TIME advice

How to Judge Someone’s Character

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This question answered by Michael Baucom, George Cotsiki, Jill Uchiyama, Paul Denlinger and Sanjay Sabnani for Quora

 

Answer by Michael Baucom

The things they laugh at.

I had a coworker back in Sulphur who saved his laughter for things he genuinely thought were funny.

So if I said something funny and he laughed, I knew he was being real. If he didn’t think it was funny, he’d just look at me.

I liked that guy a lot.

 

Answer by Jill Uchiyama

I had a teacher who said it best.

You don’t know who someone is until you see them under pressure.

It is when we are under pressure that our true colors come out, when the ego’s ass is put to the fire and we become the gateway between our survival self and doing what is humane and expressing integrity.

If you think about it, it is really easy to be a nice person when there is no pressure in your life. It is easy to give money to those in need when you have it in your wallet. It is easy to smile when you’re already laughing. It is easy to dance when you are in love with someone or with life itself. You don’t mind donating money or doing extra favors when you have the time. Even arguing is ok when you are feeling fine otherwise.

But, put some pressure on the same person and you may be face to face with a demon.

It happens to all of us. And it’s humbling to see where we really are in relation to life.

 

Answer by George Cotsiki

There is a great Japanese proverb :

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”

Apart from face to face interaction (to understand by their body language and eyes) this is an extremely revealing point about someone. People can hide very well their true character but they cannot escape the semiotics of their social circle.

In both my personal and business life this has been one rule that even though I have tried to ignore (due to my own biases), has come true time and time again.

 

Answer by Paul Denlinger

Their questions.

Questions reveal what they are focusing their attention on, and also what their blind spots are.

 

Answer by Sanjay Sabnani

Social media.

I learn more about people I have known my whole life long on Facebook than I have pieced together over the entire length of our relationship. When someone writes, it becomes relatively easy to see what their angle is. Are they an attention whore? Do they self promote? Do they reciprocate when people interact with them and their content? What are their photographs like? Are they all selfies? Do they hide their spouse and family from the world in order to appear ‘available’? Do they go out of their way to hide how they really look? Do they just play mindless games all day? Do they share popular content in order to get praised?

This does not work if they do not write online, or if they only use social media sparingly, but reading someone’s words is a way straight into their personality if you care to pay attention.

This question originally asked on Quora: What is the single most revealing thing about any person? See more:

TIME advice

The Fastest Way to Get People to Trust You

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This question answered by Mira Zaslove, Becky Lee and Roy Bauman on Quora

 

Answer by Mira Zaslove

Smile and look them in the eye.

Then give them a genuine compliment. People like and trust people who are nice to them, and like them.

Tell them that you dig their shoes, their favorite sports team, their neighborhood, whatever. Just be genuine. Most people will spot false praise, and it will backfire. Much better to honestly tell someone you like the color of their shirt, than to disingenuously tell them that they are the smartest person you know.

People also tend to trust people who are similar to them, so you also want to highlight your similarities, and again your great taste, by liking what they like.

 

Answer by Becky Lee

Be honest with people in your life, even when inconvenient.

Politely decline to participate in Gossip, even if everyone else is gossiping.

Keep people’s secrets.

Confide in the person whose trust you wish to gain.

 

Answer by Roy Bauman

This answer leans more toward business than personal but works for both.

If you are fair with other people and always looking for ways to help them, you will have no problem getting people to trust you. Don’t associate with liars, thieves, or people that have qualities you don’t want, or trust. I believe this bleeds through and most people can read it. Some things that are important when gaining trust quickly are:

  • Keep good eye contact at appropriate times. When I worked for a large, successful corporation, I asked the man who hired me (a 30 veteran in hiring) what was the most important quality he looked for in new hires. He told me that they could hold good eye contact. Usually people that can do this have nothing to hide.
  • Be selectively vulnerable. It’s not important to do constantly, but it shows you are human, a real person just like they are and is an indirect form of common ground, creating rapport.
  • Work very HARD. Most people that find out through your actions that you are a very hard worker, will trust you and even refer or recommend you to others in a business environment. People who go out and make a living through hard work are not generally seen as trying to “get over” on others. They are willing to put in the necessary effort to earn what they receive. Still work smart, but work your ass off.
  • Be unselfish and thoughtful of others’ position in your actions.
  • Don’t be deceitful. Basically, be the kind of person others should trust.
  • Expect, and have faith that they will trust you.
  • Be flexible, patient, and don’t pressure them. People immediately raise their guard when being pressured. If you release your concern about the outcome, ironically you are more likely to get what you’d rather have.

This question originally asked on Quora: What is the quickest way to get people to trust you? See more:

TIME psychology

The Last Thing You’ll Ever Need to Read About Setting and Achieving Goals

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Huh? Set goals? Why?

