Whether in an application, or in conversations with your bosses or clients: in order to prove your competence, you need to report on your great work every now and then. However, there is reason to brag. She doesn’t look particularly likable. Experts have even coined their own word for this: the “self-promotion dilemma.” However, three American economic researchers claim that they have been able to solve the problem, as they say in »Journal of Personality and Social Psychology« Write: Anyone who praises other people’s accomplishments as well as their own comes across as both competent and kind.
Eric van Eps of the University of Utah and his colleagues first examined how students advertised their skills: After a successful group performance, they were asked to apply individually for more tasks. More than half praised their contribution alone; Only about a third praised the contribution of their fellow participants. Politicians have become smarter in this regard, as his speeches in the US Congress showed. Every second person combined self-praise with overall praise from others.
But is double praise always the best strategy? The three economists tested this hypothesis using experiments involving more than 1,500 participants. In the first study, they presented managers with fictitious applications. Self-praise and double praise gave them an equally good impression, but applications with external praise seemed much nicer, and the overall impression benefited from them as well. This does not change if there is also a message from the person being praised who is only praising himself.
In another experiment, the researchers tested two additional strategies: no praise at all or praise only from others. Nearly 1,000 test subjects were presented with online fictional texts from two people reporting on a joint project. Avoiding promoting yourself doesn’t give you any extra sympathy points. Both external praise and double praise seemed equally nice. But the double praise made them seem more competent. The researchers concluded that this is the only way to appear competent and friendly at the same time.
This also applies to politics, as another experience has shown. About 200 eligible voters were asked to judge politicians who praised their work or the work of their colleagues. Double praise turned out to be the better choice all around: Test participants gave one of seven possible points more for competence and up to about two more points for friendliness and the likelihood of choosing that person. Furthermore, the decision to vote was more related to friendliness than competence.
As for external influence, it is important to always acknowledge the contribution of others when showing off. No matter if it’s at work or in politics: we shine brighter with our accomplishments when we allow others to shine with us.
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