Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

Aaron Wallen

Aaron Wallen

Women face significant workplace challenges when they are seen as successful in traditionally-male roles, found New York University’s Madeline Heilman, Aaron Wallen, Daniella Fuchs and Melinda Tamkins.

Melinda Tamkins

Melinda Tamkins

They conducted three experimental studies on reactions to a woman’s success in a male gender-typed job.
They found that when a woman is recognized as successful in roles dominated by men, they are less liked than equally successful men in the same fields.

Tyler Okimoto

Tyler Okimoto

Heilman extended the work with University of Queensland’s Tyler Okimoto, and reported that successful women managers avoided interpersonal hostility, dislike, and undesirability when they or others conveyed “communal” attributes, through their behaviors, testimonials of others, or their role as mothers.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

Stanford’s Frank Flynn demonstrated the competence-likeability disconnect when he taught a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen.

Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen

He and collaborator Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley changed Heidi’s name to “Howard Roizen” for half of the students.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

Participants who read the Heidi case and those who read the Howard case rated Heidi and Howard on several dimensions before the class meeting.

Volunteers rated Heidi as equally highly competent and effective as Howard, but they also evaluated her as unlikeable and selfish, and wouldn’t want to hire her or work with her.

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

A more recent example of backlash toward high-profile, accomplished women was illustrated in social media mentions of Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter,

Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund) and her colleague Lisa Joy Rosner evaluated Brand Passion Index” (BPI) for Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter over 12 months by:

  • Activity (number of media mentions),
  • Sentiment (positive or negative emotional tone),
  • Intensity (strong or weak sentiment).

Public Opinion-Mayer-Sandberg-SlaughterThese competent, well-known women were not liked, and were evaluated with harsh negative attributions based on media coverage and at-a-distance observations:

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was described as impressive and super-smart, and annoying, a terrible bully,
  • Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s was characterized as truly excellent, successful working mom and crazy bizarre,
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, was depicted as an amazing, successful mother and destructive, not a good wife,
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

The competence-likeability dilemma is also apparent in hiring behavior, demonstrated in experiments by Rutgers University’s Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.

Volunteers made “hiring decisions” for male and female “candidates” competing for a “feminized” managerial role and a “masculinized” managerial role.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

Applicants were presented as:

  • “Agentic” (demonstrating stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • “Communal” (displaying stereotypically female behaviors) or
  • “Androgynous” (combining stereotypically male and female behaviors)

Women who displayed “masculine, agentic” traits were viewed as less socially acceptable  and were not selected for the “feminized” job.
However, this hiring bias did not occur when agentic women applied for the “male” job.

Niceness was not rewarded when competing for jobs:  Both male and female “communal” applicants received low hiring ratings.
However, combining niceness with agency seemed to buffer “androgynous” female applicants from discrimination in the simulated hiring process.

Rudman and Glick noted that “… women must present themselves as agentic to be hireable, but may therefore be seen as interpersonally deficient.”
They advised women to “temper their agency with niceness.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Once women receive job offers, the competence-likeability disconnect continues when they negotiate for salary and position, reported by Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon.
Her research demonstrated and replicated negative evaluations of women who negotiate for salaries using the same script as men.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

The likeability-competence dilemma may result from women’s challenges in integrating expansive, powerful body language with more submissive, appeasing behavior to build relationships and acknowledge others’ authority, suggested Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld.

She posited that many women have been socialized to adopt less powerful body positions and body language including:

  • Smiling,
  • Nodding,
  • Tilting the head,
  • Applying fleeting eye contact,
  • Speaking in sentence fragments with uncertain, rising intonation at sentence endings.

In addition, many people expect women to behave in these ways, and negatively evaluate behaviors that differ from expectations.

Body language is the greatest contributor to split-second judgments of people’s competence, according to Gruenfeld.
She estimated that body language is responsible for about 55% of judgments, whereas self-presentation accounts for 38%, and words for just 7% — in less than 100 milliseconds.

Her earlier work considered the impact of body language on assessments of power, whereas her more recent work investigated gender differences in attributions of competence and likeability.

The likeability-competence dilemma may be improved by shifting from “playing high” or taking space when demonstrating competence and authority.
Powerful body language may be risky for women unless counterbalanced with “playing low” or giving space when conveying approachability, empathy, and likeability, she noted.