 

How do you set goals?

 

What are the first steps in moving toward your goals?

  • Don’t look at goals like a death march. Putting some time into making them fun is both more enjoyable and more effective.

 

How do I keep going and not give up?

  • The secret to avoiding goal-induced stress is more planning. This reduces random factors that can throw a wrench into things and knock you off course.

 

What are 5 things that make achieving goals easier?

  1. Make a step-by-step plan.
  2. Tell other people about your goal.
  3. Think about the good things that will happen if you achieve your goal.
  4. Reward yourself for making progress toward your goal.
  5. Record your progress (e.g., in a journal or on a chart).

 

What are 5 things that don’t work when it comes to goals?

  1. Motivate yourself by focusing on someone that you admire for achieving so much (e.g., a celebrity role model or great leader).
  2. Think about the bad things that will happen if you don’t achieve your goal.
  3. Try to suppress unhelpful thoughts (e.g., avoid thinking about eating unhealthy food or smoking).
  4. Rely on willpower.
  5. Fantasize about how great your life will be when you achieve my goal.

More tips here.

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Related posts:

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

How to Improve Your Luck

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Like it or not, we’re all a little superstitious.

Fundamentally, your brain doesn’t like or want to believe in randomness. It always believes you have some control, even when you don’t.

For instance, craps players throw dice less forcefully when they want low numbers, as if that will make a difference.

Via The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good:

Nonetheless, many studies have shown that gamblers will bet more and continue gambling longer if they do have a personal role in these fundamentally random events. In some cases, this even affects the style of the particular actions involved in the game. For example, craps players tend to throw the dice with less force when trying to roll low numbers.

Houses with addresses that have lucky numbers in them sell at a premium.

People believe if they give away a lottery ticket it’s more likely to win.

Las Vegas knows how to keep it’s customers happy, no matter what they believe:

In Las Vegas, where superstitious beliefs are rampant, many large casino-hotels (such as MGM, Wynn and Palms Place) omit floor numbers 4, 14, 24, 34 and 40 to 49 because the number “4” is considered unlucky in the Chinese tradition.

Even Nobel Prize winners (a pretty rational bunch) say that some of their success is due to luck.

And bad luck seems to exist as well. Research shows that being accident-prone is real:

…a meta-analysis of the distribution of accidents in the general population showed that the observed number of individuals with repeated accidents was higher than the number expected by chance. In conclusion, accident proneness exists…

So why do we lie to ourselves? Feeling we have control is vital. It reduces stress(and the chance of a heart attack.)

It may be delusional but we’re happier deluded. And delusion makes us perform better on average:

So you’re a skeptic. No need; I’m not encouraging anyone to believe in magic.

One of the primary ways good luck operates is by increasing self-confidence. It’s the placebo effect. And that’s why wishing someone luck works:

Activating a positive superstitious belief can boost people’s confidence, which in turn improves performance…

And it’s the same reason good luck charms work:

Via The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver:

The researchers found that by activating good luck beliefs, these objects were consistently able to boost people’s self-confidence and that this up-tick in self-assurance in turn affected a wide range of performance. Lucky thinking, it turned out in this study, positively affected people’s ability to solve puzzles and to remember the pictures depicted on thirty-six different cards, and it improved their putting performance in golf! In fact, people with a lucky charm performed significantly better than did the people who had none. That’s right, having a lucky charm will make you a better golfer, should you care about such things, and improve your cognitive performance on tasks such as memory games.

So whatever increases our self-confidence can make us “luckier.” What else works?

In his research into luck, Richard Wiseman established four principles.

Via The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles:

Principle One: Maximise Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.

Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.

Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on ill fortune, and take control of the situation.

Wiseman also laid out actionable tips for becoming more lucky:

Be open to more opportunities, interact with a large network of people, break routines and keep a relaxed attitude toward life.

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

Wiseman found that lucky people tend to be open to opportunities (or insights) that come along spontaneously, whereas unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine, fixated on certain specific outcomes.

And:

This was Wiseman’s core finding: You can create your own luck. “I discovered that being in the right place at the right time is actually all about being in the right state of mind,” he argued.Lucky people increase their odds of chance encounters or experiences by interacting with a large number of people. Extraversion, Wiseman found, pays opportunity and insight rewards.

Do these tricks actually work? Yes:

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

After identifying a group of people who identified themselves as unlucky, he shared the main principles of lucky behavior, including specific techniques. As Wiseman described it, “For instance, they were taught how to be more open to opportunities around them, how to break routines, and how to deal with bad luck by imagining things being worse.” Wiseman included exercises to increase chance opportunities, such as building and maintaining a network of luck, being open to new experiences, and developing a more relaxed attitude toward life, as well as ways to listen to hunches and to visualize lucky interactions. After carrying out specific exercises for a month, participants reported back to Wiseman. “The results were dramatic: eighty percent were happier and more satisfied with their lives— and luckier,” Wiseman summed.

