Confidence Tip: Call Their Bluff

I got this idea from a sport psychologist named Allen Fox. He called it "calling your opponent's bluff." It can help improve your confidence in games. Let me explain.

If you're not familiar with the phrase "call their bluff," it is from poker. A poker player may be "bluffing," meaning they are acting like they have good cards, but they really don't. Their confidence that they are portraying is supposed to discourage their opponents. But a smart poker player knows when to "call their bluff," meaning they don't believe that their opponent actually has good cards. They think they are lying. Since they think they are lying, they are able to maintain their confidence. This same kind of situation can happen in sports. Here is an example:

Imagine two equally skilled basketball teams are facing each other. One team may be winning by 10 points at halftime. It may seem like the winning team may be superior to the losing team and should win the game. But people don't realize how much luck can influence a game. Perhaps the winning team got all the lucky breaks during the first half. Maybe most of the tipped balls went in their direction. Maybe they made a couple lucky shots. Maybe the refs gave them some calls that they didn't deserve. Maybe the losing team got very unlucky on some missed shots. During halftime, the winning team that was lucky may be very confident, and the losing team that was unlucky may be discouraged. But if they are smart, and consider how luck has influenced the game, their mindsets will be different. The winning team, even though they are winning by 10 points may not be that confident in their ability to win. They may think "I know we're winning, but we got many lucky breaks. I don't know if we can maintain that luck throughout the 2nd half. And our opponents will likely not continue to get unlucky."

On the outside, the winning team may try act like they are the superior team and are confident in their chances of winning. But the losing team needs to "call their bluff". They need to think to themselves, "We know you're not actually better than us! We know you got lucky in the first half! We know that you won't be able to play that well in the 2nd half! We know that you're nervous that you won't be able to maintain your lead! We know that we still have a good chance of coming back and winning this game!" This type of self-talk improves your confidence.

It is best to use this kind of self-talk when it matches up with reality. Don't try to call their bluff when they're not actually bluffing. Maybe your opponent is actually way better than you and didn't get lucky. In these cases, it may be better to use a different, more realistic self-talk to maintain your confidence. It is important to pay attention to what is actually happening in the game so you can have good and realistic self-talk. If you notice that your opponent is in fact getting lucky, and you notice that you're playing well but have received some bad luck, then you can "call their bluff" and use in this kind of self-talk to improve your confidence.