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Personal Growth

Vulnerability and Compliments Help Others See You Clearly

A new book explains why individual humans are notoriously bad at assessing how others perceive them.

As Oliver Burkeman writes at The Guardian, there’s really no way to determine how you’re coming off to other people. Burkeman writes that he’s recently read Heidi Grant Halvorson’s new book, No One Understands You And What To Do About It, and can’t help but feel powerless knowing how little power he has over how others perceive him. Academia and science seem to agree:

“Studies reveal only minor correlations between how you think you’re viewed and how people view you; if those around you aren’t falling victim to the ‘false consensus effect (assuming you’re just like them), then they’re falling victim to the ‘false uniqueness effect (assuming you couldn’t possibly be as clever, or busy, or unhappy as them). Or maybe it’s you who’s falling victim to the ‘transparency illusion,’ assuming your words and facial expressions are a dead giveaway for your feelings, when usually they’re not.”

Burkeman explores other reasons why our natural inclinations deceive us before transitioning to a more hopeful thought. Halvorson says we’re not completely hopeless as influencers of perception:

“Many of her suggestions involve nudging people from gut judgments to more effortful, reflective ones. Show a little vulnerability, for example, and the resulting bond of empathy should prompt people to see you more clearly. Compliment someone on their fairness or accurate judgments and, research suggests, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

So what’s the takeaway? First, we’re not good at assessing how we come off to others. Second, our innate egocentrism frequently gets in the way of us realizing that we’re bad at it. Third, despite this, there are things we can do to try and nudge people into seeing us how we want.

Read more at The Guardian.

Below, Big Think expert Nicholas Christakis explains how obtaining influence requires a social grace and savvy:

Photo credit: Agnesss / Shutterstock


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