Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

Women May Undermine Salary Negotiations with Excessive Gratitude

Andreas Leibbrandt

Candid self-disclosure hurt women’s salary negotiation outcomes when they disclosed that a salary that exceeded their expectations in a study by Monash University’s Andreas Leibbrandt and John A. List of the University of Chicago.

John List

John List

Some women applying for administrative assistant jobs were told that the wages were “negotiable,” and these women negotiated higher pay by a ratio of more than 3 to 1.
This result echoes previous findings tht women frequently do not negotiate unless given explicit permission.
However, women achieved higher salaries at about the same rate as men when invited to negotiate.

Leibbrandt and List tested this finding by not mentioning negotiation to the remaining participants.
Participants in this group typically provided “too much information” by saying that they were willing to work for a lower hourly rate.

Edward E. Jones

Edward E. Jones

Though this approach likely leads to lower salary, it could be considered strategic ingratiation.
This negotiation tactic can take several forms, according to Duke University’s Edward E. Jones:

-Self-presentation: Self-enhancement or “one-down” humility, providing favors or gifts,

-Flattery: “Other-enhancement” by sharing credible positive comments,

-Agreement: Opinion-conformity and matching non-verbal behavior.

The ingratiator’s intent may be to enhance the future working relationship, but could lead the negotiation partner to question the applicant’s judgment and confidence.
This maneuver may delay salary increases because the candidate expresses satisfaction with the original offer.

Steven H. Appelbaum

Steven H. Appelbaum

In contrast, “strategic ingratiation” resulted in promotion or pay increase, in a study by Concordia University’s Steven H. Appelbaum and Brent Hughes.

They found that this may have been influenced by situational and individual factors including:

  • Machiavellianism,
  • Locus of control,
  • Work task uniqueness.
Jeffrey Flory

Jeffrey Flory

Another of Leibbrandt and List’s randomized field studies, collaborating with Concordia colleague Jeffrey Flory, men did not wait for permission to negotiate when no statement was made about salary discussions.

In fact, male participants said they prefer ambiguous salary negotiation norms or “competitive work settings”  in which salary negotiation was typically expected.

Leibbrandt, List, and Flory concluded that women accept “competitive” workplaces when “the job task is female-oriented” and the local labor market leaves few alternatives.

Women who seek higher salaries benefit from proposing their “aspirational salaries” rather than waiting for permission to negotiate.
Women negotiators can achieve better outcomes when they offer moderate expressions of gratitude and avoid revealing their “reserve” salary figure.

-*In what work situations have you benefitted from applying ‘strategic ingratiation’?

-*To what extent have expressions of gratitude in negotiation undermined bargaining outcomes?

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©Kathryn Welds

When Do Women Talk More than Men?

Women talk more than men.
Women talk less than men.

-*Which is true?

It depends.

Kay Deaux

Kay Deaux

Context and expectations of the individual and others determine when females talk more than males, according to NYU’s Kay Deaux and Brenda Major of University of California Santa Barbara.

Brenda Major

Brenda Major

Participants equipped with digital “sociometers” recorded identities of people nearby and talk volume during a work collaboration project, and during lunchtime social conversations in a study by Harvard’s Jukka-Pekka Onnela and Sebastian Schnorf, with David Lazer of Northeastern and MIT colleagues Benjamin N. Waber and Sandy Pentland.

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

Jukka-Pekka Onnela

During the work project women talked significantly more than men, except when groups included seven or more people.
Larger group size suppressed women’s verbal contributions to the project.
In addition, women sat closer to other women in these groups.

Sebastian Schnorf

Sebastian Schnorf

In contrast, during social conversations, women talked the same amount as men, and even more than men when the group was large.
As a result, group size is associated with women’s verbal participation in groups depending on the task focus vs. social focus.

Matthias Mehl

Matthias Mehl

This finding supports earlier reports of equal verbal participation by women and men by University of Arizona’s Matthias R. Mehl, collaborating with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis and University of Connecticut’s Nairán Ramírez-Esparza.
Together with Richard B. Slatcher of Wayne State and University of Texas’s James W. Pennebaker.
This group analyzed voice recordings from more than 390 participants, and concluded that women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day.

