Social skills (ctd.)

In this post I’ll cover a bit more of Hargie’s stuff. I once again refer to this post for general comments and observations.

“There is now a considerable volume of research into the accuracy of first impressions (AFI). Those who score highly in terms of AFI tend to be more socially skilled, popular with peers, experience lower levels of loneliness, depression and anxiety, have higher quality of personal relationships, and achieve more senior positions and higher salaries at work. In their review of this area, Hall and Andrzejewski (2008: 98) concluded: ‘A large amount of research shows that it is good to be able to draw accurate inferences about people based on first impressions.’ […] we make evaluations of others at a very early stage and based upon minimal evidence […] Thus, Willis and Todorov (2006) demonstrated that after as little as one-tenth of a second we have made inferences based upon the facial appearance of the other person, and we then tend to become anchored on this initial judgement. Our early perceptions influence our expectations, and this in turn shapes our behaviour. Initial perceptions also impact upon subsequent processing, since we tend to adapt any conflicting information to make it fit more easily with our existing cognitive frame (Adler et al., 2006).” [See also Funder]

“People organise their physical spaces to make statements about their identity […] we form impressions of individuals based on how they organise their spaces. […] Thus, the nature of the environment affects initial impressions. […] The age, sex, dress and general appearance of the other person all affect the initial perceptual set that is induced […] In their review of this area, Whetzel and McDaniel (1999: 222) concluded: ‘Interviewers’ reactions to job candidates are strongly influenced by style of dress and grooming. Persons judged to be attractive or appropriately groomed or attired, received higher ratings than those judged to be inappropriately dressed or unattractive.’ […] in their review of the field Roehling et al. (2008: 392) concluded: ‘Research indicates that overweight job applicants and employees are stereotypically viewed as being less conscientiousness, less agreeable, less emotionally stable, and less extraverted than their “normal-weight” counterparts.’”

“In many interpersonal transactions, one encounter is influenced by decisions made and commitments undertaken in the previous meeting. […] ‘When people meet and interact with new acquaintances, they often use expectations about what these other people will be like to guide their interactions.’ In this way, people approach social encounters with certain explicit or implicit expectations, which they expect to have fulfilled (Hamilton, 2005). If expectations are unrealistic or misplaced, it is important to discover this and make it clear at a very early stage.”

“Those with a high need for closure [see this post for details on this variable] are more heavily influenced by first impressions as they search for aspects to seize upon in terms of decision making. They desire clearly structured interactions with transparent goals, and readily accept the need to bring an encounter to an end in a neat and tidy manner. On the other hand, individuals with a low need for closure are less likely to make judgements based upon initial information. They prefer interactions that are loosely structured with less clear-cut goals, and they can be difficult to persuade that it is time to terminate an interaction. As a result, with this type of person, closure can be more prolonged and messier.”

“a crucial determinant of assertion is motivation to act rather than lack of understanding of how to be assertive.”

“submissive people laugh much more at the humour of dominant individuals than vice versa”

“In reviewing research in this field, Rakos (1991) illustrated how nonassertive individuals emit roughly equal numbers of positive and negative self-statements in conflict situations whereas assertive people generate about twice as many positive as negative self-statements. […] Nonassertive individuals have a higher frequency of negative self-statements and a greater belief that their behaviour will lead to negative consequences.”

“Nonassertive responses involve expressing oneself in such a self-effacing, apologetic manner that one’s thoughts, feelings and rights can easily be ignored. […] The objective here is to appease others and avoid conflict at any cost. […] Nonassertive individuals: • tend to avoid public attention • use minimal self-disclosure or remain silent so as not to receive criticism for what they say • are modest and self-deprecating • use self-handicapping strategies whereby they underestimate potential future achievements so as to avoid negative evaluation if they fail • if they have to engage with others, prefer to play a passive, friendly and very agreeable role. […] Assertive responses involve standing up for oneself, yet taking the other person into consideration. The assertive style involves: • answering spontaneously • speaking with a conversational yet firm tone and volume • looking at the other person • addressing the main issue • openly and confidently expressing personal feelings and opinions • valuing oneself equal to others • being prepared to listen to the other’s point of view […] Verbal aggression has been defined as ‘behavior that attacks an individual’s self-concept in order to deliver psychological pain’ […] Such behaviours include attacks on one’s ability, character or appearance, name calling, profanity, the use of demands, blunt directives and threats – all of which violate the rights of the other person. Using this style, the aggressor: • interrupts and answers before the other is finished speaking • talks loudly and abrasively • glares at the other person • speaks ‘past’ the issue (accusing, blaming, demeaning) • vehemently and arrogantly states feelings and opinions in a dogmatic fashion • values self above others • hurts others to avoid personal hurt. […] Assertiveness forms the mid-point of this continuum and is usually the most appropriate response. Aggressive individuals tend to be viewed as intransigent, coercive, overbearing and lacking in self-control. They may initially get their own way by browbeating and creating fear in others, but they are usually disliked and avoided. Alternatively, this style may provoke a similar response from others, with the danger that the verbal aggression may escalate […] Nonassertive individuals, on the other hand, are often viewed as weak, ‘mealymouthed’ creatures who can be easily manipulated, and as a result they frequently express dissatisfaction with their lives, owing to a failure to attain personal goals. They may be less likely to inspire confidence in others or may even be seen as incompetent. […] One common pitfall is that individuals move from prolonged nonassertion straight into aggression, feeling they can no longer put up with being used, taken for granted or having their rights ignored. But such a sudden and unexpected explosion of anger is not the best approach, and indeed can destroy relationships.”

