Self-Trust & Skepticism (Paradox Pair #63)

Skepticism is critical for success, yet to be acted upon it has to clear the high bar of our self-trust.

Two people debating
Self-Trust & Skepticism, JLP

When we build solutions we create self-trust in our results. This self-trust is critical, otherwise we have no conviction in what we've created. When we put forth our efforts and make something we're proud of it can be hard to hear skepticism from others. However, skepticism is critical for success. If we're not careful we reject the criticism and seek ways to rationalize that choice.

We may view the skeptic as inferior in skill, or experience, to pass judgement on our work. We may disregard the evidence because we think it unlikely or deficient. We incorrectly substitute skepticism with distrust. We may let emotion or defensiveness get the better of us, after all we are the ones who put in the effort to solve the problem, aren't we?

For skepticism to be acted upon it has to clear the high bar of our self-trust. Let's assume for a moment that the critic is of equal talent, one who possess the experience, has capabilities equivalent to ours, and they demonstrate good judgement. In this case we have to evaluate the feedback on its merits. We can only come to three conclusions:

  1. Accept the criticism and revisit the topic/solution, make a better product
  2. Reject the skeptics, validating the original premise, increasing self-trust
  3. Stalemate

When we honor the skeptic's feedback by modifying our solution we obtain better outcomes. When we appraise the criticism solely on its worthiness, we strengthen our team. In these ways we demonstrate the cultural pillars we value: challenging assumptions and acting open-minded.

In the case of the stalemate conclusion, we still need to make a choice [see Ownership & The Tie-breaker, #37], and a compromise is often found. We can incorporate the feedback into our roadmap, we observe user behaviors to give us guidance, we prototype and test the assumptions. These types of solutions also show support for constructive criticism.

We seek skeptics, they give us their unique gift of insight. They make the effort to think about our work and share their conclusions. These are the teammates we want as part of our tribe.