Posing in more powerful positions for as little as two minutes can change levels of testosterone, a marker of dominance, just as holding a submissive posture for the same time can increase cortisol levels, signaling stress, according to Gruenfeld.
She urged women to practice both awareness and “the mechanics of powerful body language.”

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Women’s competence-likeability dilemma is not mitigated by achieving workplace success and status.
University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale, Benson Rosen, Carol Xu, Iryna Merideth found that successful women – and men, like Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter, are judged more harshly for mistakes than lower status individuals who make identical errors.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Fragale’s team found that observers attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers than the identical actions of low status wrongdoers, and recommended more severe punishments for higher status individuals in two experiments.

Iryna Meridith

Iryna Meridith

The team found preventive and reparative value in qualities of warmth and likeability.
Wrongdoers who demonstrated affiliative concern for others, charitable giving, and interpersonal warmth built a reservoir of goodwill that could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes and transgressions.

Navigating the likeability-competence dilemma requires demonstrating both capacities, depending on situational requirements.
Learning this skill can take a lifetime.

-*How do you convey likeability AND competence?

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Managing “Triadic Managers” and Navigating Office Politics by Becoming a Little Like Them

Oliver James

Oliver James

Many business leaders exhibit three problematic behaviors styles: Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machiavellianism, according to British psychologist and journalist, Oliver James.
He labels these “triadic managers.” 

The stress wrought upon others by “triadic managers” has been satirized in fictional comedies and dramas, but each element of the triumvirate have been investigated by clinical researchers and social scientists.

The most extensively researched of the three personality trends is Psychopathy, given its relevance to law enforcement. Francis Urhardt-House of Cards
Psychopaths typically display:

  • -Callous manipulation, lying, and exploitation,
  • -Grandiosity, entitlement, and shallowness,
  • -Impulsiveness and thrill-seeking,
  • -Little interpersonal empathy and remorse.
Ronald Schouten

Ronald Schouten

More than 3 million Americans and one in 10 on Wall Street are psychopathic, asserted Harvard’s Ronald Schouten, a former federal prosecutor, who collaborated with criminal defense attorney James Silver.

James Silver

They noted that nearly 15 percent of the general population or about 45 million Americans demonstrate “almost psychopathic” behavior, and many are employed as senior executives.

Robert Hare

Robert Hare

In fact, senior managers are four times more likely than the general population to display psychopathic tendencies, found University of British Columbia’s Robert Hare and industrial-organizational psychologist Paul Babiak.

They differentiated three types of workplace psychopaths:

  • Manipulator,
  • Bully,
  • Puppetmaster.

    Paul Babiak

    Paul Babiak

Clive Boddy

Clive Boddy

Narcissists in global business and financial contexts share  characteristics of psychopaths, noted Middlesex University’s Clive Boddy:

-Grandiose sense of self-importance, superiority, entitlement,
-Vanity and insatiable need for attention,
-Exploitativeness,
-Lack of empathy.

Katarina Fritzon

Katarina Fritzon

About one per cent of the population and 16 per cent of clinical groups meet the criteria for narcissism, and cluster in professions where they can control people and elicit adulation like politics, finance, entertainment, and medicine.

Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon, then of the University of Surrey, confirmed this observation when they found that senior business managers were more likely than criminal psychiatric patients to have narcissistic, histrionic, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

Sam Vaknin

Sam Vaknin

An example of a “successful narcissist” in business is Sam Vaknin, who was convicted felon incarcerated for securities fraud.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

The third element of “triadic managers”, Machiavellianism, is characterized by:

  • Detachment and coldness,
  • Manipulation,
  • Ruthless self-interest,
  • Calculating maneuvers to advance self-interest.

Centuries after Machiavelli’s classic book, Columbia University’s Richard Christie and Florence Geis studied the Machiavellian personality and developed a personality assessment to identify these characteristics.

Given the likelihood of interacting with psychopaths, narcissists, and Mariaviallian personalities in business, James sought ways to deal with them in the workplace by conducted 50 interviews with “triadic managers.”
He suggested:

  • Developing greater acumen in recognizing psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors (reading others and the situation),
  • Managing others’ “perception of one’s performance,
  • Delivering measurable results,
  • Selectively applying psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors toward offenders while appearing sincere,
  • Networking to maintain relationships and allies for use in moving to a new role.-*How do you detect and manage colleagues who manifest characteristics of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism?

