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This Simple Sentence Can Increase Your Credibility

This Simple Sentence Can Increase Your Credibility

Do you want people to instantly find you more likeable? Do you want to come across as trustworthy? What if I told you that one simple sentence could do just that? Well, researchers at Harvard University have conducted a study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Sciencethat found the very sentence that does the job. And what exactly is the sentence?

“I’m sorry about the rain!”

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Okay, it’s not exactly what the sentence is but what it represents. The study found that apologising for circumstances outside of your control makes you come across as more credible, likeable and honest. People who use superfluous apologies tend to be welcomed more warmly by strangers than those who do not.

So what exactly did the experiment involve and what do the results really mean?

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The Experiment

Several experiments were undertaken using different scenarios. The most compelling experiment involved a male actor that approached 65 people at a rainy train station over two days. He requested to borrow random people’s phones – half the time adding that he was sorry about the rain before his request, while with the other half he just asked to borrow the phone without the initial apology. Amazingly, without the apology only 9% of the people asked found him trustworthy enough to let him borrow their phone whereas adding the apology about the rain saw that jump to 47% of instances where people gladly handed over their phone to him. That raised his credibility by 38%.

The researchers tried this with two other scenarios which involved asking people to watch a video or imagine the situation instead. One experiment involved asking participants to imagine they were heading out into the rain to greet a second-hand iPod seller. They were asked whether or not they would find the seller more trustworthy if he apologised for the rain first, and again, the participants rated him as more trustworthy when using the phrase than without.

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People were asked to watch a video of somebody approaching passengers of a delayed flight asking to borrow their mobile phone. They were asked to imagine they were the passenger being asked and what their response would be. When they witnessed the person apologising on the video before making the request the participant was much more likely to acknowledge credibility and say they would hand over their phone.

What Do The Results Mean?

It seems the unnecessary apology creates a sense of empathy towards the asker and when we only have split seconds to make the decision, it sways us to think that this person is trustworthy. It is also thought to be an effective way to open up communication with the other person creating an invitation to respond in a positive way. The researchers describe that the apologiser “communicates that he has taken the victim’s perspective, acknowledge adversity and expresses regret.” 

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The idea that the person on the receiving end is a victim shows that there is a certain vulnerability in the situation and by apologising we are acknowledging that, not only do we realise this, but that we’re sorry for putting them in the situation in the first place. We are therefore diffusing the victim mentality and putting ourselves on the same level – it’s showing that we care.

Should We Apply This?

In a word – yes. Quite clearly the value of an apology for something outside of our control is high. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to ask someone for a favour and need their willingness to cooperate then you will be mightily more successful if you add in a little superfluous phrase before the request.

Or, of course, next time you’re out in a rainstorm try turning to your fellow comrades and apologising for it – their opinion of you may just go up.

Featured photo credit: Silvia Sala via albumarium.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

A study [1] published in Depression and Anxiety found that social media users are more likely to be depressed. This was just one of the huge number of studies linking social media and depression[2] . But why exactly do platforms like Facebook and Instagram make people so unhappy? Well, we don’t know yet for sure, but there are some explanations.

Social Media Could Lead to Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you think, feel, and behave. Social media may lead to depression in predisposed individuals or make existing symptoms of depression[3] worse explains[4] the study above’s senior author Dr. Brian Primack. So, the problem may not be in social media per se, but how we use it.

Signs You’re Suffering From “Social Media Depression”

If you feel like social media is having a negative impact on your mood, then you may be suffering from “social media depression.” Look for symptoms like:

• low self-esteem,

• negative self-talk,

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• a low mood,

• irritability,

• a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed,

• and social withdrawal.

If you’ve had these symptoms for more than two weeks and if this is how you feel most of the time, then you are likely depressed. Although “social media depression “is not a term recognized in the medical setting, social media depression seems to be a real phenomenon affecting around 50% of social media users. As explained in a review study[5] published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, if a person has a certain predisposition to depression and other mental disorders, social media use may only worsen their mental health.

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Social Media Could Crush Self-Esteem

We know that social media and depression are in some way linked, but why is this so? Well, according to Igor Pantic, MD, Ph.D.[6], social media use skews your perception about other people’s lives and traits. To explain this further, most people like to portray an idealized image of their lives, personal traits, and appearance on sites like Facebook and Instagram. If you confuse this idealized image with reality, you may be under the false impression that everyone is better than you which can crush your self-esteem and lead to depression. This is especially true for teens and young adults who are more likely to compare themselves to others. If you already suffer from low self-esteem, the illusion that everyone has it better off than you will just make you feel worse.

Causing Social Isolation and Other Negative Emotions

Another commonly cited reason for the negative impact of social media on mental health is its link with social isolation. Depressed people are more likely to isolate themselves socially and chose only to interact indirectly through social media platforms. But communication online tends to be superficial and is lacking when compared to real-life interaction explains Panic. What this means is not that social media leads to isolation but the other way around, possibly explaining why we find so many depressed persons on these sites.

Lastly, social media use may generate negative emotions in you like envy, jealousy, dislike, loneliness, and many others and this may worsen your depressive symptoms.

Why We Need to Take This Seriously

Both depression and social media use are on the rise according to epidemiological studies. Since each one has an impact on the other, we have to start thinking of healthier ways to use social media. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of social media on mental health.

Advice on Social Media Use

Although these findings did not provide any cause-effect explanation regarding Facebook and depression[7], they still do prove that social media use may not be a good way to handle depression. For this reason, the leading authors of these studies gave some suggestions as to how clinicians and people can make use of such findings.

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One suggestion is that clinicians should ask patients about their social media habits. Then they can advise them on how to change their outlook on social media use or even suggest limiting their time spent on social media.

Some social media users may also exhibit addictive behavior; they may spend too much time due to compulsive urges. Any compulsive behavior is bound to lead to feelings of guilt which can worsen depressive symptoms.

Having Unhealthy Relationship with Social Media

If you feel like your relationship with social media is unhealthy, then consider the advice on healthy social media use provided by psychology experts from Links Psychology[8]:

Avoid negative social comparison – always keep in mind that how people portray themselves and their lives on social media is not a realistic picture, but rather an idealized one. Also, avoid comparing yourself to others because this behavior can lead to negative self-talk.

Remember that social media is not a replacement for real life – Social media is great for staying in touch and having fun, but it should never replace real-world interactions.

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Avoid releasing personal information – For your safety and privacy, make sure to be careful with what you post online.

Report users who bully and harass you – It’s easy to be a bully in the anonymous and distant world of social media. Don’t take such offense personally and report those who abuse social media to harass others.

The bits of advice listed above can help you establish a healthy relationship with social media. Always keep these things in mind to avoid losing an objective perspective of what social media is and how it is different from real life. If you are currently suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about what is bothering you so that you can get the treatment you need to get better. Tell your doctor about your social media use and see if they could give you some advice on this topic.

Reference

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