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Asking questions makes you more likeable. It may even score you a date!

in Editor Pick/Work Psychology by

When I was studying psychology, our statistics professor had a strategy to get people to pay
attention. She would systematically work through the class attendance sheet and quiz students on
the spot in the lecture theatre.

I still remember the first question she asked me: ‘Mr Duck, what does an alpha of .05 mean?’ Don’t
worry, I won’t bore you with the answer 95% of the time (terrible statistics joke).
This was, at first, a most troubling scenario. Most students were content with sitting back in relative
obscurity whilst the lecturer did all the heavy lifting. If you switched off for most of the session that
was ok. It was the university equivalent of workplace presenteeism.

Yet, for some reason, the fear of being drilled on a statistics question at random was enough to have
every student sitting upright. They even seemed to be well prepared before the lecture.

In many presentations, workshops, training and meetings I regularly observe that the room is split
between people who say very little and those who do a lot of talking.

There are probably a few reasons for this:

Lacking purpose
If you are sitting down with a surgeon, you will have some questions lined up. You listen to their
advice. This is because there is a clear purpose to the meeting that motivates you. Meetings in other
workplaces often fail to set a clear purpose. People can sit around for hours discussing issues
without ever getting a real outcome.

If set as a regular meeting, the attendees will soon switch off completely. They will be physically but
not mentally present (presenteeism). They may even start playing with their phone or completely
ignore everyone while they respond to emails on their laptop.


Fear of offending
If you’ve ever watched the show Shark Tank—where would-be entrepreneurs pitch a business deal
to successful entrepreneurs—you’d recall that the hosts of the show are never afraid to put people
on the spot. Time and time again they question the guest on their business model, even if it
means destroying the person’s morale, their enthusiasm and their ideas.

However, in most areas of our working life, we avoid Shark Tank scenarios. Most of us are also
sympathetic when a colleague needs to present or if an entrepreneur is introducing a business idea.
We are always trying to find a balance between getting along with people and having difficult
conversations to improve productivity and quality. As an entrepreneur, you always want to hear the
positive even though constructive feedback is more valuable. Workplaces that value politeness and
harmony over business results can end up with individuals pursuing bad projects and ideas with no


Fear of public speaking
In many instances individuals don’t speak up because they fear any kind of public speaking. When
you ask a question or put forward your idea to a group, you run the risk of looking foolish or ignorant. More often than not you are probably asking the same question everyone else has been
thinking about!

Research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests you may have little to fear
from asking questions. In fact, across several studies, individuals who asked more questions were
perceived by others to be more likeable.

In one study the researchers were even able to measure the question-asking behaviour of people on
speed dates. Individuals who asked more questions were more likely to get a follow-up date.
The researchers suggest that individuals who ask questions are perceived as responsive, which is
associated with listening, validation, understanding and care. Importantly, the researchers found
that individuals typically do not think they are liked if they ask more questions.

For the person on the receiving end, it is a sign that they are at least interested in the ideas you are
presenting. Someone passively nodding in agreement is likely to be a bad sign that the other person
wants the conversation to end quickly.

In a job interview this means that you may be more likely to get the job if you ask questions. At the
same time, you may also learn something from the answer. A win-win for you.

How was this blog? Was it ok? What could I do better?

6 reasons why being open to learning is your finest quality

in Editor Pick/Work Psychology by

There are billions of people on this planet and very few are really the best at what they do. The number one sportsperson in the world only holds that position for a brief period of time.

The highest paid and much loved actor can find themselves struggling on the small screen, trying to get in the limelight again. The top executive is only celebrated in prosperous times until it is time for fresh blood.

Each day, we have our own little triumphs and opportunities to shine. But many of us feel the need to promote our skills, experience and achievements at every opportunity. After all, if we don’t do it, who will?

This tendency to self-promote or to demonstrate our prowess is called a ‘performance-orientation’. I once worked with someone who was always quick to highlight their breadth of skills. They also liked to tell me the story of their childhood when they were identified as ‘gifted’ and put into a special program.

In other situations, the performance orientation isn’t so blatant. It can come in the form of someone resisting a good idea because it makes them feel inferior for not thinking of it themselves. It shows up when someone fails to listen because they are waiting to educate you about what they know.

But think back to those times you spoke to someone who genuinely paused to consider your view. Or maybe it was a moment where someone admitted to a group that they were unsure about what to do and were seeking some ideas. More often than not, you probably valued and respected them.

Think about the time you were truly engaged in what you were doing. It is often where you are learning something that intrigues or interests you. This is referred to as a learning orientation.



6 Key Benefits of a Learning Orientation

People like you. Yep, it’s funny that people tend to prefer your company when you are open to listening and learning as opposed to showing off your talents.

It improves cooperation. When groups adopt a learning orientation, they are not motivate to out-perform each other.

Improved resilience. If you always want to shine, this places a lot of pressure on you, including worries and doubts about what people think of you. If your goal is to learn, this is no longer such an issue.

Your attention improves. Because you are less concerned about impressing others, you can focus more attention to the task at hand and—ironically—enhance your performance.

Improved creativity. Individuals who adopt a performance orientation are generally more conservative because they want to maintain their persona in front of others. This closes their thinking to new or different ways of thinking. A learning orientation has the reverse effect.

You learn. Probably the most obvious benefit is that when you are open to learning, you may actually learn something that betters you as a person.
Now, if I was adopting a performance orientation, I might end this blog with ‘I hope you learned something’. Instead, I’ll close with remake more indicative of a learning orientation:

Please let me know what you think. Share your thoughts and challenge me.

can you mimic these findings?

in Work Psychology by

If you mimic the actions of someone, they are more likely to cooperate with you. Research has also shown mimicry improves the efficiency of social interactions and can also lead to groups experiencing the same emotions, called ‘emotional contagion’.   Mimicry is an unconscious behaviour and is actually a sign that groups are cohesive. So, perhaps observing acts of mimicry helps assess whether a workplace gets along?


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