People who need to make a good impression on dates or in job interviews should concentrate on communicating the hard work and effort behind their success, rather than just emphasizing their talent, new research from has found.
For the study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, the researchers investigated how people relate their success on dates and job interviews, and whether the way they told it was successful with their audiences.
What the researchers say: They found—contrary to what many of us think—that success alone may not be enough to make a positive impression. Instead, they suggest that people should ensure they talk about the struggle behind their story to appear more likeable.
The team conducted three experiments with participants from the United States and the Netherlands, with people from 18 to 75 and with an even gender balance. Two of the experiments simulated job interviews (using working adults) and one a date (using students). Participants were asked to imagine themselves in the role of the impression manager (interviewee or ‘sharer’ on a date) or the receiver (interviewer or ‘listener’ in a job interview).
The ‘impression manager’ was asked to speak about themselves in in a positive way and feedback was given by the receiver detailing what they wanted to hear more about—the talent and success, or the hard work and effort behind it.
All three experiments found that impression managers over-emphasized their talents and successes and did not share the effort and hard work behind them—something that the receivers wanted to hear about.
The lead author said it was clear that communicating success and talent in job interviews or on dates is important but it’s equally important to tell the story of the hard work and effort behind it to create a warmer, positive, more relatable first impression.
“A success story isn’t complete without the hard work and explanation of why we were successful,” she said. “Did the success come easy, thanks to one’s talents, or was it attained through hard work? Both attributions can be part of successful self-promotion, but this research shows that emphasizing effort is more likely to garner a positive impression and people really want to know the story behind your success.
“For example, if you’re on a date and talking about a marathon that you recently ran, perhaps talk about all the training that helped you to cross the finish line. Or, if you’re in a job interview and are talking about a successful project that you led to completion, include a few details about the challenges along the way, and how you overcame them.”
So, what? This research follows on the heels of several other studies which have shown that facts and reasoning are poor influencers. Stories are much more powerful. Oddly enough the study shows that stories about gallant failure are just as appealing as those of hard-fought-for success largely because they evoke empathy and show our humanness.