David Lazer

David Lazer

In addition, women in large group social settings spoke more than women in collaborative work projects, found Onnela’s team.
The strongest difference in gender participation related to relationship strength and group size.

Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page

Contributions from all members of diverse work groups are required to produce the largest number and most innovative solutions, according to Loyola University’s Lu Hong and Scott E. Page.
They found that diverse work groups produce superior solutions compared with homogenous groups, even if groups were composed of uniformly top performers.

In fact, a group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is most closely associated with:

  • Proportion of females in the group,
  • Average social sensitivity of group members,
  • Equal conversational turn-taking.
Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

This “collective intelligence factor” is not related to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Sandy Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Diverse groups, including women, can produce innovative solutions when all participants contribute divergent views.
Women who  consciously increase verbal participation establish visibility and professional credibility, while contributing to improved group performance.

-*How do you determine your degree of verbal contribution in work groups?


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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can prevent crucial workplace errors and increase quality in medical settings, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He found that people effectively improved their performance when they recognized weaknesses in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied across industries:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids,
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberately monitoring potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

These elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude because relevant information is widely available, Gawande noted.
He suggested that both errors can be improved by systematic analysis and consistent use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, so Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequent approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture firm replaces the company’s originators,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This last approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists in these studies reported that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

©Kathryn Welds

Ask a Narcissist

Confidence is correlated with career effectiveness and advancement.
However, people who exhibit too much of a good thing may seem “narcissistic.”

Jean Twenge

Jean Twenge

The narcissistic personality is characterized by:

-Inflated views of the self,
-Grandiosity,
-Self-focus and vanity,
-Self-importance,

according to San Diego State University’s Jean M. Twenge, with Sara Konrath and Brad J. Bushman of University of Michigan, collaborating with University of South Alabama’s Joshua D. Foster, and Keith Campbell of University of Georgia,

Calvin S Hall

Calvin S Hall

One well-validated assessment instrument to identify narcissism is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, developed by University of California Berkeley’s Robert Raskin and Calvin S. Hall.

Sara Konrath

Sara Konrath

Raskin and UC Berkeley colleague, Howard Terry examined responses from more than 1000 volunteers and found seven constructs related to narcissism:

  • Authority,
  • Exhibitionism,
  • Superiority,
  • Vanity,
  • Exploitativeness,
  • Entitlement,
  • Self-Sufficiency.
Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

They related ratings of “self” and “ideal self” to participants’ responses on the Leary Interpersonal Check List, developed by Harvard’s Timothy Leary before he investigated psychedelic drugs.

Brian P Meier

Brian P Meier

An alternative to Leary’s lengthy NPI was developed by University of Michigan’s Sara Konrath, Brian P. Meier of Gettysburg College, and Ohio State’s Brad J. Bushman of Indiana University.
The Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) measures grandiosity, entitlement, and low empathy characteristic of “narcissistic” behavior.

The team asked more than 2,200 participants to rate their answer to a single question on a scale of one to seven: To what extent do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.”

Brad J Bushman

Brad J Bushman

Konrath’s team demonstrated that the Single Item Narcissism Scale is a valid, reliable alternative to longer narcissism scales because it is significantly correlated with scores on the NPI and is uncorrelated with social desirability.

Erika Carlson

Erika Carlson

People who score high on the NPI and SINS say that they are more arrogant, condescending, argumentative, critical, and prone to brag than people who score low on the NPI, according to University of Toronto’s Erika Carlson.

Narcissism was also related in Konrath’s validation studies to:

People who scored high for narcissism also showed behaviors that can be problematic at work:

However, people who scored high for narcissism displayed positive attributes including:

Interacting with a narcissist in the workplace can be challenging, and a previous blog post identifies recommended strategies.

-*How do you identify narcissists in the workplace and in personal life?
-*What are more effective ways to work with them?

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©Kathryn Welds

Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Negotiation assertiveness style can determine success in bargaining, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.

Abbie Wazlawek

Abbie Wazlawek

This finding builds on Ames’ previous research with Stanford’s Frank Flynn that demonstrated moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
They also found that observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However they noted that most people do not accurately assess others’ view of their assertiveness in specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.

These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from other people.

More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation, and said they observed similarly exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames Assertiveness

Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation outcomes: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated greatest value to both parties.