So maybe you’re still a skeptic. Give it a shot anyway. There are other benefits — believing in luck can make you more fun.

Via The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane:

Magical thinking is also important for letting loose and having a good time. Brugger finds a positive correlation between magical ideation and the ability to find pleasure in life. More magic, more fun. (As long as reality stays within arm’s reach.) “Those students who are not magical are not typically those who enjoy going to parties,” he says. “To be totally unmagic is very unhealthy.”

And if you enjoyed this post, share it with friends. We could all use some good luck. :)

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

5 Key Components of a Good Apology

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Apologies do make a difference. People often prefer them over money, even if they’re just cheap talk.

What does the research say about the best way to apologize?

 

One

Don’t apologize for what you think you did wrong. Apologize for what they think you did wrong:

…victims reacted most positively to apologies that were congruent with their self-construals.

 

Two

The most effective apologies have four parts:

Via Wait: The Art and Science of Delay:

Aaron Lazare devotes two full chapters of On Apology and much of his subsequent research to questions of timing and delay. He finds that effective apologies typically contain four parts:

1. Acknowledge that you did it.

2. Explain what happened.

3. Express remorse.

4. Repair the damage, as much as you can.

This aligns with previous research on effective apologies:

Results indicated that relationships recovered significantly when offending partners used behaviors labeled as explicit acknowledgment, nonverbal assurance, and compensation.

 

Three

Timing is crucial — and faster is not better. People need to feel they are heard and understood so a delayed apology is actually more satisfying.

Via Wait: The Art and Science of Delay:

The results were stark: “Apology timing was positively correlated with outcome satisfaction; when the apology came later in the conflict, participants reported greater satisfaction.” Statistical tests showed that, the greater the delay, the more a victim felt heard and understood. With more time, there was more opportunity for voice and understanding.

 

Four

If it’s clear you intentionally did something wrong, you’re probably better off notapologizing. After intentional acts, apologies tend to backfire and make things worse:

An apology does not help at all after clearly intentionally committed offenses. On the contrary, after such offenses harmdoers do better not to apologize since sending an apology in this situation strongly increases punishment compared to remaining silent.

 

Five

Are they not accepting your apology? A little guilting can be effective. Being reminded of times when they did something wrong makes people more likely to accept apologies and forgive:

…participants in the recall-self-as-wrongdoer condition were significantly more likely to accept the apology from the classmate and forgive the transgression.

 

A Final Tip

Hopefully you won’t need this list too often. However, you may want to keep the principles in mind for next time you get pulled over. Studies have shown that apologizing to the police is one of the few effective ways to get out of a speeding ticket.

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How To Be Resilient: 8 Steps To Success When Life Gets Hard

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TIME Race

Negrophobia: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and America’s Fear of Black People

Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, near Ferguson, Mio., Aug. 18, 2014.
Demonstrators march down West Florissant during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, near Ferguson, Mio., Aug. 18, 2014. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Phobias are extreme aversions embedded deep in our psyches, activated when we come face-to-face with the thing we fear. Some people are afraid of black people.

Phobias are lethal. This summer’s series of prominent killings of unarmed Black men, Michael Brown being the most covered, have forced me to come to terms with my own fear: I am an arachnophobe.

A few nights ago, I noticed a dark spot in my periphery. Suddenly it twitched. My stomach dropped. The dark spot was a five-inch spider, looking as if it had muscle and bone. There was no possible way I could sleep soundly until the behemoth was neutralized. I scrambled to find a shoe, then swung it with all my might. With a clap of thunder, the big dark enemy was no more; flattened to a wall stencil. Relief.

Phobias are extreme aversions. They are embedded deep in our psyches, activated when we come face-to-face with the thing we fear. For me, spiders trigger overreactions. For others, it can be people.

Black people.

Before there was Michael Brown, there was Eric Garner, a dark spot in the periphery of the NYPD—a trigger for their phobia. There was no possible way they could patrol confidently that day without assurance the behemoth was neutralized.

Garner’s 400-pound anatomy forms an object of American Negrophobia: the unjustified fear of black people. Studies show that Black people, particularly Black men, are the group most feared by White adults. Negrophobia fuels the triangular system of oppression that keeps people of color pinned into hapless ghettos between the pillars of militarized police, starved inner-city schools, and voracious prisons. And this summer there weren’t only Garner and Brown; there were John Crawford, and Ezell Ford, and many others who will not be eulogized in the media.

