Brainfood: Are you suffering from false authority syndrome

The term was originally coined for IT experts whose knowledge of computers was more basic than they let on. One minute they were fixing the office computer, the next they were being asked to treat viruses and develop software that normally require a PhD from MIT. As nobody understood a word they said, their opinion was taken as gospel truth. Pretty soon, they had convinced themselves as well as others. Typical sufferers are bankers, doctors and lawyers; by using fancy terms and an authoritative voice, they can disguise the fact that they don't have a clue what they're talking about. Often it's the person on the receiving end (the client) who has to be treated, largely for being taken in by all the gobbledygook.

by Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest disorders to tackle. Start by asking the sufferer: 'What exactly do you mean?' If they can't explain, assume they have no idea what they're on about and renegotiate their fee.

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