Ames Assertiveness U Curve
When negotiation partners misperceive others’ view of their strategic umbrage displays, Ames and Wazlawek called this experience the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Nearly 60% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately assertive but felt over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the inferior deals for themselves and their counterparts.

This finding suggests that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiation partners to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.

Jeffrey Kern

Jeffrey Kern

To improve accuracy of perception of other people’s impression of one’s own assertiveness style (“meta-perception“), Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

-Participate in 360 degree feedback,

-Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,

Consider whether negotiation proposals are reasonable in light of alternatives,

-Request feedback on reactions to “strategic umbrage” displays to better understand perceptions of “offer reasonableness,

-Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles.

Gary Yukl

Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation but may lead to ruptured interpersonal relationships, according to Jeffrey M. Kern of Texas A&M, SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

Cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, where dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations.
In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan, require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.

Edward T Hall

Edward T Hall

Under-assertiveness may minimize interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility in future interactions, according to Ames’ related research.

To augment a less assertiveness style, he suggested:

  • Set slightly higher goals,
  • Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict,
  • Consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes,
  • Assess the outcome of collaborating with more assertive others.

To modulate a more assertiveness style:

  • Make slight concessions to increase trust with others,
  • Observe and evaluate the impact of collaborating with less assertive others.

The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can reduce one’s own confidence and assertiveness.

*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?

*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?

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©Kathryn Welds

“Emotional Contagion” in the Workplace through Social Observation, Social Media

Emotions can be “contagious” between individuals, and can affect work group dynamics.

Douglas Pugh

Douglas Pugh

Emotional contagion is characterized by replicating emotions displayed by others.
Contagion differs from compassion, which enables understanding another’s emotional experience without actually feeling it, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s S. Douglas Pugh.

Adam D I Kramer

Adam D I Kramer

“Viral emotions” can be transmitted through social media platforms without observing nonverbal cues, according to Facebook’s Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory of University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University’s Jeffrey T. Hancock.
This suggests that social media can significantly affect workplace interpersonal relations and productivity.

Jeffrey Hancock

Jeffrey Hancock

When positive emotional expressions were reduced in Facebook News Feeds, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts.
In contrast, when negative emotional expressions were reduced, people reduced negative posts, indicating that others’ emotional expressions influence bystanders’ emotions and behaviors.

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

People in performance situations are influenced by observing others’ emotions.   
When participants witnessed positive emotions in a decision task, they were more likely to cooperate and perform better in groups, found Wharton’s  Sigal Barsade.

Individuals who were more influenced by others’ emotions on R. William Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale also reported greater:

  • Reactivity,
  • Emotionality,
  • Sensitivity to others,
  • Social functioning,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Emotional empathy.

They also reported lower:

  • Alienation,
  • Self-assertiveness,
  • Emotional stability.
Stanley Schachter

Stanley Schachter

People are more likely to be influenced by others’ emotions when they feel threatened, because this elicits increased affiliation with others, according to Stanley Schachter‘s emotional similarity hypothesis.

Brooks B Gump

Brooks B Gump

Likewise, when people believe that others are threatened, they are more likely to mimic others’ emotions, found Syracuse University’s Brooks B. Gump and James A. Kulik of University of California, San Diego.

Elaine Hatfield

Elaine Hatfield

Women reported greater contagion of both positive and negative emotions on the Emotional Contagion Scale in research by Doherty with University of Hawaii colleagues Lisa Orimoto, Elaine Hatfield, Janine Hebb, and Theodore M. Singelis of California State University-Chico.

James Laird

James Laird

People who are more likely to “catch” emotions from others are also more likely to actually feel emotions associated with facial expressions they adopt, reported Clark University’s James D. Laird, Tammy Alibozak, Dava Davainis, Katherine Deignan, Katherine Fontanella, Jennifer Hong, Brett Levy, and Christine Pacheco.
This suggests that those with greater susceptibility to emotional contagion are convincing actors – to themselves and others.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Contrary to expectation, people with greater power notice and adopt emotions of people with less power, found University of Hawaii’s Christopher K. Hsee, Hatfield, and John G. Carlson with Claude Chemtob of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Participants assumed the role of “teacher” or “learner” to simulate role-based power differentials, then viewed a videotape of a fictitious participant discussing an emotional experience.
Volunteers then described their emotions as they watched the confederate describe a “happiest” and “saddest” life event.
People in higher power roles were more attuned to followers’ emotions than expected.

