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Trivia A social psychologist explains how to appear nice without 'playing dumb'

Discussion in 'Lifestyle & Healthy Living' started by meowzkingz, May 22, 2015.

  1. Not to get all dramatic about it, but the bedrock of every relationship — personal or professional — is trust.

    There is an abundance of workplace research showing that if your employees and colleagues do not see you as trustworthy, then they will not collaborate effectively with you, or go out of their way to help you, or follow your lead.

    So the importance of coming across as trustworthy really cannot be exaggerated.

    And to seem worthy of trust, studies show that you need to project two things: warmth and competence.

    Warmth is taken as evidence that you have good intentions toward the perceiver — that you are a friend, not a foe. And signs of competence are evidence that you can actually act on those intentions when you want to.

    Sounds easy enough, right?

    Well, here comes the tricky part: The patterns of behavior that we associate with warmth and competence often directly contradict one another.

    In other words, if you appear too warm, people may question your competence — so you come across like a doormat. And if you appear too competent, people may assume you’re cold — so you end up looking like a jerk.

    You see, when people are trying to appear warm and friendly, they engage in flattery, make kind gestures, are generally agreeable, and encourage others to talk (i.e., they are good listeners).

    But when they want to appear competent, they do the opposite — speaking rather than listening, focusing the conversation on their own accomplishments and abilities, and challenging the opinions of others as a demonstration of their own expertise.

    In fact, both consciously and intuitively, people tend to use this knowledge and play down their competence (i.e. “play dumb”) in order to appear warm, and vice versa.

    You see evidence of this contradiction in some stereotypes, too – for instance, that women are warmer but less competent than men, and that rich people are intelligent but relatively cold.

    Career women, feminists, female intellectuals, and lesbians — so-called “non-traditional” women — are often seen as more competent, and consequently less warm.

    It seems to be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't kind of scenario. If you’re seen as warm but not competent, you may be liked but not respected. If you appear competent but cold, you’ll get respect, but never trust.

    Fortunately, research points to a way out of this dilemma: You can project those qualities of warmth that do not appear to suggest low competence — the moral aspects of warmth.

    Traits like courageous, fair, principled, responsible, honest, and loyal — ones that lack the touchy-feeliness we generally associate with “warmth” — convey good intentions and trustworthiness even better than traits like sociable, funny, and agreeable, and without the connotations of low competence.

    (Of course, sociable, funny, and agreeable have the advantage of being much easier to convey, particularly in a short time. In a brief conversation, someone is unlikely to come away thinking you are principled, for instance.)

    In the end, the key to finding the sweet spot between “lovey-dovey” and “arrogant bastard” is be a person of your word. Be sure to take ownership of your own mistakes, avoid deceit at all costs, and be someone your co-workers can always count on to do the right thing. After all, this is ultimately what trust is actually about.
     
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