There are 2 types of trust. One leads to success, the other to failure

How confident are you? It may seem like a simple question, but it’s not because we use the word confident to describe two different things. One type of trust is social trust, our sense of comfort in social situations, and our expectation that others will accept us. The other is epistemic trustconfidence that you are right in your opinions or conclusions.

In other words, if you can walk into a room full of strangers feeling relaxed, with your head held high, and easily starting a conversation with the first stranger you see, you have social confidence. If you are absolutely sure that your approach to marketing your company’s product will work better than any other, then you have epistemic confidence.

In a fascinating article on, Julia Galef, host of the “Rationally Speaking” podcast, and co-founder of the Center for Applied Ratioality broken both types of trust. And she cited experiments that show that people with social confidence are more likely to be perceived as confident, capable and likable than those who display epistemic confidence. But I believe that the difference between the two types of trust is even more important and profound.

Why social trust leads to success.

I always believed that the ability to feel comfortable talking with strangers was a superpower. One of the reasons I believe this is that it worked that way for me. This allowed me to land new clients. It got me a number of interviews and other help that I wanted. This allows me to take advantage of a simple presentation or a chance meeting, and to work the room during an event in order to be able to identify the people I most want to meet and then meet them. (There’s a lot more on this in my new book, Career personal care.) If you also consider the research that shows people with social confidence are viewed as more likable and capable, it’s easy to see why social confidence is a huge plus in the business world.

Why epistemic trust leads to failure.

As Jeff Bezos and others have observed, the smartest people are often those who are the least opinionated and the most open to changing their minds. Galef notes that Steve Jobs was famous for his ability to abruptly and completely change his mind. It’s easy enough to see how, in a rapidly changing world, having the flexibility to rethink your beliefs when warranted could be a real plus, while stubbornly clinging to yesterday’s certainties could drag you down. .

How to be the right kind of confident.

How to develop social confidence? As with many things, it helps if you practice. So look for opportunities to be in social situations that take you out of your comfort zone a bit. Arrive armed with a few conversation starters that will help you talk with the people you just met. Volunteer to give presentations or otherwise place yourself in front of an audience – again, a small audience at first. The more positive experiences like these you can accumulate, the more your social confidence will grow.

Although more difficult, it is also worth challenging your own epistemic confidence. The next time you hear yourself declare that you know something is absolutely true, stop for a moment to ask yourself how you know it’s true and if circumstances have changed that might make it less true than before. It will help if you surround yourself with people who have different backgrounds and perspectives than you and are willing to disagree with you if they think you are wrong or haven’t considered all angles.

There is a growing audience of readers who receive a daily text from me with a micro-challenge or an idea for self-care or motivation. Often they text me back and we end up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? Here’s more information and an invitation to a two-month free trial.) Many are entrepreneurs or business owners and they tell me how vital it is to move quickly to a new approach when needed. And here’s another thing I learned from them: Truly confident people are never afraid to change their minds.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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