Every once in a while, a situation arises when you need instant credibility about your expertise on some subject. For instance, say you’re about to jump out of a plane tandem to an experienced parachuting instructor: (and by the way, you’re scared out of your mind):
“Don’t worry,” he says, “I’ve done this a lot!”
“Oh,” you stutter, “Okaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy…….” (That’s you being pulled out of a plane.)
You need to trust the tandem skydiver, right? So he tells you how often he does it: “…a lot,” that is. And you believe him because he’s done it before. To you, he’s now credible on some level. (Of course it doesn’t matter, anyway, because you just jumped out of a plane.) Kids are experts at this. The problem is, kids are convincing and they over-exaggerate. Here’s a scenario: Two kids are swinging on a swing set. One turns to the other and says, “You should flip backwards out of the swing when it’s all the way forward. It’s easy. I’ve done it a million times.” A million times, huh? If that’s not an expert, I don’t know what is. The other problem is, kids believe it. Kids believe almost anything that other credible kids say.
“Let’s climb on top of that slide and jump off the side. There’s gravel down there. Trust me, I’ve done it a million times.”
“Let’s ride this pillow down this steep flight of stairs. Don’t be scared. I’ve done it a million times!”
“Hey! Eat this mud pie. Don’t mind those bugs. I’ve done it a million times. It’s safe.”
But this doesn’t translate into adulthood. A million occurrences of anything is absurd. So what we do to convey our expertise on something now is to make a more logical proclamation of experience, like a “hundred times” or “a thousand.” Adults, however, are keen to even these more logical projections. So how do you fool adults in to believing you when you need it? Your coworker needs you to help them fill out some form. You say, “Sure. I’ve done it countless times.”
“Countless” is perfect. Who can question countless? No one. Either you’ve filled out that form so many times, you’ve actually lost count or it’s such a menial task that you don’t bother counting because you’ve done it so many times! Bingo! Next time you need someone to believe you, throw down a “countless. ‘ Even adults don’t know how to react.
Trust me, I’ve done it a million times!
By: S. Cole Garrett