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Hiding success has disadvantages

You lose the option of strengthening relationships

 

 

 

It´s better to share than to hide success. At least when we are talking about people you are having close ties with: family, selected friends, business partners and peers. This is because by sharing success you are definitely strengthening relationships with individuals who are important to you. The logic goes like this: You apparently trust them to rejoice with you instead of being envious about what you worked out so well.

On the contrary: any direct reference person of yours interprets hiding of success either as rejection or as arrogance. The common approach not to talk proactively about things which went fine because your interlocutors would then feel bad or perceive you as a bragger is not true anymore. Or is to be seen differentiated to say the least.

These are the key findings of a recent US research. The scientists point out: you are paying a high emotional and social price if you keep believing hiding success means not to damage sensitivities of others.

Roberts, A. R., Levine, E. E., & Sezer, O. (2021). Hiding success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(5), 1261–1286. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000322

 

 

From the practice:

It is simply terrific to tell people who are close to my heart unlimitedly about my successes. I got it. And still I have to warn of potential pitfalls:

Even if everything is 100% correct what you are mentioning about the things which you have managed cleverly, please beware of

  1. Talking constantly about your successes – one might think you are dependent on constant praise
  2. Talking excessively about your successes – people can perceive you as penetrant.
  3. Using words and tone too self-importantly when talking about your successes – the other one might interpret this behaviour as exaggeration or yourself or as devaluation of him/herself.

 

So we get back a very old story: It is the How which is as crucial in communication as the What.


Negations may change outgroup attitudes

Interesting intervention leads to new opportunities to convince people

 

 

 

For decades we have learned and practised not to use negations when it comes to persuade someone. The socalled positive argumentation, the dogma said, was always the better idea. We need to leave this standpoint. A recent research of the Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media concluded that negations can have indeed their effects, sometimes even much better than anything else in rhetoric: if outgroup attitudes are to be changed. It is crucial for the success of this endeavour though, to address – before negating them – the very same attitude explicitly in the words used by the respective interlocutor. A negative outgroup attitude may be transferred into a more positive opinion about an individual or a group.

That means according to this German study: „Mr. Maier is lazy“ can be successfully counteracted with „No, Mr. Maier is not lazy”, by avoiding to speak out the well-intended “No, Mr. Maier is ambitious”. What mechanism lies behind this effect? Who is hearing one´s own words particularly in the beginning of any discussion (and is NOT filled up with counterarguments at once) feels perceived and listened to – even if these own words are negated. At this particular moment people start to be willing to stay in the discussion in a constructive way – the cognitive system has been activated.

Winter/Scholl/Sassenberg, A matter of flexibility: Changing outgroup attitudes through messages with negations, in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2021, 120(4), 956–976

 

 

From the practise:

After having read this paper for the first time I was puzzled. Have I been confronted here with a fundamental change of directions in the field of argumentation? Yes and no.

Yes, because these findings relativize the absolute and everlasting triumph of positive argumentation. But still no, since if you look closer we identify also common knowledge in a new look.

Who is using „You have not done this well“ as a feedback intentionally wants to get criticism more accepted. We are aware of the fact that the negation ahead of the word „well“ is not perceived that strong. “Well“ resonates much longer and prevents immediate defense tactics or counter attacks by the one who has received this feedback. Nothing else gets into effect in the logic I have described and presented above.

 

To put it in a nutshell : let´s practise negations – but only if we select our words thereafter precisely. In this or in another case.

 


Emotions of crowds are frequently overestimated

It´s the Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect, stupid

 

 

 

Keep attention when assessing the mood of a crowd. Whether we observe protesters, church visitors or family members: we fixate faces with the strongest mimics first and foremost and derive from here in an unqualified simplification that the entire group is dominated by the very same emotion. Hereby a negative expression “induces” more easily than a positive one to generalize. Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect the authors call this phenomenon in a paper published lately under the patronance of James J. Gross, the pope of emotion regulation from Stanford.

Plus: people who are socially unsecure tend in particular to judge groups globally wrong. This is because they are spending lots of time to observe strong emotions in the faces of others – global prejudices are soon popping up. The researchers recommend trainings where socially unsecure people learn to shift their focus off the most expressive faces of a crowd and integrate within your judgement proactively your perception of the rest, too.

„The Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect“, Goldenberg/Weisz/Sweeny/Cikara/Gross, in: Psychological Science”, vol. 32, issue 3, 2021.

 

 

From the practice:

I feel caught! Although I don´t consider myself socially unsecure my eyes constantly get stuck at most expressive faces – in a live setting or when watching videos. It is not before then that I am looking around from there to all the other people in this specific group or crowd.