The service industry capitalizes on emotional contagion by training staff members to model positive emotions to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

James Kulik

James Kulik

However, customer satisfaction measures were more influenced by service quality than employees’ positive emotional displays, according to Bowling Green State’s Patricia B. Barger and Alicia A. Grandey of Pennsylvania State University.

Emotions can positively or negatively resonate through work organizations with measurable impact on employee attitude, morale, engagement, customer service, safety, and innovation.

-*How do you intentionally convey emotions to individuals and group members?
-*What strategies do you use to manage susceptibility to “emotional contagion”?

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©Kathryn Welds

What Evidence Supports Coaching to Increase Goal Achievement, Performance?

Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant

Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused process that facilitates coachees’ self-directed learning, personal growth, and goal attainment, according to University of Sydney’s Anthony Grant.

Anthony Grant modelHe integrated practices from solution-focused and cognitive-behavioral interventions into Solution-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral (SF-CB) Coaching and a “Coach Yourself” program with Jane Greene.

Participants reported increased:

John Franklin

on the Self-Reflection and Insight Scaledeveloped with Macquarie University colleagues John Franklin and Peter Langford.

Two types of empirical studies provide evidence about coaching’s efficacy:

  • Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT), in which participants receive one of several interventions or no intervention.
    This is considered the more credible research approach.
  • Peter Langford

    Peter Langford

    Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), which use “time series analysis” but not random participants to measure outcomes.

Linley Curtayne

Linley Curtayne

Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) found several effects among executives who received 360-degree feedback and four coaching sessions over ten weeks:

Lower stress, according to Grant with University of Sydney colleagues Linley Curtayne and Geraldine Burton,

Geraldine Burton

Geraldine Burton

  • Greater goal attainment compared with an eight week educational mindfulness-based health coaching program, reported by University of Sydney’s Gordon B. Spence, Michael J. Cavanagh and Grant,
  • Lindsay Oades

    Lindsay Oades

    • Increased goal striving, well-being, hope, with gains maintained up to 30 weeks, reported by Grant and Green with University of Wollongong colleague Lindsay G. Oades.

C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

This last effect, increased hope is crucial to pursue any goal, according to University of Kansas’s C.R. Snyder, Scott T. Michael of University of Washington, and Ohio State’s Jennifer Cheavens.

Individuals seeking change must be able to:

  • Develop one or more ways to achieve a goals (“pathways”),
  • Use these routes to reach the goal (“agency”).

Edward Deci - Richard Ryan

Edward Deci – Richard Ryan

Three additional elements are essential to goal achievement, suggested University of Rochester’s Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan:

  • Competence,
  • Autonomy,
  • Relatedness.

According to their Self-Determination Theory (SDT), these characteristics are associated with increased:

  • Goal motivation,
  • Enhanced performance,
  • Persistence,
  • Mental health.

Kristina Gyllensten

Kristina Gyllensten

The other category of research, Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), reported that coaching for managers of a federal government:

  • Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer

    • Decreased anxiety and stress among UK finance organization participants, in findings by Kristina Gyllensten and Stephen Palmer of City University London.

Despite the low “barriers to entry” for offering life coaching services and low quality control across providers, empirical studies appear to validate coaching’s contribution to participants’ increased goal attainment and increased satisfaction, well-being, and hope.

-*How do you “coach yourself” and others toward increased goal attainment and performance?

-*What are the “active ingredients” of effective coaching practices?

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©Kathryn Welds

 

Transference in Everyday Life Biases Memory, Emotions

-*Do you re-enact scenarios from your past, but with different people?

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

 Sigmund Freud described this experience as “transference,” redirecting feelings toward one person in the past onto a different individual in the present.

The current recipient of feelings may have different characteristics, motivations, and behaviors than the original person, but something about the present individual triggers earlier feelings and actions.

Susan Andersen

Susan Andersen

NYU’s Susan Andersen and Alana Baum demonstrated transference in lab studies when they asked volunteers to describe important people in their lives for whom they had positive feelings or negative feelings.
They also described other people’s significant others.

