Why It’s Strategic to Downplay Your Experience

This article is meant to caution you against setting others’ expectations of you too high.


The Dangers of Overestimating Your Skills and Experience

One of life’s more interesting scenarios to analyze is someone answering a question akin to, “Have you done this before?”

To the ignorance of the one answering, their answer can set the tune for how their interactions play out in the long run. Pride is a difficult thing to curb. Walking into a boxing class with moderate experience and communicating your experience level in front of onlookers is a tricky scenario to navigate. Does your definition of moderate match theirs? Though it is difficult for us to admit, our sense of pride often manages to squeeze into the picture.

A mistake people make is caving into the pressures of their ego amplified by the anxieties of the moment they find themselves in. They answer with confidence and pride and continue on to tell others how they’ve biasedly judged themselves.

Our experience is questioned when we are in the initial stages of getting to know the ones who ask. We often do not know how their standards compare to ours, and our judgment of our own experience can be way off in the eyes of someone else.


Low Expectation Is Better Than Disappointment

In order to understand the possible outcomes your words may lead to in depth, let’s first visualize the act of you risking to disappoint others by overemphasizing your level of expertise.

Though you may believe yourself to be an unbiased judge of your own skills, you never know how biased those who listen are themselves. In order to operate in a pure and unbiased domain, you depend on the listener to not have any biases of their own. Not being sensitive to your potential to disappoint people with your answer can have long lasting effects in your relationship with them. If they find the expectation you’ve encouraged to not be met, they will view you as someone who is dishonest about their level of skill.

People who overplay their experience tend to be lazy. They rely on words rather than results to change the minds of those who listen. In domains where experience is seen and not heard, these people are not respected. Their true colors always show, and their prior words are used against them in the minds of others. People won’t interpret them to operate with honesty in the promises that they make and the stories they tell.

Now let’s visualize you downplaying your experience, and setting a low expectation in the minds of those who’ve inquired into your expertise.

By setting expectations low, you not only limit the pressure that’s placed on you, but you arm yourself to better understand the people you’re dealing with. You will buy yourself time to analyze your surroundings and the skill level of the people who you’ve just met.

By lowering expectation, you serve to not encourage attention placed on you. You’d be able to practice your craft on the side while taking in by what standard the people you’ve just met operate by. Be careful of downplaying your experience too much, as then you’d be understood as trying to trick people. The goal is to exude humility, not trickiness.

If done correctly, then the end-result will be an increased chance of pleasantly surprising onlookers. Their low expectation of you will slowly morph into them being impressed with what they see, and their perception will lead them to believing that you’re a humble person. People who pleasantly surprise us with their humility are seen as reliable.

We’d rather turn to a person who under-promises and over-delivers, than someone who makes grand promises only to come up short with their results. Strive to be the former, and aim to limit future disappointment. The hardest part of taking this advice, is to curb your desire for immediate respect garnered by the answer you give regarding your level of experience in a specific domain.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.