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“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

Tom Peters

Tom Peters

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
“Self-packaging is the shell of who you are” whereas “self-presentation (is)…that essence of what sets you apart from the crowd,“ according to blogger Murray Newlands.

The goal of personal branding is to communicate intrinsic, important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Academic researchers have brought some rigor to considering the intangibles of personal branding, presentation, and packaging.
One example is University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney academic analysis, Marketization and the Recasting of the Professional Self: The Rhetoric and Ethics of Personal Branding.

George Cheney

George Cheney

They refered to personal branding as “…a startlingly overt invitation to self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis…as (perhaps) an extreme form of a market-appropriate response.
Examining complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, they identified how these approaches shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation identified the potential biases facing women and members of minority groups in meeting unspoken, implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance, a component of self-presentation.
These analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing can have significant impact on professional opportunities and outcomes, despite challenges of tracing these effects.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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Arc of Attentional Focus: Has Someone Picked Your Pocket While You Experienced “Inattentional Blindness”?

Apollo Robbins

Apollo Robbins

Glitches in human perception and cognition are vividly illustrated in Apollo Robbins’ interactive Las Vegas show, “The Gentleman Thief.”

He tells his “targets” in the audience that he is about to steal from them, then uses visual illusions, proximity manipulation, diversion techniques, and attention control, to complete his imperceptible heists.
Robbins returns belongings, which kept him out of trouble when he lifted possessions of former US President Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service agents.

In addition to the entertaining curiosity of Robbins’ feats, his skill is relevant to improving perceptual skills in normal and cognitively-impaired people, and in reducing traffic accidents, industrial mishaps, and security violations.

He overcame congenital motor-skill deficits by monitoring the focus of a target’s attention: “If a person is focused elsewhere, a thief can put his whole hand in [a pocket] and steal.”

Kim Silverman

Like Kim Silverman, Research Scientist at Apple, Robbins creates “false assumptions…that look like reality…

The U.S. Department of Defense accesses Robbins’ skills at its Special Operations Command research-and-training facility at Yale University, where he an adjunct professor, despite his non-collegiate education.

Barton Whaley

Barton Whaley

Defense application of these perceptual manipulation skills were identified by Barton Whaley of the Naval Postgraduate School and Susan Stratton Aykroyd in their Textbook of Political-Military Counterdeception.

Their historical survey of deception and counter-deception practices asserted that conjurors’ principles were substantially more advanced than those used by U.S. political or military intelligence analysts in the 1970s.

Stephen Macknik

Stephen Macknik

SUNY Downstate’s Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde collaborated with Robbins on Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deception.
They reported empirical results supporting Robbins’s observation that the eye will follow an object moving in an arc without looking back to its point of origin.
The curved motions may be more salient, novel, and informative than predictable linear edges, so attracts greater attention and is useful in deceptive illusions.

Susana Martinez-Conde

Susana Martinez-Conde

Cognitive errors that lead to perceptual illusions of “magic” suggest diagnostic and treatment methods for cognitive deficits from brain trauma, autism, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease, they argued.

Insights from magic performance can help patients focus on the most important aspects of their environment, while suppressing distractions that cause confusion, disorientation, and “inattentional blindness” (focusing so intently on a single task that one fails to notice things in plain sight).

Richard Wiseman

Psychologist and magician Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire demonstrated inattentional blindness when viewers fail to notice environmental changes when focusing on a card trick. 
Similarly, Transport of London’s Public Service Announcement reminds viewers that it’s easy to miss things you’re not expecting in “Did you see the Moonwalking Bear?

Wiseman argued that people can “recognise hidden opportunities in … life,” by reducing perceptual blindness, in his research-based book, Magic in Theory: An introduction to the theoretical and psychological elements of conjuring.

Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

Daniel Simons

University of Illinois’s Daniel Simons and Daniel Levin of Vanderbilt University demonstrated observers “seeing without seeing” in experiments involving people passing a basketball as woman in a gorilla suit walked through the action.

With Harvard’s Christopher Chabris, Simons reported that half of observers said they did not see the gorilla when they were counting the number of ball passes by one team.