Actually this study is an eye opener to me in telling 1. How important eye contact basically is, once again. 2. How deceptive and misleading visuals can be if we don´t take sufficient time to make up our minds or first judgements.

So I am going to discuss with my clients even more serious how we can protect ourselves and others in this regard. If you ask me we have to say a loud commitment to facts and a clear No to amplifications, especially if these amplifications are leading to devaluation and disdain.

Attentiveness is in demand. And coaching and/or self reflection.


Honesty of political opponent is moral spur

Misbehavior in the in-group promotes imitators

 

 

 

Whether somebody behaves more or less morally, is influenced by “one´s own people” (in-group) the same as by “the others” (out-group) – and still in a completely different way. Colleagues leave their traces primarily negatively. When observing misbehavior of those, “whom we belong to”, we do forget ethics and decency more easily. This is because we feel protected from any consequences by the group and/or want to demonstrate connectedness by behaving in an apparently accepted way.

Competition on the other hand promotes when it comes to morals rather the positive side in us. It does so particularly if political opponents or representatives of a rival department stands out for peculiar honesty. Who wants to have people say he/she would be less sincere than “these others”?

These are the conclusions a research team of Ivy League Universities Brown and Harvard get to in a recently published study. Remarkable from the scientific perspective: individuals who take honest behavior by out-group member as a moral spur still do not change their negative opinion about them.

„Following your group or your morals? The in-group promotes immoral behavior while the out-group buffers against ist”, Vives/Cikara/FeldmanHall, in Social Psychology and Personality Science, OnlineFirst, March 19th, 2021

 

 

From the practice:

This study confirms a sort of hypocracy or double standards we so often are confronted with in competitive arenas, above all in politics. To be generous in case of misbehavior of members of the own party and to be relentless against the very same or even minor activities if they are conducted by “the other ones”. It does not come by chance that politicians hit the bottom line of reputation rankings regularly – when credibility is concerned.

For 22 years I am questioning why so many officials see more risks than opportunities in distancing themselves from misbehavior in their in-group. Where is the issue, to demand more correctness not only for the others but also for yourself and your people? Why interpret so many “solidarity” as solidarity for their party and not for the country with its citizens?

We as coaches and advisers are asked to engage in this field even more: by encouraging, reflecting clear attitudes and training what this will mean in terms of communication. Eventually very often a client admits in a 1:1-session that double standards have to be stopped. Till today only few of them stand up against it visibly, though.


They all want the same: leaders who listen and inspire as role models

Motivation by positive communication has an impact on diverse teams, too

 

 

 

 

Regardless how diverse members of a staff might be: In the end blue-collar and white-collar workers, young and old, women and men, locals and migrants all want the same to feel motivated: leaders who listen and inspire as role models. Simultaneously self-disclosure of superiors has much less impact on follower´s perception than previously thought. These are the partially surprising results of a new study conducted and published recently at the California State University.

What this means is cristal clear: acknowledgement, appreciation and support are needed by all employees independent of their very specific and individual personal backgrounds. The researchers argue that this is due to our intrinsic desire for quality relationships, quality that can be tapped excellently with Positive Communication.

“Followers´ Perceptions of Positive Communication Practices in Leadership: What Matters and surprisingly What does not”, Biganeh/Young, in: International Journal of Business Communication”, I – 20, Feb. 2021.

 

From the practice:

The results of this study are not that astonishing to me as apparently for the authors. After 22 years in the coaching business and with clients from 5 different areas – Western Europe, Eastern Europe, UK, US and Middle East – I dare to make a rather unscientific comment: all of us look for attention and affection. It is the detail where cultural differences pop up and have to be acknowledged: how fast, how direct and what sort of wording you use for motivating the staff.

Let me add some recommendations to the topics “listening” and “inspiring role model”: 1. Please find space and concentration when listening to employees. You cannot note key details with the utmost precision otherwise. 2. Please have in mind that as a leader you are constantly under observation. Lots of managers underestimate this aspect and are surprised after all what their teams conclude from their walk and talk unintentionally.

 

 


Anxiety increases with new threats in the pandemic

Communicating in scenarios gets more and more inevitable

 

 

Threats that keep a constant pace decrease in their dynamics. That´s why the Covid-19 pandemic scares us less than in its beginnings – we got used to it in a way. Changes in velocity and acceleration of the pandemic, though, may lead directly to an increase in anxiety again and this has a negative impact on our performance at work, too. These are the conclusions of a study an international research team at the University of Oklahoma has published recently. Transferring them onto the current new stressors that means: the rampant new mutations of the virus, the slow implementation of the vaccination strategy in the country and the difficulties in planning the economic situation furtheron push anxieties once again and lead after days of respective bad news to emotional exhaustion and less engagement of employees. The researchers recommend leaders in politics and economy to focus in their communication less on the pandemic as such but primarily on the new stressors.

