Category Archives: Business Communication

Business Communication

Self-Distancing Pronouns Use Can Increase Self-Management

Ethan Kross

Ethan Kross

Despite years of popular guidance to use self-statements for difficult conversations with partners, spouses, and bosses, research argues for using self-distancing alternatives to manage stress and increase self-control.

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross, Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty, Holly Shablack, and Ryan Bremner with Emma Bruehlman-Senecal and Ozlem Ayduk of University of California, Berkeley, plus Michigan State’s Jason Moser studied more than 580 people’s ability to self-regulate reactions to social stress by using different ways of referring to the self during introspection.

LeBron James

LeBron James

One example of variations in self-reference is LeBron James’ statement, One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

The team demonstrated that using non-first-person pronouns (such as “he” or “she”)  and one’s own name (rather than “I”) during introspection enhanced self-distancing, or focusing on the self from a distant perspective.

Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

Distancing, also called “decentering” or “self as context,” allows people to observe and accept their feelings, according to University of Nevada’s Steven Hayes, Jason Luoma, Akihiko Masuda and Jason Lillis collaborating with Frank Bond of University of London.

Ozlem Ayduk

Ozlem Ayduk

Self-distancing verbalizations were associated with less distress and less maladaptive “post-event processing  (reviewing performance) when delivering a speech without sufficient time to prepare, and when seeking to make a good first impression on others.
Post-event processing can lead to increased social anxiety, noted Temple University’s Faith Brozovich and Richard Heimberg.

Faith Brozovich

Faith Brozovich

They found that participantsexperienced less global negative affect and shame after delivering a speech without sufficient preparation time, and engaged in less post-event processing.

Adrienne Dougherty

People who talked about themselves with non-first person pronouns also performed better in speaking and impression-formation social tasks, according to ratings by observers.

Participants who used self-distancing language appraised future stressors as less threatening, and they more effectively reconstrued experiences for greater coping, insight, and closure, in another study by Kross and Ayduk.

Ryan Bremner

Ryan Bremner

People with elevated scores on measures of depression or bipolar disorder experienced less distress when applying a self-distanced visual perspective as they contemplated emotional experiences, noted Kross and Ayduk, collaborating with San Francisco State University’s David Gard, Patricia Deldin of University of Michigan, and Jessica Clifton of University of Vermont.

David Gard

Using second-person pronouns (“you”) seems to be a self-distancing strategy when people reflect on situations that involve self-control, noted University of North Carolina’s Ethan Zell, Amy Beth Warriner of McMaster University and University of Illinois’s Dolores Albarracín.

Ethan Zell

These findings demonstrate that small changes in self-referencing words during introspection significantly increase self-regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior during social stress experiences.

Self-distancing references may help people manage depression and anger about past and anticipated social anxiety.

Dolores Albarracín

-*What impact do you experience when you use “self-distancing language”?

-*How do you react when you hear others using “self-distancing language,” like referring to “you” when speaking about their own experience?

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Gender-Neutral Language Associated with Greater Gender Wage Parity

Lucas van der Velde

Lucas van der Velde

Nations that use gender-neutral languages have a smaller Gender Wage Gap (GWG) than countries with clear gender differentions in their languages, reported University of Warsaw’s Lucas van der Velde, Joanna Tyrowicz, and Joanna Siwinska.

Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-Neutral Language

The team evaluated Yale linguists Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir’s hypothesis that linguistic categories influence perception, thinking, and behavior by examining data from the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures to determine whether the primary language spoken in a given country had a “sex-based gender system” of grammar rules like gender-specific noun and pronouns.

Benjamin Whorf

Benjamin Whorf

For example, French language links specific nouns to genders, whereas English generally uses different pronouns for men and women (“his” and “hers”) — despite the increasing use of “they” to indicate an individual of either gender, not a group of people.
In contrast, Mandarin and Finnish languages “have no system of gender identification.”

