The Confidence Trick


01012017103020171101 (R4)The meek may well inherit the earth, but right now that looks like it will be a long time coming. As things stand, it is those brash blusterers who strut and swagger their way around the political, social and business stages who seem to be in the ascendancy.
In this new three part series, Laura Barton sets out to examine the increasingly important part confidence appears to play in modern life, at the point when so many of us are beset by problems surrounding our own self-confidence. She speaks with the likes of Stuart Maconie, who argues that, "We've become obsessed with confidence and self-assertion.... it seems to be a new strain in our thinking. Isn't quiet modest competence a better thing?"
Over the course of the series Laura examines the key role of our background and education in determining our levels of confidence, teasing out the intricate interplay between aspects including class, gender, psychology and even architecture.
She hears how our inclination to follow those who seem most confident can lead us into dark waters, and looks at the complicated connections between confidence and creativity.
Laura also explores her own vexed relationship with this commodity that has so often proved elusive in her own life, seeking out an alternative to the brazen, pushy version of confidence that is currently so dominant.
In this first episode, Laura speaks with the likes of Marina Hyde, Susan Cain, Katty Kay and high-wire walker Chris Bullzini to look at how we have come to be so in thrall to confidence and those most assured of their own opinions. She heads into the workplace to look at the ways the loudest and the cockiest most often rule the roost, and attempts being made to give more space and weight to the voices of those given to quiet reflection in order to maximise their potential contribution.
Laura also hears from entrepreneur Luke Johnson who argues that we should embrace confidence as "an essential element of any free-market system," without which we would "probably still be living in caves."
Presenter: Laura Barton
Producer: Geoff Bird.

Laura Barton examines the place of confidence in modern life.

Laura Barton explores the place of confidence in modern life.

01022017110620171108 (R4)In the second part of her three part series, Laura Barton explores the extent to which the schools we attend and our social backgrounds more generally play a part in determining our levels of confidence.
She visits a state comprehensive school and an independent fee-paying school, both in the North West of England, to discover how much effort is made to ensure the confidence of pupils is actively developed, and the means by which that development might take place. She questions how far the network of influential contacts more readily made at private schools can help generate confidence in pupils as they set out into the world, but hears too how for many youngsters today a mask of confidence can often cover a sense of insecurity.
Laura speaks to figures such as Joe Queenan, Dreda Say Mitchell and Stuart Maconie about the ways the place you come from can influence confidence, whether that's the vast expanses of America, the East End of London or the industrial north of England. For Queenan, his own self-confidence comes from a combination of indifference to others' attitude towards him, and a childhood in relative poverty. Once you know you can deal with that, he says, such things as public speaking that terrify so many carry little fear.
Laura follows up her notion that an unexpected factor in determining is architecture and the built environment in which we're raised, asking expert John Grindrod how correct Winston Churchill was when he said that, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
Presenter: Laura Barton
Producer: Geoff Bird.

Laura Barton examines the place of school and background in determining confidence.

Laura Barton explores the place of confidence in modern life.

01032017111320171115 (R4)Laura Barton completes her three-part examination of the place of confidence in modern life with a personal quest to explore the role of confidence in our everyday lives and relationships.
She begins by speaking with Maria Konnikova, author of 'The Confidence Game' about the history and methodology of con artists who invite us to place our confidence in them before betraying that trust. We should, she concludes, be very wary of a kind of confidence that is loud and intended to mislead us.
Laura seeks out an alternative version of confidence that might enrich us, taking part in a professional workshop to find out whether, in the words of another attendee, it's possible to display confidence "without turning into a jerk."
She speaks with the workshop leader, psychotherapist Jo Ellen Grzyb, about how she has managed to move from being 'a human doormat' in her early life to being the head of an organisation teaching people how to become more confident.
Laura also meets voice coach Patsy Rodenburg, who has for many years helped world leaders, actors and business figures develop their self-confidence through a variety of physical and mental exercises. Too many people, she warns, adopt a 'fake it til you make it' approach that is, she says, little more than a bluff and no replacement for a more systematic and long term approach to building up a meaningful measure of confidence.

Laura Barton concludes her three-part series on the place of confidence in modern life.

Laura Barton explores the place of confidence in modern life.