A 2017 neuroscience article in HBR discusses the premise that improving confidence has direct and immediate benefits for productivity:
Compared to people working in low trust companies, people working in high trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% more productivity, 13% less stress less sick leave, 76% more commitment, 29% more satisfaction with their life, 40% less burn-out.
This study was based on “a sum of money to be sent to a stranger by computer” and also claims that it found absolute causality observed.
This research even took me to the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, where I measured oxytocin in indigenous peoples to see if the relationship between oxytocin and trust is universal. (He is.)
I want to get back to that in a minute, but first, I noticed that exposing vulnerabilities is one of their recommendations for building trust.
Show your vulnerability.
Leaders in high-confidence workplaces seek help from their co-workers instead of just telling them to get it right. My research team found that it stimulates the production of oxytocin in others, increasing their confidence and cooperation. Asking for help is a sign of a confident leader, one who commits everyone to achieving goals. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of open source software maker Red Hat, said, âI found that being very open about things I didn’t know actually had the opposite effect of what I would have thought. It helped me build my credibility. Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.
It traces the story of the Second World War I have spoken about here before, where the British undermined Nazi morale by using a tactic of “showing vulnerability” to their enemies.
â¦ The BBC chose to broadcast detailed information about the British military setbacks. The decision was part of a deliberate strategy to win the hearts and minds of the German people …
Now back to Papua New Guinea and the indigenous peoples. While trust is universal, that doesn’t necessarily mean money fits the pattern. A 2013 article pointed out that modern psychology tends to be heavily biased in favor of post-industrial value systems.
At the heart of much of this research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, not to mention the fact that test subjects were almost always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if Machiguenga’s results held up, and if similar differences could be measured between other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be questioned.
The results we are talking about are: Not everyone plays the prisoner’s dilemma game the same way. The inhabitants of the jungle regions of the Amazon Basin of southeastern Peru had a fascinating view of confidence.
When he started running the game, it became immediately apparent that Machiguengan’s demeanor was drastically different from that of the average North American. For starters, the first player’s bids were much lower. In addition, when they received the match, the Machiguenga rarely refused the lowest possible amount. âIt just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga for you to turn down an offer of free money,â says Henrich. “They just didn’t understand why someone would sacrifice money to punish someone who got the chance to play the other part in the game.”
Believing that someone else is lucky to be the winner is a collaborative and holistic view, much like seeing a teammate score a goal. But who is on which team, or is it just one team? A new book titled âSocial Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the Worldâ makes the Machiguenga feel like they are on to something:
If we think of society as a whole, we can think of nepotism, corruption, and bribery â not normally words that evoke cooperation, but all of which describe some form of cooperation. Nepotism helps a family member; corruption forms a collaboration with another individual which, nevertheless, has a cost to society. Thus, global or societal cooperation is always threatened by more local cooperation, which affects our collective well-being. The big challenge for us is to find ways to cooperate to generate greater societal benefits and not just local ones.
It can be read completely backwards unless you recognize that the Machiguenga operate at the local level while thinking of greater societal benefits, when society as a whole thinks the opposite. Another way to present this reversal is Mission 101 in the Horn of Africa, or even the French resistance during WWII: small local cells of thinkers cooperated to generate greater societal benefits during the occupation. by the Nazis (who tried to elevate their own status based on mistrust, spreading corruption on a platform that redirects company profits to a very small group).
So that begs the question if you are asking for help and being vulnerable, how do you know if you are on the same team or the right team? It reminds me of the lesson “Stop Trying to Raise Successful Children: and Start Raising Caring Children.”
While we praise kindness and caring, we don’t actually show our children that we value these character traits. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that cuteness seems to be on the wane. A rigorous analysis of annual surveys of American students showed a substantial drop from 1979 to 2009 in empathy and in the imagination of the perspectives of others. During this period, students became less likely to care about those less fortunate than themselves and less embarrassed to see others treated unfairly. It’s not just that people care less; they also seem to help less.
The authors suggest that popularity tests in American society are increasingly skewed, measurably shifted from kindness to artifice (status).
Psychologists distinguish two paths to popularity: status (which comes from being dominant and commanding attention) and sympathy (which comes from being friendly and kind). [â¦] We tell our own kids that they shouldn’t hang out with popular kids who giggle and laugh when a classmate walks into the cafeteria. They should get to know the kids who help pick up his tray.
Let me take it one step further and suggest that the proper study of history is inherently about revealing vulnerability, a common attempt to quickly find flaws and fix them where everyone could theoretically be a part of. the same team. Kindness and benevolence would flow from a higher level of trust, but this status thing often gets in the way like a siren song calling sailors to crash onto rocks.
Here is a 2021 opinion piece on a 1973 report titled âLessons from the Past: The Use and Abuse of History in American Foreign Policy,â which credits Taiye Selasi (a founder of Afropolitanism) with a vulnerable thought:
It presented perspectives that I had not fully considered and reinforced the obvious but important lesson that our own thinking improves when we expose ourselves to voices and ideas that we usually don’t encounter. What if we are wrong? While they seldom say it out loud, the best academics, analysts, and policymakers still wonder. Perhaps, however, we are asking the wrong question. History shows time and time again that, despite great efforts, we will often make mistakes. The past shows that world politics are so complex, historical processes so interdependent, that we should always expect the unexpected. Marc Bloch recalls that “history is neither watchmaking nor cabinetmaking” but “an effort towards a better understanding and, consequently, a thing in motion”. The real question – and the real benefit of engaging with the past – is how we will react when we are wrong.
I pay particular attention to this last point. Sometimes when I confidently present a take on history, especially in public presentations, I am asked how I dare claim to have the only point of view on an event. Just look at the âPopular Blog Postsâ on the left for an example of what they’re talking about.
To this review, I always try to answer that it is the opposite, because I see the study of history a bit like tuning a sailboat in danger of running aground.
Like finding a vulnerability in someone’s map or graph for a destination, I am not claiming to replace their destination with mine. My claim generally is to have found a vulnerability and presented a transparent and repeatable tampering test to show that we can all improve our own outlook and arrive more safely, no matter where we are headed (together or not).
How people react when proven wrong is a great test not only of confidence, but also of their sense of fairness.
Perhaps there is no better introduction to this subject than the 1949 book by Marc Bloc “The Profession of the Historian: Reflections on the Nature and Uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of History. those who write it “
It is a work that ceaselessly pleads for a larger, more human history. For a story that describes how and why people live and work together. There is a living link between the past and the present and it is the historian’s responsibility to do it justice.
Bloch joined the French Resistance rather than escaping, writing about the nature of the story while occupied by the Nazis and without access to libraries or colleagues. He was executed by firing squad in 1944, his book published posthumously. Her story is a perfect example of the duality of trust and vulnerability, in a context of threat to life itself. Imagine how productive he could have been if he had been even more trustworthy at this point.