Reassurance

Monday, March 26, 2012 @ 4:11 am

Reassurance is a double-edged blade. Why? There are a couple of facets to this thought: needing reassurance and giving reassurance.

Needing reassurance. This isn’t the main thing about this entry, but I just wanted to touch on it. There is a spectrum of needing reassurance: Low = Medium = High. Needing reassurance and self-confidence levels negatively correlate where the less you need reassurance, the more self-confident you are.

Those who don’t seek reassurance often can either be perceived positively, as “mature”, a “pillar of strength”, “a Chuck Norris/Rambo”, or negatively, “antisocial”, “foolish”, and “arrogant”. This depends strongly on what they’re able to achieve without needing reassurance, or a vote of confidence from another individual about their own confidence.

Skipping the Average level (average = average), jumping straight to those who seek reassurance often, the same case as the above, can be seen in a positive (“consensus-building”, “collaborative”, “inclusive”), or negative (“needy”, “uncertain”, “incompetent”) light. What matters is being successful after gathering reassurance (and ideas) from others.

So one thing is common in both examples: there is nothing wrong with being a “nomad” (low required reassurance) or being someone who naturally asks for reassurance from others. There are pros and cons to both; the common theme is being able to embrace where you fall on this spectrum and pull things off. If you’re similar to me, someone who has a slightly below-average level of self-confidence (and a slightly higher need of reassurance), I go to different people for basically a vote of confidence, similar to saying “You’re in the right direction, keep up the good work”. I’ve come to embrace this because it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion on things and include other people along the way (in projects, initiatives, and life in general).

Giving reassurance. This is where things get interesting (for me at least). Intrinsically, I’m a highly analytical and (reasonably) skeptical person. When people (try to) reassure me, I can’t help but be skeptical and initially be doubtful. This will probably be easier to understand with examples, so here are some:

  • “Can I borrow your essay? I swear I won’t submit it ad-verbatim”
    • “… unless I procrastinate to the point where I will copy it word-for-word, submit it, and get you in academic trouble.”
  • “You can trust me.”
    • Trust, to me, is a precious thing. I’ve learned to cautiously invest trust in people due to bad past experiences shattering the trust I had in them.
    • Yes, I “invest” trust; I don’t give it freely. If I invest trust, just like money, I expect trust in return. Don’t say it without being genuine about it.
  • “Don’t worry, I’m okay.”
    • I get worried if someone says this to me, and I have a natural need to make sure they’re really “okay”
    • To me, this relates to reverse psychology: either you’re really not okay, or you are intending on getting another person to reassure you you’re okay
  • “You won’t find a better price anywhere else.”
    • No explanation needed

So, how would one reassure a person like me?

  • Unless I’ve come to know how you are/interact with other people (e.g. genuinely as a friend with good values or shallow in order to just leech off of me), I will be skeptical
  • Have a positive track record and be able to pull things off; have things to support what you say
  • Mention the two words “trust me” to me with extreme care
  • I’m mostly skeptical of people who talk “too much” (in the sense of being like a salesperson), so don’t fluff up what you say and don’t repeat things over and over. One of my personal pet peeves is people who say the same things more than once.
    • Repetition, to me, equates to uncertainty, fear and/or hidden intentions behind what is being said

Another point of this entry is not to give reassurance/receive reassurance too easily. Don’t be easily blinded by the words of others, and don’t give reassurance to others where you’re not being sincere about it. It’s safer to be skeptical than not, but don’t be paranoid.