed, including the boss.  “He got the point, and we could move forward with some rational planning.  Plus he got the box.  Inside was a terrific little, high quality radio – a reward for good listening.”

Is this a problem-solving technique a guy could use?  Absolutely not.  It was far too cute, and too manipulative in a way that would probably have been unacceptable from another male.  The lesson is that thinking like a woman can often be a smart way for a guy to get ahead in the modern world.

But sometimes it’s also good to have the real thing.

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