The Pratfall Effect – The 200 words project

Here’s this week’s 200 word idea from Give and Take by Adam Grant

In an experiment where people were asked to listen to candidates make an argument over the phone, they typically listened more carefully to the superior candidates over the average candidates. This wasn’t surprising of course.

But, when each candidate was asked to say – “Gosh, I spilt some coffee on my suit,” the persuasiveness of the superstar candidates increased while that of the average candidates decreased. The researchers call this “the Pratfall effect” – where a top candidate is liked when they feel more human.

Hence, superstar performers in fields that require them to work with and move people are those who give themselves completely to their teams/audience and are thus willing to be vulnerable and human. People who are too obsessed either with being perfect or with getting something from the people they work with forget that it is necessary to be a prat.

PS: don’t try this if you are average! :-)


Source and thanks to:

‘Everybody is scared of looking silly or looking like they don’t quite know. The truth is that we don’t mind if someone doesn’t have the perfect answer if they’re natural and honest. Much more important than getting it right is being real.’ | Patricia Ryan Madson

How self awareness and security drive behavior

Below is a 2 x 2 that describes how self awareness and security drive behavior. This isn’t a well researched graph. Instead, it is one that I’ve put together from observing myself and other people.

Before we dive in, I’d like to quickly describe the axes –

X Axis: Self awareness – Oblivious stands for an inability to be self aware.
Y Axis: Security – Secure doesn’t mean the person has no insecurities. Secure just means that, on average, the person is a lot more driven by security than insecurity. Every one of us have our insecurities but some choose not to be driven by them. Another possibility here is that, sometimes, environment plays a role in increasing the insecurity level.

Self awareness and security 2x2

I can’t say I am happy with every data point I’ve described on the graph. I recognize the ones I have experienced well. I have also not marked many interesting points in the middle which is probably where we spend most of our time. However, I think this should work for all practical purposes. Over to the takeaways –

1. Aggressive behavior always arises from insecurity. Vulnerability can only rise from confidence. The causes of these two behaviors are often swapped. Vulnerability, the ability to ask for for help, the ability to be kind, etc., can only come from a place of worthiness.

2. I find it very helpful to think of my behavior within a particular situation on this chart and understand what drives it. For example, I was on a call yesterday when I started out behaving aggressive. The call was a first-of-a-kind discussion in my experience with 10 people via Google Hangout on a topic that would have really benefited from a face-to-face meeting. I had no idea if we’d even be able to facilitate such a discussion via a video call with it’s lags and disconnection. 5 minutes into the call, once I began to realize that there was no need to worry and that I should really calm down, I began to settle. Soon, I was back to normal behavior.

3. My idea of normal behavior has changed a lot over the years. From my limited experience, it is easier to move right before you move upwards. We can all work harder on our self awareness by setting aside more time for reflection and taking stock. It begins there. Insecurities are a harder beast to tackle. They are often so deep rooted that it takes a fair bit of self awareness to even realize that is the case.

4. I’ve deliberately stayed away from the concept of “ego.” I’ve observed large egos when you feel insecure and manageable egos among the more secure folk. That said, I am always left with the feeling that there’s more to that word. So, I’ll come back to it when I feel I’ve understood it enough – maybe 4 years from now. :)

This graph is a culmination of observations over the last 4 years or so and is the first time I’ve been able to put these thoughts and ideas into a frame. These ideas have had a lot of influence in making me a happier and more secure person. And, if there is anything I have learnt, it is that we can all benefit from self reflection. Positive change almost always begins there.