“Anxiety Responses to the Unfolding COVID-19 Crisis: Patterns of Change in the Experience of Prolonged Exposure to Stressors”, Fu/Greco/Lennard/Dimotakis, in: Journal of Applied Psychology, 2021, Vol. 106, No. 1, 48–61

From the practice:

When it comes to communication there is for me only one strategy how to cope seriously with unpredictabilities AND walk up to understandable anxieties of people involved: to present scenarios. My clients share their best experiences with the use of three scenarios  – two being rarely sufficient and four being confusing again. What sort of characteristics the scenario determines, how and why it has developed and particularly who has to do what if it occurs – these are the ingredients of professional communication in scenarios which helps to make diffuse uncertainty calculable. To communicate in scenarios is an approach for all leaders who are willing to stick to the options for actions each of their scenarios will bring with – regardless which one becomes reality. On the contrary leaders who don´t want to bind themselves to an agenda, leaders who prefer to decide and move spontaneously will go in a completely different direction: towards ad hoc-management and ad hoc-communication. Ad hoc boosts anxieties, though – that´s not only common sense but now – indirectly at least – also confirmed by this new study.


Male and female managers enjoy leadership roles alike

Positioning of women in the working place improved

 

 

 

 

There are much less differences between male and female leaders than assumed – at least when it comes down to job satisfaction and well-being. Both genders do enjoy their roles on the top of the respective organization with pleasure, relatedness and competence as the key thriver. By contrast, the number of supervised people and years of experience are of minor importance. These are the results of a study the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, worldwide the largest university for air and space programs, has recently published.

The authors interpret the outcome a) as a symbol for improved positioning of women in the working place and b) as a success for equal rights meaning that women who lead are not plagued any more by stress, tough requirements or expectations pitched too high. Organisations which appeal to higher performance of superiors may (furtheron) emphasize diversity, inclusion and equity.

Frederick/Lazzara, „Examining Gender and Enjoyment: Do They predict Job Satisfaction and Well-Being?”, in: The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 2020, vol.23, Nr. 3 – 4, 163-176.

 

 

 

From the practice:

Yes, there is a similar development in my work with clients regarding the quantitatively as qualitatively improved positioning of female leaders: 75% of my clients have been men when I started this kind of business in 1999 – nowadays they are max. 50%. Does this shift resonate anyhow in the substance of my work? Not really. Challenges and solutions in leadership tasks are pretty similar. Still my observations and my guts tell that women on average do find it harder to talk about themselves positively. In hearings this might be a disadvantage from the very beginning. This is manageable, though! 8 out of 10 of my clients get their job since they succeed in the recruiting procedures. Not only, but also because they have conveyed a convincing balance between selfmarketing and coolness in their appearance and their communication.

 

 


An Regierung & Wissenschaft: Positives Framing bei Impf-Fakten

Impfbefürworter können als Verbündete wichtigen Beitrag leisten

 

 

 

 

Impf-BefürworterInnen (das sind 52% in der EU laut Barometer 2019, 54% in D. 32% in Ö) können als MultiplikatorInnen oder Verbündete einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Impf-Freudigkeit der Bevölkerung leisten. Sie sind nämlich – wie eine aktuelle französische Studie ergab – fast durchgängig willig und fähig, SkeptikerInnen (das sind 33% in der EU laut Barometer 2019, 33% in D, 42% in Ö) von der Sinnhaftigkeit einer Impfung zu überzeugen. Unter einer Bedingung: diese Impf-Fakten müssen einen positiven Aufhänger haben (zB „90% der medizinischen WissenschaftlerInnen halten Impfstoffe für sicher“). Genau dieselben Fakten negativ „aufgehängt“ (zB ”10% der medizinischen WissenschaftlerInnen halten Impfstoffe nicht für sicher”), motivieren hingegen überhaupt nicht. Diese Erkenntnisse sind besonders interessant, war man doch bisher der Meinung, negative Infos würden eher weitergegeben werden als positive. Mitnichten, zumindest wenn es um Impfungen geht. Die Autoren der Studie empfehlen daher Regierungen und/oder WissenschaftlerInnen, ganz besonders auf positives Framing gegenüber der Zielgruppe Impf-BefürworterInnen in ihrer Kommunikation zu setzen.