“There is consistent research evidence to show that standard direct assertion is viewed as being as effective as and more socially desirable than aggressive behaviour, and more socially competent but distinctly less likeable than nonassertion […]. It seems that assertiveness is evaluated positively in theory, but when faced with the practical reality is rated less favourably than nonassertion […] while people tend to respect assertive individuals, they often do not like to have to deal with assertive responses. […] We like and probably have more empathy for nonassertive people. Thus, assertion needs to be used sensitively. Assertiveness can provoke a number of adverse reactions. This may especially be the case when a change in style from submissiveness to assertiveness is made.”

“Humans, like all animals, are territorial and our sense of place is very important to how we respond […] it is easier to be assertive when we are on our own ground. […] Few individuals are assertive across all contexts. Most find it easier to assert themselves in some situations than in others. Attention needs to be devoted to situations in which the individual finds it difficult to be assertive, and strategies devised to overcome the particular problems.”

“The main nonverbal assertive behaviours are: medium levels of eye contact; avoidance of inappropriate facial expressions; smooth use of gestures while speaking, yet inconspicuous while listening; upright posture; direct body orientation; medium interpersonal distance; and appropriate paralinguistics (short response latency, medium response length, good fluency, medium volume and inflection, increased firmness).”

“In terms of definition, while the terms influence and persuasion are often viewed as synonyms and used interchangeably, in fact there are [some] differences between the two processes […] Knowles and Riner (2007) argued that persuasion is used to attempt to overcome some level of resistance to the message […] persuasion always involves influence [which does not require resistance to be present, US], but influence does not always involve persuasion. […] resistance can take many forms. Yukl (2010) identified six main variants: overt refusal to carry out the request; explanations or excuses as to why the request cannot be complied with; attempts to persuade the agent to alter or withdraw the request; appeals to a higher authority to have the request removed; delays in responding so that the requested action is not carried out; and pretending to comply while secretly attempting to sabotage the assignment. […] Targets can […] be encouraged to become more resistant to persuasion messages. There are two main methods whereby this can be achieved: forewarning and inoculation. […] [Forewarning] relates to the process wherein the target audience is told something about the person or message they are about to encounter. […] [Innoculation] is a stronger form of forewarning as it actively prepares targets to refute the messages that will be received”

“One issue that is linked to forewarning is whether or not there is any delay between warning and message delivery. In a meta-analysis of research in this field, the main conclusion reached by Benoit (1998: 146) was that: ‘Forewarning an audience to expect a persuasive message tends to make that message less persuasive . . . regardless of type of warning . . . (or) presence of delay.’ However, Benoit found that to be effective the warning must come before the persuasion attempt. A message does not lose its persuasiveness if the warning is given after it has been delivered. […] It appears that when targets are forewarned they adopt a less receptive frame of mind and become more resistant to the perceived ‘interference’. Overall, it is best not to have a forewarned target when making a persuasion attempt. […] The success of inoculation is affected by two main processes – delay and decay. Delay refers to the time it takes the target to generate counter-arguments with which to resist the message, while decay relates to the extent to which these arguments lose their force over time […]. Techniques that reduce delay and protect against decay are therefore important in maximising the effectiveness of inoculation. Thus, it has been shown that the more effort that targets devote to the development of counter-arguments to possible future challenges by engaging in what has been termed cognitive work, the greater is their resistance to later counter-persuasion attempts […]. Another useful antidote to delay and decay is the technique of rote learning. Many religions and cults get members to rote learn sets of beliefs, prayers and key statements (e.g. biblical passages) so that they become embedded in their psyche, and as such very resistant to change. As part of this process, it is possible to get individuals to rote learn refutational arguments against future counter-messages. A related tactic here is that of anchoring, which involves connecting the forthcoming new message to an already established belief or set of values. It then becomes difficult to change one without the other. […] Another form of pre-emption has been termed stealing thunder, which involves disclosing incriminating evidence about oneself or one’s client, rather than have this revealed by someone else. […] [Williams and Dolnik’s] review of [the] research concluded that: ‘Stealing thunder has been shown to be an effective method of minimizing the impact of damaging information in a variety of different contexts’”

“Those who are able to administer punishments also have considerable power. […] There is a symbiotic relationship between reward and coercive power. Usually someone who can reward us can ipso facto also punish us (e.g. by withholding the rewards). […] we tend to like those who reward us and dislike those who threaten or punish us.”

