Confidence vs Competence (or) How not to look the part

Abhishek Paul
2 min readAug 27, 2018

Growing up I remember listening to Prannoy Roy’s the “World this Week”. His wisps of white hair, neatly trimmed beard, the somber suits and a crisp, clear voice with perfect diction made a 8 year old interested in the news! I looked up to him as an expert in his field and did not think to question his views.

I stopped watching the show, but my mind continued to associate a certain style of image (appearance, behaviour and speech) with expertise. Whether it was the news (BBC, CNN, NDTV), entertainment (sports commentators) or at work, I continued to place a higher value on those who looked and spoke a particular way. In other words I believed a confident person was a competent person and vice versa.

I now realize how wrong / naive I was. My current view is that those who invest heavily in the “image” are not the most valuable sources of insight nor are they necessarily the most trustworthy. Their image is infact a compensatory mechanism for insufficient expertise. Nassim Taleb wrote why “Surgeons should not look like surgeons” — where he says that the best surgeon is someone who doesn’t look like a doctor from a Hollywood movie, but rather like a butcher. The rationale being that if he was still in business despite his unorthodox appearance, he must be really good in his job.

The same goes for language — I am trying to consciously differentiate between fluency in a particular language and value transacted. This means no TV news anchors, no TED like speakers, etc. My listening skills needed improvement (setting different filters) to be able to pick insights from inarticulate speakers (language / expressing difficulties).

Now, I listen to people despite their fluent articulation and not because of it!