Two psychological truths that will surprise you

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Allan Ajifo

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Allan Ajifo

Shhh! Telling other people your goals can sabotage outcomes!

Forget the hype to announce your goals aloud so that others can reinforce your commitment to lose belly fat, get organized, finish your thesis, or hit your sales goal. The reality is that the more you talk to others about your intentions, the less likely you are to see them through to fruition.

Psychologists explain that sharing intentions produces a “premature sense of completeness.” Studies by Peter M. Gollwitzer (New York Univ.) and many others have concluded that once you decide on a solution to a problem, confirmation from other people that your solution is a good one will ambush the need to actually do it. Your brain perceives that the solution already has become a “social reality” before it is, in fact, a reality. This doesn’t mean you’re lazy; you’ll seek out other threads to follow toward self realization which are not yet stated or completed.

In Gollwitzer’s study, four different experimental groups bore out his thesis that those who kept their intentions private were significantly more likely to achieve them than those who made their plans known to others. He theorizes that you have “identity symbols” which, together, form your self-image. Since both actions and talk can create symbols in the brain, talking creates the image (or symbol) that you have achieved another level of mastery when, in fact, you have not.

If you still believe that your brain is different, and announcing an intention makes you more accountable for a good result, then consider rephrasing it so that your audience checks up on you rather than merely gives you the mental applause your brain is truly seeking. Ask your audience to expect the first draft of your thesis, for example, on June 1st. Set deadlines to turn it into an action plan with true accountability versus a general goal.

You may have been born with your political leanings

Are you a born liberal, or could you genetically trace your conservative leanings? Many political psychologists and scholars argue it is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different,” as recently summarized by social psychologist John T. Jost (Standord Univ.). In 2003, Jost theorized that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity.

A more recent 2014 paper by John Hibbing (Univ. of Nebraska) suggests also that political conservatives have a physiological “negativity bias” – they are more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. Hibbing and colleagues showed political partisans different types of images and then used eye trackers and other devices to measure their involuntary responses. They found that conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli than do liberals. The suggestion then is that conservatives have a threat-oriented biology and so take political stands to protect turf, commerce, etc.

Hibbing’s research is an example of many predictive studies which consistently find and define biological, physiological and psychological differences between partisan party affiliates. Another finding in this vein: conservatives report being happier, in general, than do liberals.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

, , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Comment