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Like anyone who’s spent enough time on the internet, I have spent a handful of hours puttering through TVtropes, enjoying the endless rabbit hole of meta-content. One that I’ve always been fond of is Lampshading:

the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief by calling attention to it and simply moving on

There’s a blogpost by Shawn Wang on the topic that I initially wanted to add to my note about faking it but that I think deserves its own note.

Shawn’s points

Shawn, evangelist of learning in public that he is, thinks lampshading has a similar power for a worker/learner/techie as it does for a tv writer. By calling attention to your ignorance or shortcoming, you

“deprive critics and opponents of their ammunition” -TVTropes and Shawn’s post

Being honest about the things you don’t know or the things you suck at up front allows you to worry less about being called out by others for them. However, I think there’s a serious caveat on the practice:

Lampshading should only be used for things you do or don’t know, not for things you are or aren’t good at

This is much the same discussion as in faking it, but we’re bad evaluators of our own competency and talent. If somebody says “can you do x” your response shouldn’t contain a lot of disclaimers or qualifiers. Keep it to a yes or a no. Lampshading in that scenario actually kneecaps your credibility because if you respond “yes but I’m not good at x” then one of three things will happen:

  1. The person asking will say “oh then I won’t ask you to do x” and you’ll miss out on opportunities to learn and demonstrate competency
  2. The person asking will have you do it, and you will:
    1. Fail, which they will be more disappointed by since you primed them for disappointment
    2. Succeed, which will make them ask…

“Why did you say (insert your lampshading)”

Which again, hurts your image in the end, because now that person knows your self-assessments are inaccurate. Or worse…

If you haven’t binged all of Great British Bakeoff on Netflix, this is Ruby. She was the youngest baker of her season, and every single week she would denigrate her baking (sometimes in front of the judges!) and often, the judges would say “well actually, what you’ve made is good,” with growing irritability each week. You do yourself no favors by airing dirty laundry, especially in situations where it doesn’t fully exist.

Lampshading crushes your own


The TVTropes article

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