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

However, the same people easily recognized the gorilla when they were not focused on a distraction task.

Edward Vogel

This findings illustrates that most people are unable to effectively multitask because they have limited capacity to hold a visual scene in short-term memory (VSTM), according to University of Chicago’s Edward K. Vogel and Maro Machizawa of Hiroshima University and separately by Vanderbilt’s René Marois and J. Jay Todd.

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn of University of London collaborated with magician Alym Amlani and Ronald Rensink of University of British Columbia to classify cognitive, perceptual, and physical contributors in Towards a Science of Magic:

  • Ronald Rensink

    Physical misdirection by a magician’s gaze or gesture in “joint attention,”

  • Psychological misdirection with a casual motion or prolonged suspense to distract from the trick’s mechanics,
  • Optical illusions that distort the true size of an object,
  • Cognitive illusions to prolong an image after the object has been removed,
  • Physical force and mental force influence “freely chosen” cards or other objects in magic tricks.

Rene Marois-J Jay Todd

Perceptual and cognitive illusions can cause people not to see things that are clearly present, which can lead to overlooking interpersonal cues and life opportunities.
Even more serious is the link among inattention, traffic accidents, and victimization by criminals.

Mindful awareness helps people attend to the present moment, to more attentively experience opportunities and relationships while mitigating potential perceptual misinformation.

-*How to you maintain focus to reduce “inattentional blindness”?

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Women Balance on the Negotiation Tightrope to Avoid Backlash

Linda Babcock

Women negotiate initial salaries less frequently than men, leading to a long-term wage disparity, found Carnegie-Mellon University’s Linda Babcock.

Hannah Riley Bowles

And when women asked for higher salaries in a laboratory simulation, they were negatively evaluated by both men and women participants, reported Harvard’s Hannah Riley Bowles and Lei Lai.
In addition, other volunteers reported less desire to work with women who asked for more money.

Lei Lai

Lei Lai

Both male and female evaluators responded negatively to perceived “demandingness” among women who negotiated, preferring the “nicer” non-negotiators.
However, reducing women’s degree of assertiveness did not improve evaluators’s perceptions of women negotiators.

These finding support Babcock’s original results:  When male and female volunteers asked for salary increases using identical scripts in laboratory situations, participants  liked the men’s style, but disliked the same words from women.
Women negotiators were considered “aggressive” unless they smiled, or displayed a warm, friendly manner.

The social reaction others had to women negotiators, but not the negotiation outcome was improved when female participants:

  • Justified the salary request based on a supporting “business case,”
  • Communicated concern for organizational relationships.

However, neither of these tactics used alone or together, improved women’s negotiation outcomes.

Another approach was more effective in improving both social and negation outcomes:

  • Justifying the salary request based on the relationship.

Women who smile and focus on the interpersonal relationship enact role-based expectations, leading to greater comfort with these women negotiators and more favorable assessments by male and female observers.

 

Kathleen McGinn

Kathleen McGinn

Bowles, with Harvard colleague Kathleen McGinn and with Babcock, suggested that “situational ambiguity” and “gender triggers” modify women’s willingness to negotiate.

However, when women have more information about the potential salary range and are told that the salary is negotiable, they are more likely to negotiate.
Therefore, women benefit from asking:

  • the salary range,
  • which elements of the compensation package are negotiable.
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Effective negotiation is a survival skill, according to Dan Pink:
The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness.
It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives.

Effective persuaders and “sellers” collaborate in “inspecting” a negotiation and “responding” to the negotiation through “interpersonal attunement.”

Foundational skills for negotiation include Pink’s ABCs:

Attunement:  Harmonizing actions and attitudes with others,

Buoyancy:  Asking questions, “positivity,” and an optimistic “explanatory style,”

Clarity:  Helping others freshly re-assess situations to identify unrecognized needs that can be addressed by the negation proposal.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

UC Hastings College of the Law’s Joan Williams offered strategies to address documented wage discrepancies.

As more women negotiate salaries, managers may view this as an expected practice.

  • What is the best negotiation pitch you’ve heard for a job-related salary increase or role promotion?
  • How did the person overcome objections?
  • How did the person manage the relationship with the negotiating partner?

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Training or Mentorship to Build Leadership Skills?

