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This Simple Sentence Can Increase Your Credibility

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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.

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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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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