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.
Have you been with people who talk on and on about themselves? While it may feel tiresome, there is no better way to make a good impression and come across as a great listener and communicator than to let another person self-disclose.
According to Harvard research published in Scientific American, revealing personal information to others produces a high level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward. In short, it feels good. You can always prime the pump by asking people questions about their experiences, interests, and accomplishments.
In addition to making your conversation partner feel good and making you look good, there are other benefits to this kind of dialogue. Disclosing personal information to others increases social bonding and interpersonal liking. And sharing information gained through personal experiences can lead to performance advantages by facilitating teamwork.
We want to hear: How do you encourage others to talk about themselves, and what advantages do you think you gain from doing so? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In one way or another we all vie for attention—whether pitching an idea or trying to be recognized for the good work we do. In his new book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, recently profiled in Business Insider, author and investor Ben Parr summarized research on top attention-getting triggers.
We agree with Parr when he concludes that the greatest “masters of attention” create a sense of community with their audience.
We have seen over and over again how establishing common ground with others and recognizing them for their accomplishments predisposes them to listen attentively and respectfully to what you have to say.
We want to hear: How do you capture people’s attention and what do others do to capture yours? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Does a young person in your life have a “mindless” summer job right now? Harvard professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, reminisced about the “so-called stupid jobs” she had as a teenager and young adult – including selling hot dogs and mowing lawns, working as an office temp and messenger, and hawking T-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts. “These jobs,” she wrote, “made me aware of class privilege in a way that my hours in Econ 101 surely did not.”
We agree that gaining some understanding of many different social realities can be one benefit of students’ summer jobs, but there are many more. Unless you are a lighthouse keeper, virtually every job entails communication skills, and many present opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. Learning to deal with a cross-section of customers and a spectrum of management styles, whether working at a retail store, in a restaurant, or on a construction crew, can provide invaluable experience for later positions.
In the theater, there is a saying: “There are no small parts.” Likewise, there are no small jobs. Taking pride in every job we do, staying engaged in the work, navigating conflict if it arises—even making and recovering from rookie mistakes—all prepare young people for the challenges ahead.
We want to hear: What valuable lessons did you learn from a summer job? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Recent research reveals that 80 percent of employers name “cultural fit” as a top priority when hiring. However, a recent New York Times article suggests that when so-called fit is evaluated in snap judgments, it can result in managers hiring only people who are personally similar to them, while excluding those who are not.
Lauren Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management researched the hiring practices of the country’s top investment banks, management consultancies, and law firms, interviewing 120 decision makers. She concluded that interviewers commonly rely on subjective measures like personal chemistry to make hiring decisions. They were also prone to hire applicants whose “hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own.” The obvious downside: “It is easy to mistake rapport for skill.” Highly qualified job seekers who do not hail from the same social strata can be left out completely.
We first published our Organizational Culture Survey and research in 1988 and it has been used by researchers and practitioners around the globe to measure and manage cultures. We acknowledge the importance of fit because employees who resonate with an organization’s goals and strategies will be more productive and stay longer. But we also agree with Professor Rivera that “fit” should reflect organization values, not personal preferences.
We want to hear: How would you describe your organizational culture, and how does your organization measure organizational fit? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
When Ed Catmull, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, addressed the Class of 2015 at Johns Hopkins University, he urged new graduates to broaden their view of creativity by accepting that mistakes and “dumb ideas” are necessary—even desirable.
Many people ask how to become more creative, Catmull said. “I think this is the wrong question. The question is: What are the cultural and interpersonal forces that block creativity and change?” Because “new ideas are fragile and often off track,” Pixar long ago vowed to protect people who were “working on something that didn’t work…while they searched for something but didn’t know what it was.”
In order to facilitate a creative dynamic, Pixar—and now Disney, which acquired Pixar—holds creative sessions called The Braintrust, where directors, animators and writers convene to help each other. Braintrust gatherings, Catmull explained, are structured as peer-to-peer dialogues, with the power structure removed from the room. Everyone gives and listens to honest notes, and everyone shares ownership of success. “Dumb ideas” are welcomed, because they often lead to good ideas.
We agree with Dr. Catmull that this kind of candor-filled, listening-oriented, respectful communication “can lead to magic.” As Catmull said, “You feel the ego disappear. All attention is on the problem.”
We want to hear: What does your organization do to foster creative collaboration? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
How should a manager react when an employee makes a mistake or underperforms? Some managers reprimand; others show curiosity (how did this happen?) and compassion (how can I help you through this?). Research cited by Emma Seppala, PhD, a Stanford University research psychologist writing in the Harvard Business Review, shows the compassionate response yields more positive outcomes.
In particular, a study by Jonathan Haidt of NYU shows that the more employees look up to their leaders and are affected by their kindness and compassion (a state he calls elevation), the more loyal they become. And the results magnify: When compassionate behavior is shown toward one employee, anyone who has witnessed that behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted.
