Key Point: A mistaken assumption is that if people find out who we really are underneath, they’d find a way to remove themselves from our lives. Perhaps another mistaken assumption is that we should feel only great things when others succeed and we think we’re not as “far along.” However, it is very human and likely that we will feel BOTH insecurity and happiness when someone we know outperforms us at a task relevant to us. Being very honest with ourselves first and then with others, regarding the ups and downs of our human experience, in the right context, often builds deeper connections. That’s why authenticity and abundance go hand-in-hand, driving A+ humanity. Check out studies from a recent HBR blog, that help reinforce these points:
“In 1997, Arthur Aron, a social psychologist and director of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University, performed a groundbreaking study . He and his research team paired students who were strangers. The students were given 45 minutes to ask each other a series of questions. Half the pairs were given questions that were factual and shallow (e.g., a favorite holiday or TV show). The other half were given questions that started off as factual but gradually became deeper (e.g., the role of love in their lives, the last time they cried in front of someone else). The final question was, ‘Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find the most disturbing?’
After the 45 minutes, Aron’s team asked the participants to rate how close they felt to their partner. Pairs from the second group formed much deeper bonds. In fact, many of these participants started lasting friendships. In one longer version of the experiment, two participants even got engaged a few months after the study.
Aron’s team also surveyed a broad selection of students not involved with the experiment and asked them to rate how close they felt to the closest person in their life. Aron then compared these scores with the ratings of the study participants who had asked each other the deeper questions. Amazingly, the intensity of their bonds at the end of the experiment rated closer than the closest relationships in the lives of 30 percent of similar students. A 45-minute conversation created a connection that was perceived as closer than the closest connection with someone people known for years.
In his highly cited research, University of Georgia social psychology professor Abraham Tesser found that when someone close to us outperforms us in a task relevant to us, it often threatens our self-esteem. The more relevant the task is, the greater the threat we feel. Dr. Tesser states: ‘In our studies, when we gave people information about someone else’s success who is close to them in an area they’re also trying to be good at, they say they feel proud and behave that way, but, in fact, they weren’t. When we surreptitiously video-recorded them you could see disappointment and negative affect in their face. Their behaviors did not reflect how they said they felt.’”
I’ve spent way too much of my life at the “surface” in relationships, not wanting anyone to know about my “underneath.” I’m practicing being more real. And while I’m obviously (based on the tenets of The Character Triangle) a deep believer of abundant thinking, it is only human to compare oneself to others and still sometimes feel insecure and less than adequate. That does not make us scarcity thinkers… It makes us real.
- Be authentic. No one is very interested in perfect. As individuals we are not a copy of those obnoxious holiday updates where everyone and everything is wonderfully, artificially beautiful. Also, being authentic does not include dying on “every hill” of vulnerability. That behavior can come across as disingenuous too. However we connect much better with others and ourselves when we acknowledge our very real humanity. It keeps us humble and hopeful.
- Be abundant by giving honesty to yourself first. Be generous recognizing when other people you compare yourself to, may be achieving more. At the same time, acknowledge that feelings of your own sense of self-disappointment are natural. Use it as motivation to progress and compete with yourself rather than spending any energy on diminishing those people you think are “ahead.” (Whatever that means; usually a story we make up in our ego driven minds). In almost all those cases that other person is focused more on their own insecurities and not on bettering you.
- Most importantly, invest in an intentionally personal, below the mundane, conversation with someone you care for. This requires your vulnerability and openness. The research shows your relationship will likely become much closer.
A+ in the Triangle,