Altay/Mercier, Framing Messages for Vaccination Supporters, in: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 26(4), 567-587, 2020.

 

 

Aus der Praxis:

Zwei Aspekte aus dieser Studie möchte ich auch aus meiner Erfahrung bei anderen kommunikativen Herausforderungen bestätigen:

  1. Dort, wo Mehrheiten gebraucht werden, ist es effizienter, BefürworterInnen als Verbündete beim Überzeugen der Unsicheren gewinnen, als zu versuchen GegnerInnen umzustimmen.
  2. Positives Framing wirkt auch immer dann großartig, wenn jemand neue Wege gehen soll. Das heißt: a) Eindeutige, hohe Prozentzahlen bei den Fakten immer in den Vordergrund stellen, b) Als erstes herausarbeiten, wo die Vorteile liegen und allfällige Nachteile erst anschließend erwähnen c) deutlich sagen, was Sie konkret wollen bzw. was präzise zu tun ist. Sogenannte Negativ-Vorgaben – zu sagen, wie es nicht sein soll – hilft nicht.

 

 


Collegiality more important than expected

Treatment by superiors is mitigated by peers culture of fairness either way

 

 

 

 

 

Superiors may be fair or not: whether employees feel well treated depends largely on peers. If they are fair to each other, mistreatment by superiors is mitigated, if there is no culture of fairness within a team itself even good treatment by superiors is mitigated, too.

This is the conclusion a new study by the UCLA in collaboration with Columbia University is drawing. Why this matters? Because the level of fairness an employee is treated with points to his/her high or low standing in the organization which in turn results in a more or less motivated staff. This is crucial particularly in times of Corona & Zoom.

The researchers recommend leaders to pay attention to the fairness culture in their teams in their own interest: a) by being role models and b) by limiting violations of collegiality through fostering of ethics and a strong culture of cooperation.

Bendersky/Brockner, “Mistreatment from peers can reduce the effects of respectful treatment from bosses, and respectful peers can offset mistreatment from bosses”, in: Volume41, Issue8, Special Issue: Contextualizing Workplace Mistreatment, October 2020, Pages 722-736

 

From the practice:

I am hearing this pretty often: if one employee is treating peers unfairly a superior does not want to interfere. Because it´s not his/her business, because being the boss does not mean you are a parent, because a good superior does not want to be partisan, has to focus on relevant stuff and does not have time for game playing.

The truth is – at least due to countless coaching sessions over the past 20 years – that a lot of superiors tend to avoid non-factual arguments. Rather hoping that things will be solved by itself than to go between in this type of conflicts, seems to be the motto.

So the recent study might contribute to new perspectives: Yes, of course you have to intervene if employees are not treating each other fairly or correctly. If necessary you have to be very direct, as well. You are setting up together with the team some guidelines of fairness, are engaging as a sort of mediator in a meeting with all people involved or are offering coaching respectively. I do recommend: let it be part of your assessment whether any of your employees is sticking with or leaving behind any sort of unfair behavior towards peers. Otherwise your efforts are supposed to be not binding.

 


Confident voice compensates accent

Native speakers always score high when it comes to trust

 

 

 

 

Using confident voice compensates potential disadvantage due to the speaker´s accent. A powerful organ therefore is key whether people are granted trust or not. These are the results of recent experiments conducted by the McGill University, Montreal. In these experiments voice and language and their influence on trust building between English speaking Canadians, Australians and French were analysed. The ranking set forth is clear: doubtful voice always gets the worst results, even native speakers who seem to enjoy a basic benefit not speaking with any accent scored poorly with doubt in their voices.

The researchers point out, that to speak with accent obviously reduces trust and credibility even in the in-group. Even there in all phases of the experiments native speakers received the highest rates for trust.

Caballero/Pell, „Implicit effects of speaker accents and vocally-expressed confidence on decisions to trust”, In: Decision, Vol 7(4), Oct 2020, 314-331

 

 

 

From the practice:

I am glad about these results. 1. Because I am regularly asked by clients who don’t speak German as their mother tongue if and if yes, how problematic their accent is here in Austria and Germany. This question is on their mind particularly when they are preparing for a hearing or a presentation or when they are approaching a critical interview. 2. Because it´s good news for myself. I am glad to hear that with a confident voice I may also compensate potential disadvantages due to my German accent when dealing with English speaking clients. It goes without saying that I, too, want to be judged and evaluated based on my professionalism and not according to an accent.

What does “confident voice” mean in detail, though? To convey power and strength of course, but then first and foremost positive thinking, leadership and serenity.


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