It’s not always easy to show compassion when we are frustrated and under pressure ourselves, but we agree with Dr. Seppala, who recommends taking a moment to step back, detach, and then imagine what the other person might be experiencing. The resulting empathy can help you resolve the problem constructively.
We want to hear: How do you handle it when someone makes a mistake? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Decades of research have shown EQ (Emotional Intelligence) to be a critical differentiator for leaders. EQ affects how we manage our own behavior and how we interact with others. In a recent Inc. article, Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recounted the chief characteristics of people with high EQs and we were struck, once again, by how many of them are related to communication.
Many aspects of EQ affect how we communicate with others. These include curiosity about other people, the ability to read others’ emotions, and a talent for neutralizing toxic people by not allowing their anger to fuel a tense situation.
Other equally important aspects of EQ, however, affect how we communicate with ourselves. Those with high EQs have what Bradberry calls “a robust emotional vocabulary”— they can identify and differentiate among many subtle states of emotion. They can joke about themselves, let go of mistakes and grudges, and “stop negative self-talk in its tracks.”
Whether your communication is internal or external, self-awareness and self-management are the keys to EQ, and to a high-impact life.
We want to hear: What communication practices do you think are measures of EQ? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Can attaining a position of power actually interfere with the ability to empathize? Sadly, research says it does.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Lou Solomon, CEO of the consultancy Interact, says this happens, “slowly, and then suddenly…with bad mini-choices, made perhaps on an unconscious level.” The powerful often become preoccupied with self-interest; simultaneously, they lose ability to read emotions and to adapt behavior to other people. In fact, power can actually change how the brain functions, according to research from neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi.
The good news: All of this can be mitigated with self-awareness and self-management. We agree with Solomon, who recommends that those who want to avoid such counterproductive power traps remember to ask for feedback and be willing to risk vulnerability. Invite others to share the spotlight when things go well and take your share of the blame when they don’t. In the end, generosity and humility will inspire loyalty, trust and enthusiasm in those around you.
We want to hear: Have you noticed a change in yourself or anyone else when promoted to a power position? How did you deal with it? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once shared a “dirty little secret” about business: A certain quality can effectively chain an organization to mediocrity if it is not developed. That quality is candor.
Likewise, Carlos Brito, CEO of InBev, says companies can never grow unless they face up to the negative truth as well as the positive. "I like people that can tell me the good and the bad with the same urgency and clarity," he says.
Hudl, a sports video software company based in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a system for honest feedback that they refer to as #RealTalk. It’s a phrase used to inspire genuine candor among the team. Hudl co-founder John Wirtz says RealTalk— one of six values read off at the start of each company retreat—has been “absolutely critical” to the company’s success.
Not every company has a culture like Hudl’s, but every organization must recognize that candor is an art. While honest feedback about performance is imperative, “brutal” honesty that picks people apart is more demoralizing than enlightening. Getting the balance right ensures that trust will grow and that conflicts can be mined for their productive value.
We want to hear: Does your workplace value candor, and how do you go about delivering honest feedback in a constructive way? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Want to create a positive new habit? Consider the language you use. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when confronting temptation. One group was instructed to use the words "I can't" while the other used "I don't" when considering unhealthy food choices (“I can’t eat sugar” vs. “I don’t eat sugar”). When the study finished, subjects were offered a chocolate bar or granola bar as thanks. While 39 percent of those who used the words "I can't" chose the granola, 64 percent of those in the "I don't" group picked it over chocolate.
The study authors believe that saying "I don't" rather than "I can't" provides greater "psychological empowerment." For example, by saying, “I don’t smoke,” we reinforce our commitment by making non-smoking part of our identity.
We believe this finding can be applied to communication habits as well. Consider the power of saying “I don’t interrupt” or “I don’t use silence as a weapon.” If you want to build a positive communication style, try identifying yourself as someone who “doesn’t” engage in unproductive communication.
We want to hear: Is there a habit you want to break? How does substituting “I don’t” for “I can’t” work for you? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman are not only self-described “best friends,” but also co-founders of Genius.com, a start-up that enables users to annotate song lyrics and other text available on the Internet. Like any two people in a close working relationship, they know conflict comes with the territory. They are also wise enough to know that conflict need not damage their relationship or their company.
After a recent blowup (the two entrepreneurs have opposite management styles and ways of approaching problems) they began seeing a therapist who counsels individuals, couples and some business partners. Once a week, they told The New York Times, they spend an hour articulating their differences and refining their ideas.
Their three big takeaways from the process: “Never let an opportunity pass to say something positive; walking away from a heated conversation doesn’t signal abandonment; and it is better to discuss a problem because it will surface anyway.”
We applaud these leaders, and we resoundingly agree with the lessons they have learned. The more that leaders take a productive approach to conflict, the more successful they and their organizations are bound to be.
We want to hear: Do you think people who work together should set aside time each week to creatively resolve conflict? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.