It’s hard to top email for convenience. According to new research, however, we all sound smarter when we communicate verbally. Findings of a recent study cited in The New York Times suggest that phone conversations or face-to-face interactions may be more effective when trying to impress a prospective employer or to close a deal.
Vocal cues “show that we are alive inside — thoughtful, active…Text strips that out,” said Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and one of two co-authors of the paper, “The Sound of Intellect,” recently published in Psychological Science.
In an experiment presented in the paper, M.B.A. candidates were asked to prepare a pitch to a prospective employer — a two-minute proposal that the researchers recorded on video. Separately, the researchers recruited 162 people to evaluate these pitches. Some of the evaluators watched the video; a second group listened to the audio only; a third group read a transcript of the pitch. The evaluators who heard the pitch—via audio or video—rated the candidates’ intellect higher than those who read the transcript. In a second experiment, evaluators read a pitch specifically drafted by candidates to be read, rather than spoken. The result was the same.
We are not surprised by the results of these experiments. Good writing is an excellent tool, but no writing can convey the nuances of the spoken word, which is embellished by tone and cadence and amplified by gestures and facial expressions. Remember this study the next time you ask yourself if you should press “send” or speak your piece.
We want to hear! What criteria do you use to decide whether to write or speak what you have to say? Do you prefer it when others email you or speak with you directly? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
It’s called “humblebragging” when someone makes a self-deprecating statement (often veiled in a faux complaint) with the true purpose of drawing attention to something they’re proud of (as in, “Darn, I lost so much weight I have to spring for a new wardrobe.”) But studies show the humblebrag is not a good tool for self-promotion in business situations, especially job interviews.
According to recent research by Harvard Business School’s Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, cited in Forbes, when given the option to brag or to humblebrag, the former is better. The researchers hypothesized that humblebrags create negative impressions because they seem insincere, compared with pure bragging or pure complaining. Their supposition was tested in a series of five studies, detailed in their paper, “Humblebragging: A Distinct—and Ineffective—Self-Presentation Strategy.” The takeaway: By public perception, complainers are better than braggers. And humblebraggers are the worst.
Why do people humblebrag? “I think people have a tendency not to say something negative about themselves because that makes them vulnerable,” Gino says. But as we have said before, showing vulnerability can often have extremely positive results. We all appreciate honest people who can learn from their mistakes. It’s fine to brag if the brag is merited, and it is also fine to admit you could improve—because we all can!
We want to hear! Can you share with us a humblebrag you heard lately? How did you feel about the person who made it? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In last week’s Capsule we wrote about the costs of Incivility to workers. But there is yet another group for whom incivility has a negative impact: customers.
Studies conducted by Georgetown business professor Christine Porath with marketing professors Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes at USC found that people were less likely to patronize a business that has an employee they perceived as rude--whether the rudeness was directed at them or at other employees. “Witnessing a short negative interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand,” writes Porath.
Why is respect, or disrespect, such a powerful motivator? Because even brief interactions affect our view of how others see us, which in turn can shape how we define ourselves. A smile, an acknowledgment, the sense that we are being heard can uplift us, while rude, dismissive behavior can leave us feeling devalued.
Sadly, Porath’s research shows incivility has soared over the past two decades: 25 percent of those surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week. That rose to nearly 50 percent in 2005, and over 50 percent in 2011. Imagine how much lost employee and customer goodwill that adds up to! It’s time to reverse the trend, starting with identifying small moments when a slight change in demeanor can raise people up instead of bringing them down.
We want to hear! Have you ever stopped patronizing a business because workers there were rude to you or to one another? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Incivility at work costs. Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, has researched the results of insensitive interactions for 20 years across 17 industries. Writing in The New York Times, Porath cites studies showing that incivility “hijacks workplace focus”—even contributing to patient deaths in hospital settings—and causes people to “miss information that is right in front of them.” People who feel belittled at work, she notes, also have fewer creative ideas.
Bosses demoralize workers by doing things like walking away or answering cell phones mid-conversation, pointing out flaws in front of others, and taking credit for wins while finger-pointing over losses. But Porath notes that incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. When asked why they behaved badly, most leaders told her they were overloaded and had no time to be nice.
Porath argues—and we whole-heartedly agree—”respect doesn’t necessarily require extra time.” Being conscious of how we communicate, not only with words, but also with tone, gestures, and facial expressions can go a long way toward creating a more civil and more creative and productive workplace.
We want to hear! Have you ever felt too rushed to be civil at work, or have you been the recipient of uncivil behavior? How would you make civility more the norm at work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.