Don’t Be The Armchair Quarterback; Be the Wise Coach

By Jimmy Warden

A lot of people have a tendency to make assumptions about others when they don’t genuinely understand who that other person is and what they’re going through. Some of these assumptions might sound like, “This person is so dumb, they don’t know what they’re doing”; “This person has it out for me”; “I can’t believe this person doesn’t understand all that I’ve done for them”; the list can go on and on. The sad part about this is, a lot of people in our world are not trying to do harm to others. Is that me being naive? Perhaps. I am only twenty-seven and still have many years left in my life (hopefully!). However, there are often times when we get caught up in genuinely thinking that other people are doing the wrong things, are inherently lazy, and trying to make other people’s lives difficult. This is what I call being an “armchair quarterback”.

I first heard of this phrase when I read Adam Grant’s book, Think Again. In it, he talks about the Dunning Kruger Effect. Essentially, the Dunning Kruger Effect is thinking you know more about a topic than you really do. In some cases, we also tend to think we know certain people better than we do. As a result of this ignorance, we make false assumptions against people in our lives based on our lack of knowledge about them, thinking the assumptions are actually truth. The reason why Grant refers to this idea as being an “armchair quarterback” is to make an analogy with football. Every football fan instantly becomes an expert on Monday morning about why their team won or lost; when in reality they have nothing to do with the actual outcome of the game. The players and coaches do. However, the “armchair quarterback” truly believes they are an expert because of the amount of football they’ve watched without playing a single snap of professional football.

To bring it back to the original argument, it is easy for us to judge others based on how we think we would do in a given situation. We see someone do something and we instantly think, “I could do that better” or”I’d do it this way instead”. That’s just being an armchair quarterback. Sure, we may have been in a very similar situation and the outcome could have been different that the one that we just viewed, but no two situations are the exact same. Instead, we should just try to be a wise coach.

The wise coach is an analogy that I thought about while writing this blog. I am sure I am not the only one who has tried to coin the term and I am sure I won’t be the last. The wise coach is someone who has been there and done that. Someone who has walked the walk more than they’ve talked the talk. The wise coach listens and understands. Their actions speak louder than any of their words, but their words still hold a lot of power. The wise coach is thoughtful when they speak. They don’t necessarily offer advice, but when asked to lend some, they give the best damn advice anyone has heard. The wise coach is honest in their judgement of both themselves and others.

So before we start to judge each other and proclaim what everyone else should be doing, let’s recognize that being an “armchair quarterback” is only contributing to our own ignorance as people. Instead, we should try to experience something before truly being able to give advice because with experience comes true wisdom.

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