Peter Harms

Leadership development services are at least a $134 billion annual expenditure in the US, leading many to consider the estimated and actual Return on Investment (ROI).

Paul Lester

Paul Lester

A six-month study of U.S. Military Academy cadets at West Point provided some clues.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Peter Harms collaborated with Paul Lester of the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Directory, U.S. Military Academy’ Sean Hanna, Gretchen Vogelgesang of Federal Management Partners, and University of Washington’s Bruce Avolio to evaluate:

Sean Hanna

– Sean Hanna

  • -Candidates’s readiness to receive candid feedback from a variety of sources,
  • Mentoring from an engaged, supportive leadership coach,

-Realistic advancement opportunities in the organization.

Bruce Avolio

Participants were randomly assigned to an individual mentorship program or classroom-based group leadership training.
Those who participated in the semi-formal mentorships were significantly more likely to report increased confidence in assuming a leadership role than those in the classroom training.

Mentoring group’s effectiveness was significantly related to a coaches’ ability to:

  • Establish a trust-based collaborative relationship,
  • Provide support,
  • Offer candid, observational feedback,
  • Become sponsors and advocates when the cadets assert leadership.

Additionally, participants who experienced greatest gains in leadership skills and confidence were:

  • Open to receiving candid feedback from mentors,
  • Willing to receive challenging and negative feedback.

The least expensive approach to leadership development did not produce the greatest results, suggesting the importance of individualized attention. 

Ted Kaptchuk

Ted Kaptchuk

This effect was demonstrated when attention from authorities became a placebo effect for 250 patients with documented symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Those who received the most individualized attention in three no-treatment conditions reported the greatest symptom relief even though they received no medical intervention and participants were informed that the “treatment” was a placebo , found Harvard’s Ted Kaptchuk.

The most important “active ingredient” in leadership development training may be personalized attention, followed by candidates’s readiness to receive candid feedback and to implement recommendations.

 -*How has personalized mentoring helped you develop leadership competencies?

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Self Compassion, not Self-Esteem, Enhances Performance

Juliana Breines

Juliana Breines

Self-compassion –  treating one’s own suffering with the same support and compassion offered to others – is more important than self-esteem in developing skill and performance, found University of California, Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen.

Self-compassion enables people to accept their mistakes, failures, shortcomings with kindness.
In addition, self-compassion enables awareness of painful thoughts and feelings with equanimity.
This approach is optimized when accompanied by accepting responsibility for unsuccessful performance outcomes, and using the information to non-punitively improve performance, they noted.

Serena Chen

Volunteers considered an actual personal setback or failure with self-compassion or self-esteem-enhancing perspective (considering one’s positive qualities and accomplishments).
Participants who practiced a self-compassionate perspective tended to view personal shortcomings as changeable, and felt more motivated to improve performance by avoiding the same mistake in the future.

Another task induced failure, then provided an opportunity to improve performance in a later trial.
Volunteers who viewed their initial test failure with self-compassion devoted 25 per cent more time to preparing for future trials, and scored higher on the second test than those who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Breines and Chen suggested that self-compassion can enhance performance because it enables more dispassionate assessment of actions, abilities, and opportunities for future improvement.
Self-esteem-bolstering thoughts may narrow focus to consider only positive characteristics while overlooking opportunities for improvement.

Kristin Neff

Kristin Neff

Self-compassion measures were related to positive personality characteristics outlined in Robert McCrae and Paul Costa’s five factor model of personality known by the acronym OCEAN:

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

  • Openness (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)
    in a study by Kristin Neff and Stephanie Rude of University of Texas, and Kristin Kirkpatrick of Eastern Kentucky University.
Paul Costa

Paul Costa

Neff’s team found that higher levels of personal well-being, optimism, initiative, conscientiousness, curiosity, happiness associated were associated with self-compassion.
In addition, higher self-compassion was related to lower anxiety and depression.

However “priming” participants to think of an important person in their lives was associated with more negative self-evaluations, self-criticism, and negative moods in research by Mark Baldwin of McGill University,

Mark Baldwin

Mark Baldwin

Research on evoked self-compassion and its negative partner, self-criticism, suggests that compassionate self-appraisals enable people to perform better and experience more positive moods than self-critical evaluations.

-*How have you applied self-compassion to improve performance?

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