Later, Anderson and Baum described a person seated in the next room, using either emotionally-positive or emotionally-negative descriptions of someone from the volunteer’s life or someone else’s life.

Participants more accurately recalled the stranger’s description when it resembled their own significant other.
Recall was enhanced because the significant other’s description was memorable, suggesting transference.

Biased inference can result from a memory’s “accessibility” and distinctiveness, according to Anderson’s collaborators Steve W. Cole and Noah Glassman.

Transference is an outgrowth of attachment to others in the past, according to Queens College’s Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois.

R. Chris Fraley

R. Chris Fraley

In their study, participants read profiles of two potential dating partners:  One description resembled a romantic partner from the person’s past, and another description matched another participant’s former partner.

Volunteers reported feeling more comfortable and more anxious toward potential dating partners described as similar to previous significant others.
Brumbaugh and Fraley wrote that participants “applied attachment representations of past partners” to any potential future partner, and to a greater extent when the new partner’s description resembled an important past partner.

Susan Fiske

Princeton’s Susan Fiske described this transfer of affective responses to a new individual as schema-triggered affect.
Andersen used this framework and a socio-cognitive explanation in a paper with Berkeley’s Serena Chen.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

People modify views of themselves and others in transference situations, reported Katrina Hinkley and Andersen.
In their research, volunteers demonstrated biased recall about a new person when they were reminded of an earlier significant other.
When participants were re-tested, their lists of the new person’s attributes included elements of themselves when they had been with the former significant person.

Michael Kraus

Michael Kraus

Transference occurs even when a target person possesses an attribute incompatible with the significant other’s characteristics, found University of Illinois’s Michael W. Kraus with Berkeley’s Chen, Victoria A. Lee, and Laura D. Straus.

Participants demonstrated transference in biased memories and judgments about a person they perceived as similar to a former significant other.

The research team elicited positive impressions even when the target was from a different ethnic group.
This suggests that stigma and discrimination may be reduced by evoking positive transference from past experiences to present actors.

Baum and Anderson observed that participants’ current mood was more positive when the target of their transference resembled their significant other and occupied a similar role to the original person.

Transference in the workplace can be problematic when employees react to one another as they responded to others from the past, introducing unconscious emotional elements to work situations.

-*How do you manage transference reactions in work and social situations?

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©Kathryn Welds

Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark and Francis Flynn with Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo.

Francis Flynn

Help-seekers were more likely to expect that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal to a similar request. 

However, help-seekers underestimated the compliance rate of potential helpers who previously refused assistance.
This suggests that most people agree with a subsequent request, to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overtures for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask 10 people to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers had to ask six people for help before it was given, 40% fewer than expected.
Most people have a pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance, they concluded.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request to complete the survey would be less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requesters tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitated to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requesters have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, so it’s advisable to muster resilience and persistence.

Requesters and help-seekers analyzed requests using different criteria:  Requesters focused on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers receiving the request considered the inconvenience costs of saying “yes” compare with the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying “no.”

Requesters benefit from expanding the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized and may be willing to assist.

Potential helpers underestimated help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, in previous studies by the team.
This may result in less willingness to help underutilized formal support programs.
The most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

Bohns extended this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in deciding whether to commit an unethical act in research with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu.

People who observed the unethical act but didn’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who committed the actions.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth or to commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

Bystanders underestimated their impact on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort caused participants to commit the asocial act to avoid conflict.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported that employees’ systematically underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.
Most employees expect their efforts to be futile.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives,
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues,
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices.

This underestimation bias may be reduced by:

  • Comparative judgments,
  • Objectifying an influence target,
  • Comparing actual degree of personal influence compared to perceived influence,
  • Considering means of influence, including incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments,
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings suggest the benefit of asking for what you want, even after rejection and that you have more influence over others than you expect.

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?

-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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©Kathryn Welds

How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

-*How accurate are inferences made from other people’s appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, teamedwith University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin, to investigate this question.

They asked volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likeability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured in full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

These findings suggest that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Judgments based on clothing cues were associated with less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
facial expression and posture enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

Observers can make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues, according to these findings.
Novelist John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany noted that “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter,” just as these researchers concluded.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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©Kathryn Welds