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Respect + Kindness = Results Magic


We all know how much more we are willing to do for someone kind, communicative, and respectful than for someone rude and demanding. It's easy to dismiss this as a desire to do nice things for nice people. However, the science of this willingness and attitude runs deep and is more impactful than you might imagine.

In a world where rude, dismissive, and toxic communication seems to have become the norm, the toll is devastating. It is dragging us down as individuals, organizations, and communities.

No, I am not being overly dramatic.

If you haven't read our recent blog, Willpower Is a Trait, Skill, and Muscle that Determines Success, give it a quick read. In that blog, we explained the multifaceted nature of willpower, specifically the limited reservoir of it we all have.

Honey or vinegar?

Someone did a study using college students to demonstrate the appalling impact of rude and demanding behavior. One at a time, the students were brought into a room with a delicious-smelling bowl of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on the table.

Some students were greeted very pleasantly. They were kindly asked to ignore the cookies for the next fifteen minutes and were offered an explanation: The study was organized to test theories on willpower. At the end of their session, each was graciously thanked for their time, complimented on their contribution, and asked to provide feedback to make the experience for future participants as pleasant as possible.

The rest of the students had a much different experience. They were told, rather bluntly, to ignore the cookies for the remainder of the experiment. No explanation was given as to why they needed to ignore the cookies or the purpose of the experiment. They were shown no appreciation for their participation, nor were they asked for feedback.

It may surprise you that the different tones of instruction did not immediately influence the request to ignore the cookies; all students succeeded. This may cause you to think the type of treatment they received had no impact at all.

You'd be wrong.

The way we treat others—and are treated ourselves—has detrimental effects on performance. While rude behavior may get the immediate desired result, the long-term cost is immeasurable.


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The real test

This initial phase of the experiment was merely a setup for the primary purpose. The real goal was to determine how willpower and performance are affected in the longer term by the pleasantness and respectfulness of our interactions.

After the initial task of ignoring the cookies, the participants were asked to sit in front of a computer for 12 minutes while numbers continually popped up on the screen for a half-second each. When they saw a six followed immediately by a four, they were instructed to press a button.

Those who enjoyed the cookie phase's pleasant version substantially outperformed those treated rudely and dismissively. Every one of the former participants lasted the entire 12 minutes, and the accuracy of their results was dramatically better than the latter, many of whom quit well before the 12-minute mark.

The researchers determined that the stress of the environment and communication style had depleted the willpower reserves of the second group. Because of the lack of pleasant interaction, thoughtful instruction, and genuine appreciation, they didn't have what it took to perform the computer task.

Why you should heed the warning

Apply this to your own business. As someone with employees or who may hire an outside firm to outsource an operation, are you providing a pleasant, well-instructed, and appreciative interaction that allows those working for you to perform at their highest level? Or are you sucking their ability to perform and deliver you the results you want and need out of them by being rude and demanding?

Now, put yourself on the receiving end of the experience and apply this to your clients. I'm sure you have some with whom you have pleasant interactions and others who are borderline toxic. Think through your client interactions as objectively as possible. In doing so, you'll understand the toll that dealing with negative clients takes on your performance. You’ll recognize that your results are sub-par compared to what you produce for your more appreciative and communicative clients.

Here's the critical part to remember. The toll may not be immediately felt on the task performed for the toxic client. The actual toll will likely be felt on whatever tasks you perform next, maybe on something you do for one of your best clients.

Be intentional in how you communicate. Take time to explain why you are asking for what you are asking for. Show appreciation for others and their effort. Use a tone that demonstrates respect. Thank others for what they've done for you (even if you've paid them).

And let them know it matters.

This is more than just the right people thing to do; it’s also the right business thing to do.


Content originally published on Q4intelligence

Photo by Ljupco Smokovski