“Our behaviour is shaped to a considerable extent by our wish to belong to and be accepted by certain groups of people […] we are likely to adopt the response patterns of those we identify with, like, and to whose group we aspire. […] Referent power is most potent under two conditions. First, if we are uncertain about how to behave in a situation we follow the ‘herd instinct’ by looking to members of our reference group for guidance, and copying what they do. […] Second, we are more likely to be influenced by similar others. […] We are much more likely to be influenced by those with whom we have developed a close relationship. […] As we get to know people our liking for them tends to increase, providing this takes place within a conducive context. Even a few minutes of initial relational communication with a stranger prior to making a persuasion attempt can significantly increase the success rate”

“people who are perceived to be experts, in that they have specialised knowledge or technical skill, have high persuasive power. Here the basis of the power is the extent to which the agent is seen as an authority. […] in terms of expert power we give less credence to those whom we regard as honest if they are incompetent, and tend to have lower trust in those with a vested interest regardless of their level of expertise. One highly influential event is when people argue against their own interest.”

“In terms of delivery of arguments, these are more persuasive when there is a powerful speech style, wherein the person speaks in a firm, authoritative tone and uses intensifiers […] By contrast, a powerless style is characterised by five main features:
1. hesitations (‘Um . . . ah . . .’)
2. hedges or qualifiers (‘I sort of think . . .’, ‘It might possibly be . . .’)
3. disclaimers (‘I don’t have any real knowledge of this area, however . . .’, ‘I might be wrong, but . . .’)
4. tag questions (‘. . . don’t you think?’, ‘. . . isn’t it?’), and statements made with a questioning intonation
5. lower voice volume.

In a review of the area, Durik et al. (2008) concluded ‘that messages with hedges led to less persuasion, more negative perceptions of the source, and weaker evaluations of the argument’. In their meta-analytic review of research in this area, Burrell and Koper (1998) found that a powerful speech pattern was perceived to be more credible and persuasive. Likewise, in their analysis of this field, Holtgraves and Lasky (1999: 196) concluded: ‘A speaker who uses powerless language will be perceived as less assertive, competent, credible, authoritative, and in general evaluated less favorably than a speaker who uses powerful language.’ If uncertainty has to be expressed, a powerful style should employ authoritative doubt, which underlines that the dubiety is from a vantage point of expertise”

“Repetition of arguments has been shown to be effective in increasing their persuasive power […] Statements heard more than once tend to be rated as more valid than those heard for the first time – an effect known as the illusion of truth. […] Song and Schwarz (2010: 111) in their review of research [concluded]: ‘The mere repetition of a statement facilitates its perception as true.’ […] [One] question is whether a speaker should have a clear and explicit conclusion at the end of an argument or leave this implicit and allow the audience to draw it out for themselves […]. The evidence here is clear: ‘Messages with explicit conclusions are more persuasive than those with implicit conclusions’ (O’Keefe, 2006: 334). […] An important decision is whether to use one-sided or two-sided arguments. In other words, should the disadvantages of what is being recommended also be recognised? Research findings show that one-sided messages are best with those who already support the view being expressed. […] When preaching to the converted it is necessary to target the message in a single direction. One-sided messages are also better with those of a lower IQ, who may become confused if presented with seemingly contradictory arguments […] Two-sided arguments are more appropriate with those with a higher IQ.”

“As a core emotion, threatening messages that heighten our sense of fear can be very effective in changing attitudes and behaviour […] In a meta-analysis of research into fear arousal and persuasion, Mongeau (1998: 65) concluded: ‘Overall, increasing the amount of fear-arousing content in a persuasive message is likely to generate greater attitude and behavior change.’ However, he also found that the use of this tactic was not always successful. Fear is more effective with older subjects (i.e. with adults as opposed to schoolchildren) and with low anxiety individuals. With highly anxious people it may backfire, so that the heightened anxiety induced by an intense fear scenario can inhibit attention and increase distraction. This in turn reduces comprehension, or results in the message either being ignored completely or rejected. Thus, if people already have very high levels of fear about a subject, attempting to increase this even further has been shown to be counterproductive”

“Most people are susceptible to appeals to conscience, in the form of reminders that we have a duty to ‘do the right thing’, and that if we do not fulfil our moral obligations we will feel bad about ourselves. […] In his review of the area, O’Keefe (2006) [however] noted that guilt may backfire in that it may cause the target not to change their behaviour in line with previous attitudes and beliefs, but instead to change those attitudes and beliefs to be consistent with the new behaviour. O’Keefe also illustrated that while more explicit guilt appeals do induce greater guilt, less explicit guilt appeals are actually more effective in changing behaviour. The reason for this seems to be that more explicit guilt appeals induce greater resentment or anger in the target, and this tempers the success of the appeal. […] Since we do not like to be made to feel guilty, we tend to dislike the person who has caused this to occur, and we are then more likely to avoid them in future.”





August 19, 2014 - Posted by | Books, Psychology

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