Archive for October, 2011

October 27, 2011

Want To Know Who Ate All The Biscuits? It’s Obvious! It’s That Nice Person who is Always Helping Others

Fascinating research on the link between personality and a sweet tooth has been making the news recently.

A team of psychologists from the US have carried out a set of experiments which clearly suggest a link between a liking for sweet food and a “sweet nature”.

As compared to those who don’t like sweet things to eat, people who do like sweet things score more highly on the trait agreeableness which covers aspects of personality such as friendliness, warmth and cooperativeness.  What is more, these people are more likely to offer help to others in need than those who prefer other tastes.

Apparently the link is also evident to others. When asked to evaluate someone’s personality, if we are told they like sweet foods then we are more likely to say that they are friendly, warm and cooperative than if we think they like savoury foods. The link between cooperation and sweet foods doesn’t stop there. In a further experiment, Dr Brian Meier and his colleagues investigated whether eating something sweet – regardless of preferences – actually influences how agreeable we feel.  Amazingly, people who ate a piece of chocolate were more likely to help others and to see themselves as more friendly than people who ate something savoury.

So this is great news for chocoholics, who probably already knew to be suspicious of anyone who says they don’t like chocolate.  And obviously, for those of us who can polish off a family pack of Maltesers/M&Ms/chocolate digestives in under 30 seconds, this is vindicating evidence at last that we are simply demonstrating and enhancing our innate loveliness…

Leaving this self-congratulation aside however, the research also highlights a fundamental human tendency to ascribe certain characteristics to people on the basis of other, apparently unrelated evidence.  Here, the research reveals that there may be real links between the ascribed characteristics and the observed one, but there are many other intuitive links made in the course of our social interactions which are as yet untested, but which create influential and often self-fulfilling models of other people’s personality. 

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October 13, 2011

Nothing New Under the Human Nature Sun: Why we Already Know How to “Win Friends and Influence People In the Digital Age”

Dale Carnegie’s classic 1936 best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has had a social media era update.

Taking all the tried and tested methods of Carnegie’s ground-breaking guide to successful personal influence, this new version from the company that bears his name seeks to explore how the age of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin have changed the nature of successful business and other social relationships.

It’s fair to say that, so far, the critics don’t like it.  The New York Times described it as “radically hapless”, suggests it has been composed using “refrigerator magnets stamped with corporate lingo” and expresses relief that we can all pretend the book has never been published, since the original version is thankfully still available in all good bookshops. 

As you would expect from a good literary critic, there is much emphasis on use of language and its failure to engage.  However, there is also passing mention of something much more pertinent to customer service professionals and customers – whether this book tells us something new about our relationships in our vastly different world of digital communication and social media.

What is fascinating is that the answer is no.  But not because it fails to get to grips with what is important or doesn’t offer ways in which we can navigate ourselves to happy and productive relationships using all the new technology we now have. The answer is no simply because Dale Carnegie’s advice of 75 years ago is still as valid and fresh as it was when a letter or a personal call were really the only ways to communicate. 

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