The researchers analyzed whether the primary language contained expressions that celebrate one gender while disparaging another, and compared these findings with estimates for Gender Wage Disparities (GWD) in more than 50 countries from 117 studies published between 2005 and 2014.

Benjamin Whorf

The gender wage gap may be driven by some deep societal features stemming from such basic social codes as language,” they concluded, supporting the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Katarzyna Bojarska

Katarzyna Bojarska

Gender cues are implicitly and unconsciously used to decode a message’s full meaning in addition to its semantic content, suggested University of Gdańsk’s Katarzyna Bojarska.

She argued that when gender is not clearly specified, unconscious cognitive processing attempts to plausibly reconstruct missing gender information with non-semantic cues.

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

These findings suggest that countries that favor policies to reduce disparate earnings by gender can enable this goal by providing early training to set children’s expectations of gender equality, particularly in countries using a gendered language,

-*To what extent has your workplace adopted gender-inclusive language?

-*How does your organization’s use of gendered language relate to its wage parity practices?

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Jessica Salerno

Jessica Salerno

Men who expressed anger were more likely to influence their peers, found Arizona State University’s Jessica Salerno and Liana Peter-Hagene of University of Illinois in their study of computer-mediated mock jury proceedings.
In contrast, women who expressed anger were seen as less influential, reinforcing trends reported in a previous blog post.

Liana Peter-Hagene

Liana Peter-Hagene

More than 200 U.S. jury-eligible volunteers reviewed opening arguments and closing statements, eyewitness testimonies, crime scene photographs, and an image of the alleged weapon in a homicide.

Participants rendered individual verdict choices, then exchanged instant messages by computer, with “peers” who were said to be deliberating their verdict decisions.

In fact, “peer” messages were scripted, with four of the fictional jurors agreeing with the participant’s verdict, and one disagreeing.
The dissenting participant had a male user name or a female user name or a gender-neutral name.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Half of the dissenting messages contained no emotion, anger, or fear, and these communications had no influence on participants’ opinions.

However, participants’ confidence in their verdict decision significantly dropped when a single “male dissenter” sent angry messages, characterized by “shouting” in all capital letters.
Confidence in the verdict decision dropped even when the vote was shared by the majority of other “jurors,” suggesting the persuasive impact of a single male dissenter’s angry communication.

In contrast, volunteers became more confident in their initial verdict decisions when their vote was echoed by the majority of other participants.

This confidence was not diminished when a single female dissenter responded with angry emotional message, suggesting that “females” anger was less influential.
“Women’s” dissent seemed to reinforce conviction in the shared decision.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals compared with angry male professionals in research by Previously, Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management.
Evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs as well as to female trainees when they expressed anger.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.
Likewise, women who expressed anger and sadness were rated less effective than women who shared no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Evaluators judged men’s angry reactions more generously, attributing these emotional expressions to understandable external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

These differing judgments of emotional expression by women suggests that women’s anger is more harshly evaluated because their behaviors deviate from expected societal, gender, and cultural norms.

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for women and men who express anger at work?

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Lonely People Increase Social Skills, Reduce “Choking” by Reframing Anxiety

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 percent, comparable to health risks of obesity, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol use, according to Brigham Young University’s Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson.
Besides the emotional discomfort of loneliness, loneliness harms people’s health.

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

Loneliness and social isolation differ.
Some people report feeling lonely in the presence of others, whereas socially isolated people may not report loneliness.
However, both loneliness and social isolation increased risk for mortality in a meta-analysis of more than 3 million participants in studies of loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Megan Knowles

Megan Knowles

Many people assume that individuals are lonely because they are socially isolated and have poor social skills.
However, lonely individuals may not need to acquire social skills to escape loneliness.
Rather, they seem to benefit more from learning to cope with social performance anxiety, found Franklin & Marshall College’s Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas of University of Southern CaliforniaFlorida State University’s Roy Baumeister, and Wendi L. Gardner of Northwestern.

Gale M. Lucas

Gale M. Lucas

More than 85 volunteers completed a loneliness self-report, then identified emotions on computer-presented faces.
Lonely people out-performed non-lonely people when social sensitivity tasks were described as measures of academic aptitude.

