For more happiness & success…learn to like other people

For more happiness & success…learn to like other people

via FastCompany by David Meyer

Self-help advice isn’t exactly in short supply. There are research-backed tips out there for boosting confidence, resilience, risk taking, and adaptability. The message is pretty clear: Feel better about yourself or change your beliefs about what you’re capable of, and you’ll excel. Indeed, ample scientific evidence supports each of these claims.

Nevertheless, most self-improvement strategies focus too much on the person who’s trying to do the improving. Much of the time, the same outcomes you’re trying to achieve by changing your own habits, attitudes, and behaviors depend on how you view other people.

It sounds paradoxical, but according to University of Georgia researcher Jason Colquitt and his colleagues, people who tend to trust others at work score higher on a range of measure than those who don’t, from job performance to commitment to the team. And since we know that it’s our relationships—particularly with our bosses and colleagues—that determine how happy and successful we are as our careers progress, it may be worth asking some new questions. Instead of, “How can I improve?” the better question might be, “How can I start seeing more of the good in people, more often?”


It can be difficult to believe that others generally have the best intentions; that just isn’t many people’s default assumption. We’re socialized from a young age to be critical of others’ motives, if not downright suspicious. Parents tell their children for their own protection to beware of strangers. And it’s not hard to find evidence in daily life that expressions like “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” has some truth to it. In an era of fake news, taking anything at face value seems potentially foolhardy.

But these societal impulses may actually arise from deeper cognitive ones. Negative past events loom larger in our memories than positive experiences. As psychologist Roy Baumeister famously put it, “Bad is stronger than good.” This makes adaptive sense: To survive in a treacherous environment (especially social ones), early humans needed to recall the times their trust was ill-placed, when they were betrayed or misled and wound up getting hurt. By comparison, all the times when their trust led to good outcomes weren’t as critical to hang onto.

In addition, people have an unyielding desire to see themselves in a positive light. This can cause us to develop less favorable views of others. Research shows that we tend to think we’re better than average at almost everything, meaning that others are worse—including less trustworthy. As part of this process, Stanford behavioral scientist Chip Heath found that we tend to think our own motivations are intrinsic (“I work hard because I love my job”) whereas others’ are extrinsic (“They work hard only because they’re getting paid to do so”).

Finally, while research on optimism—including assuming the best of others—almost universally shows its benefits for success and satisfaction in both work and life, people tend to fear being seen as an unrealistic “Pollyanna.” Just think of how many words there are in English to describe the experience of too-readily trusting others: gullible, ingenuous, credulous, unwary; imbecile, dimwit, stooge, dunderhead, idiot, fool; beguiled, duped, tricked, betrayed, fleeced, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed, deluded, swindled, conned, rooked, cozened, hoodwinked, bamboozled, flimflammed . . . you get the idea.

Research suggests when we perceive someone as innocent and nice, we tend to view them as less competent, a label we ourselves avoid at all costs. As the novelist Laurell K. Hamilton has said, “Never trust people who smile constantly, they’re either selling something or not very bright.”


To be sure, there are risks to assuming the best in others, but the benefits may far outweigh the potential costs, especially in the workplace…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE