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GRANTED: November newsletter on work and psychology
Welcome to the third edition of Granted, my monthly newsletter on work and psychology. Here are some of the articles that I’ve enjoyed this month:
1. The Benjamin Franklin Effect: The Surprising Psychology of How to Handle Haters
Maria Popova shares some insights from a book on self-delusion and the wild tricks of the mind we humans play on ourselves. A highlight is how Ben Franklin turned a hater into a fan by inviting him to give, which would eventually be explained by psychological research. (It is unknown whether Franklin indeed referred to them as "haters," but some mysteries, I suppose, must remain unsolved.)
2. The Limits of Friendship
How many true friends can we really have? Maria Konnikova takes a fascinating look at what the size of our brain has to do with the size of our social groups; why sharing experiences with friends makes us more resistant to pain (no, seriously); and how social media is changing human interaction. Something to think about the next time you log into Facebook. Speaking of which...
3. Meet Facebook's Mr. Nice
When interacting online, we lack the social feedback that helps shape our behavior in the real world. It's harder to know how our behavior makes others feel, and therefore easier to be nasty, whether intentionally or not. Nick Bilton describes the efforts of Facebook's Arturo Bejar, who is putting social science to work as he tries to get 1.3 billion people to play nice online.
4. Dynamic Duos
Joshua Wolf Shenk reveals four key features of long-term dynamic duos, from Microsoft's Gates & Ballmer to South Park's Stone & Parker, whose behavior, beliefs, and even brains change over time as a result of their partnerships. If secret languages, shared madness, and telepathy intrigue you, you may want to seek out a partner in creative crime.
5. Empathy: The Basic Quality Many Leaders Keep Getting Wrong
Justin Bariso explains why empathy beats sympathy, and how to know the difference. "Despite the fact that we crave for others to try fitting into our shoes, we're often not ready to do the same for them. We see this every day: broken marriages, strained parent-child relationships, deteriorating communication in the workplace."
6. What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?
A long(er) read from Bruce Grierson about the captivating and unconventional work of my first social psychology professor, Ellen Langer. During one trip to Mexico, she took me to a pool to test whether dolphins would approach humans faster when we were mindful than mindless. You can imagine the looks on the faces of the dolphin trainers when she started reciting “Mary had a little lamb” over and over (mindless) and then tried to become mindful by adding some novelty: “Mary had a little wombat” and “Mary had a little veal.” Dolphins aside, Ellen has done some groundbreaking research on how our mindsets shape our health.
7. The Downside of a Strong Network
Networks matter, but not in the way you'd expect, according to new data. CEOs with a lot of connections at other firms are more likely to create value-destroying deals—and more of them—than their less connected counterparts. (But don't feel too bad for them. They're also more likely to get big raises, and less likely to be fired!) I can picture future job postings now: "Seeking CEO with considerable tech experience... and no friends."
From My Desk:
How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking
I was so nervous during my first public speech that I made someone in the audience shake. (True story.) Hundreds of speeches later, here are my five concrete tips for reducing the anxiety of public speaking once and for all. Give it a read before your next big presentation... or on karaoke night.
You're Not My Friend
You may have 1,500 Facebook friends, but how many of them would pass the test in real life? I took a stab at creating some guidelines for defining and defending the boundaries of the word "friend." (Hint: it's hard to be someone's friend if you've never actually, you know, met.)
VIDEO: A New Way to Think About Startup Innovation
My interview with Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, on why competition is for losers and he doesn't trust a tech CEO in a suit. "The next Larry Page won’t start a search engine. The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t start a social network company. If you are copying these people, you are not learning from them."
Thank you for reading—I hope you found something you enjoyed. We'll close out the year with the December newsletter in about a month.