Roy Baumeister

However, lonely participants performed worse when tasks were presented as tests of social aptitude.
These volunteers also reported difficulty forming and maintaining friendships, suggesting that social anxiety leads to “choking” in social “performance” situations.
The result is continued loneliness.

Wendi Gardner

Wendi Gardner

Yet, lonely people may be more socially competent than the non-lonely:  They were more skilled at remembering social information in studies by Northwestern’s Wendi L. Gardner, Cynthia L. Pickett of University of California Davis, and Ohio State University’s Marilynn B. Brewer.
The team assessed social recall by presenting volunteers with a simulated computer chat task that provided brief acceptance or rejection experiences, then a diary containing both social and individual events.

Cynthia L. Pickett

Cynthia L. Pickett

Social anxiety identified by Knowles’ team could be reattributed feelings to an external cause and resulted in increased performance.

They demonstrated this shift when they gave volunteers a non-caffeinated energy beverage, and mentioned that any jitters they might experience resulted from the “caffeine” they’d just consumed.
This explanation provided a plausible but false rationale for anxious feelings.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

previous blog post outlined a similar finding by Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, that reframing nervousness as “excitement” helped people perform better on stressful tasks.

An additional coping approach for lonely people is modifying personal mindsets following social loss cues.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Fixed mindset, suggested Stanford’s Carol Dweck, is a belief that personal capabilities are given, fixedand limited to present capacities.
This perspective is similar to
security-oriented, prevention-focused behaviors of lonely people observed by University of Southern California’s Lucas with Knowles, Gardner, Daniel C. Molden and Valerie E. Jefferis of Northwestern.
This mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.

Daniel Molden

Daniel Molden

In contrast, growth mindset is similar to promotion-focused responses like attempts at social engagement.
This developmental mindset holds that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes.
This perspective enables teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction.

Marilynn Brewer

Marilynn Brewer

Participants received either subtle acceptance cues or rejection cues, which were associated with adopting either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Those who received positive primes were more able to develop a promotion-focused growth mindset, leading to more effective social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

People who experience social anxiety and loneliness can reduce self-protective social avoidance by reframing discomfort as “excitement” and by redirecting mindset to embrace learning and new experience.

-*How do you manage loneliness?

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Workplace Incivility is Contagious, Damaging

James Bartlett

James Bartlett

Workplace incivility has numerous well-known consequences including reduced employee engagement and productivity, summarized by North Carolina State University’s James E. Bartlett and Michelle E. Bartlett with Florida Atlantic University’s Thomas G. Reio.

Trevor Foulk

Trevor Foulk

Rudeness in the workplace is also contagious and leads people to be vigilant for subsequent slights, reported University of Florida’s Trevor Foulk, Andrew Woolum, and Amir Erez.
They suggested that low-level workplace hostility enables similar behavior throughout the organization, eroding culture and productivity.

Andrew Woolum

Andrew Woolum

Ninety volunteers practiced negotiation with partners, and those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner.

This suggests that people assimilated and conveyed the first partner’s rudeness, and the effect persisted during the week between the first and second negotiations.

Amir Erez

Amir Erez

Foulk’s team presented staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader, who responded neutrally or rudely.
Then, volunteers distinguished real words from nonsense words in a timed task.

Participants who observed the leader’s rude response more quickly identified actual rude words than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.
This suggests that observing rude interactions “prime” people’s awareness and sensitivity to future uncivil interactions.

Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel

People who witnessed rudeness were more likely to be rude to others, confirming the powerful impact of observing physical on future behavior, demonstrated more than 50 years ago by Stanford’s Walter Mischel, Dorothea Ross and Sheila Ross.

Mischel's experiment with Bobo doll

Mischel’s experiment with Bobo doll

This priming effect of rudeness was demonstrated in another of study by Foulk’s group.
Volunteers watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer neutral-toned email.
Their responses were more likely to be hostile than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

Rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” noted Foulk, who contends that workplace harshness makes employees less likely to give colleagues “the benefit of the doubt.”
The viral spread of even low-level rudeness can reduce collaboration and trust in the workplace.

