1. Your colleague has strong opinions. Which strategy is most likely to persuade him? A) Present objective facts B) Present objective facts and figures C) Ask questions
C) Ask questions. People with strong opinions tend to ignore facts and figures. You are more likely to persuade them if you ask them probing questions, ‘Why do you believe that? What are the facts behind your belief? Can you give me a source for those facts?' Assume that they are being rational and take your time so that your questions don't come across as cross-examination. Be genuinely curious. Give them a chance to persuade themselves that their argument is weak.
2. You want to reduce the unhealthy food in your diet. Would it be better to leave the biscuits on the bench to develop your willpower, or throw them away to avoid temptation?
Throw them away. Removing temptations appears to be far more effective than relying on willpower. A recent study in Canada found that practising willpower just made people exhausted by the end of the day.
3. Why do we feel better after a walk? A) It’s the fresh air B) It’s the satisfaction of doing something healthy C) It’s the chance to appreciate nature or meet other people D) None of those
D) None of those. It’s the act of walking. Researchers have tried other possibilities, but the only thing that really made a difference was putting one foot in front of the other. It’s just the way we have evolved.
4. Which members of their audience are nervous presenters most likely to look at? A) Those who appear encouraging B) Those who appear discouraging C) Those who appear neutral
B) Those who appear discouraging So, if you’re a nervous presenter, force yourself to adopt a positive bias. Seek out encouraging members of the audience. That’s what confident presenters do.
5. A man has just met a woman at a bar and wants her to find him attractive. What drink should he avoid?
A cold beer. The beer would shrink his vocal folds (aka chords) which would raise the pitch of his voice. Researchers have shown that women find men with a lower pitch more attractive.
6. You are about to take on a particularly challenging assignment at work. You’ve heard that positive self-talk will help you perform the task better. Should you say to yourself ‘You can do it!’ or ‘I can do it!’?
‘You can do it!’ The evidence is a bit limited, but the seemingly more objective, ‘You can do it!’ proved to be more effective when Sandra Dolcos from the University of Illinois tested both on psychology students. She suggests we add some evidence such as, ‘You can do it because you have the skills/are well prepared!’
Don’t confuse positive self-talk with self-affirmations (e.g. ‘I’m getting better and better every day in every way’). They have no connection with reality, offer little benefit for confident people and can make those who are not confident feel worse.
7. You are applying for a new job. Should you highlight evidence of your relevant natural talents, or your hard work and perseverance?
Your natural talents. In a recent study at University College London, 60 per cent of people choosing between otherwise equal candidates selected the naturals over the strivers. It makes little sense. The hard-working striver is more likely to welcome challenges, learn new tasks and stay motivated during setbacks – and has a record to prove it.
Too much emphasis on natural talent suggests a fixed mindset, meaning the belief that we are either intelligent, or talented, or not. That’s not a healthy or productive attitude for organisations or individuals. Fixed mindsetters avoid challenges and can be crushed by setbacks. It may seem odd, but many of the recruiters in the study knew that strivers would be a better choice, but still chose the naturals.