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Want People To Like You More? Quit Acting So Perfect

Want People To Like You More? Quit Acting So Perfect


Jeff Haden | Tribune News Service

MAKING a great first impression is fairly easy. Smile. Make eye contact. Listen a lot more than you talk. Ask questions about the other person. Anyone can do those things.
It's much harder to be likable over the long-term. Especially if you're highly skilled, highly accomplished... or generally seen as incredibly successful. As the authors of this study write:
"If we assume that superior intellectual ability is a positive attribute and if we assume that people with positive attributes are more attractive... we should like people of superior intellectual ability more than mediocre, average, or stupid people. Yet, obvious as this relationship may seem, it is not always the case. It has been shown that group members who are considered the most able are not necessarily the best liked."
"It has also been demonstrated that people who initiate the most ideas and are acknowledged as the best 'idea'men or women by other members of their group are usually not the best liked group members. A great deal of ability, in and of itself, might make the stimulus person seem 'too good,'unapproachable, distant, non-human."
Or in non-researcher speak: The guy who always has the best ideas, who consistently outperforms her peers, who tackles -- and crushes -- extra work, and still somehow finds time to do triathlons in his"spare"time?
We respect the (stuff) out of him... but we don't necessarily like him.
Unless he occasionally goofs up. And is willing to laugh at himself when he does.
Then we like him more.
Why? That phenomenon is called the pratfall effect. Depending on the individual's perceived overall ability to perform well, attractiveness increases or decreases after that person makes a mistake. A highly-competent person is seen as more likable after the mistake; a person with average or below average competence is seen as less likable.
Which makes sense: If Joe is a below-average performer and one day spills coffee all over himself during a meeting... we see that as yet another sign of Joe's overall suckiness. And that makes us like him even less.
But if Mary is amazing, and one day spills her coffee? As the researchers write:
"A near perfect or superior individual who shows that he is capable of an occasional blunder or pratfall may come to be regarded as more human and more approachable; consequently, he will be liked better because of this pratfall.
"On the other hand, if a mediocre or average person commits an identical blunder... it will suggest only that he is very mediocre and will lower his attractiveness."
All of which provides yet another reason to be extremely humble -- especially if you're extremely talented. Try to do perfect work... but don't try to be perfect. (Yes, there is a difference.)
Admit a mistake. Share a screw-up.
And laugh at yourself. While you should never laugh at other people, you should always laugh at yourself.
When you make an occasional mistake and are willing to laugh at yourself, other people won't laugh at you. They'll laugh with you. And they'll like you better.

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