-*How do you stop the spread of workplace incivility?

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Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

People who feel anxious are more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, according to University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Anxious individuals were more willing to:

  • -Participate in unethical actions in hypothetical scenarios,

-Engage in more lying and cheating to make money.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki


Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

People may engage in unethical behaviors because circumventing rules provides more options and greater control over outcomes, surmised University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
This experience can lead to feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Once people do experience ethical lapses such as cheating, they can experience a cheater’s high,‘ described by University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
Separately, University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as this as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Ruedy’s team demonstrated that cheaters experienced emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of the guilt and bad feelings these participants predicted.

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Almost 180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Then, they rated their current affect – positive and negative – both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

Cheating was frequent:  More than 40% cheated by writing in additional answers to increase their earnings.
These participants reported significantly greater positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team signaled to volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also and showed higher levels of self-satisfaction (feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, superior).

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating:  Cheaters didn’t feel substantially better when they earned more money on an anagram task.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest the importance of moderating ambient anxiety in organizations, both to increase employee quality-of-life, and reduce unethical workplace behaviors that could undermine individual careers and organizational reputation.

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Organizational leaders can reduce anxiety by increasing role clarity through:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation, and supporting with collaborative workspaces.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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Range Offers vs Point Offers in Negotiation for Advantageous Settlements

Daniel Ames

Daniel Ames

Many people hesitate to present a negotiation offer as a range of values because they are concerned that co-negotiators will anchor on the lower value in the range as a “reservation price” or “bottom line.”

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

In fact, range offers may lead to stronger outcomes, according to Columbia University’s Daniel R. Ames and Malia F. Mason.
They compared range offers with point offers in laboratory studies of negotiations.

First offers can be powerful anchors, despite their risk of bias and marginal accuracy, reported University of Chicago’s Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley

Even more influential aredual anchors” in range offers because they signal a negotiator’s knowledge of value as well as politeness.
Ames and Mason suggested that
negotiator credibility and knowledge of value increase anchor potency. 
Coupled with interpersonal relationship “capital”, these factors determine settlement outcomes.

Thomas Gilovich

Thomas Gilovich

Range and point opening offers can have varying impacts, depending on perceived preparation, credibility, politeness, and reasonableness of the proposer.

Ames and Mason tested three types of negotiation proposal ranges:

  • Bolstering range, which includes the target point value as the bottom of the range and an aspirational value as the top of the range.
    This strategy usually yields generous counteroffers and higher settlement prices, and is a recommended approach.
  • Backdown range, which features the target point value as the upper end of the range and a concession value as the lower offer.
    This approach often leads to accepting the lower value and is generally not recommended.
  • Bracketing range, which spans the target point offer and tends to have neutral settlement outcomes for the offer-maker.
    Compared with point offer-makers, bracketing range offers provided some relational benefits because they were seen as less aggressive.
Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Extreme anchors can be seen as offensive, and may lead to negotiation breakdown, according to INSEAD’s Martin Schweinsberg with Gillian Ku of London Business School, collaborating with Cynthia S. Wang of University of Michigan, and National University of Singapore’s Madan M. Pillutla.
Somewhat surprisingly, they found that negotiators with little power were more likely to walk away from extreme anchors.
Also surprisingly, high-power negotiators were equally offended.

Gilliam Ku

Gilliam Ku

Previously, Mason and team showed the benefit of precise single number offers, and the current research shows the value of less precise range offers.

Mason and team argue that point offers and range offers are independent and interactive informational processes with influence on settlement values: “…bolstering-range offers shape the perceived location of the offer-maker’s reservation price, (and) precise first offers shape the perceived credibility of the offer-maker’s price proposal.

  • When do you prefer to present a precise, non-rounded negotiation offers instead of a negotiation range?

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