Even the most well-intentioned people sometimes have difficulty avoiding discourses that reinforce problematic notions of Black physicality. A few months ago, I got into a conversation with a mentor of mine, a Stanford administrator. This individual told a story of a visit to a penitentiary where there was a stellar performance of Shakespeare’s Othello by a cast of inmates. My mentor’s description of the lead, a brawny African-American male convict, will always fascinate me. In this person’s words, the thespian was a “large, beautiful, intimidating Black man.”

This stream of modifiers—large, beautiful, and intimidating—is normally reserved for majestic, predatory beasts like tigers, bears, or dragons. It describes something both appealing and appalling, but not typically a human. You can see classic buck and brute tropes echoed in various corners of modern popular culture. These types of perceptions of historically marginalized groups can, in the wrong circumstances, foment phobias—and dangerous overreactions.

But misperception is nothing new. The bestial depiction, and treatment, of Black people follows a linear history from the times of pickaninny children to the current United States president.

I hate to think this is what the police see when they approach any unarmed Black person—a predator that has escaped captivity and must be tranquilized before he or she wreaks havoc. And yet. An officer quelling Ferguson protests can be heard screaming on live television, “Bring it, all you f****** animals!” to the predominantly Black demonstrators.

Back to the spider once more: my perception of the fear and the ability of that spider to actually produce the threat I have mentally assigned it were completely disproportionate. It was just me spooking myself into fury. Phobic people hyperbolize a threat that is not actually present, and trip themselves into aggression. We as Americans must learn to see each other properly and not through the lens of phobia.

This is a plea to those officers who are unflinching in the gravest of dangers, whose courage is forged in the crucible of our nation’s worst emergencies, yet who lose all composure when facing the grimace of a Black man. The concept of diversity, like Eric Garner, is large, beautiful, and sometimes intimidating. America will only be America once we learn how to fully appreciate it, not fear it. One day, I hope, we won’t see our fellow humans as dark spots.

Brandon Hill is a junior at Stanford University, studying political science and African & African American Studies. Raised in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, he has interned for the White House and UNICEF.

TIME psychology

5 Fool-Proof Ways to End Procrastination Today

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Understanding what causes us to put things off helps tame the beast

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow,” quipped Mark Twain. Waiting until later is one of life’s guilty secrets, but chronic procrastination is linked to poorer health, work and relationship outcomes. Thankfully there are some straightforward ways to put off putting-off, and the way you think about a task can impact your desire to get it done.

In one psychological study, participants were given a 15-minute head start on a math test, during which time they could choose to practice for the test, play a video game or work on a puzzle. When the math test was introduced as an important measurement of cognitive ability, those with a propensity to procrastinate spent more time playing video games or doing the puzzle than others. But when the math test was described as a fun game, there was no difference in the amount of time procrastinators and non-procrastinators spent playing the video game or puzzle.

Understanding what’s causing us to procrastinate helps tame the beast. Research has shown there are five main reasons people leave things until later:

  1. Complacency, which comes from an overly strong sense of self-confidence. It can appear as laziness or general lack of concern. This is when you tell yourself, “It’s easy to do so I’ll fit it in later.”
  1. Avoiding discomfort, a type of procrastination that focuses on the unpleasantness of an activity, particularly compared to a more favorable activity. When you’re avoiding discomfort you tell yourself, “I’d much rather do something easier instead.”
  1. Fear of failure, when the fear of not succeeding inhibits you from moving forward. This is when you don’t step forward for a promotion or avoid asking someone on a date because you’re afraid you’ll be turned down.
  1. Emotional state, when you’re too tired, too hungry, too stressed to get anything productive done. Think about when you tell yourself, “I’m just not in the mood to do this right now.”
  1. Action illusion, where you feel like you’re doing all the right things, but no real progress has been made. For example, if you are a keen project planner, this could mean that every time the project gets behind, the plan gets updated, but no progress is actually made.

Next time you recognize yourself procrastinating in one of these ways, think again. There are times when the way an activity is set up can make a big difference to your approach. In those instances, it is even more useful to have some general tactics to try to remedy procrastination. Here are five:

  1. Strive for five – the five-minute start

Five minutes is nothing—it’s just three hundred seconds. It’s the length of a song or a TV commercial. Pick up a project you’ve been putting off and give it just 300 seconds of your time. Once the five minutes is up, stop and reassess. After awhile, the momentum of beginning the task will carry you forward.

  1. Home run – set goals and rewards

During the day, set goals and rewards. Each time you hit a goal, you earn the reward: a short break, a hilarious YouTube video, or some other incentive. It’s important the goals are realistic and the rewards are in proportion. Make sure you select a time to review your progress and adjust your targets accordingly.

  1. Be good to yourself – me today versus me tomorrow

Sometimes, when you find yourself buried with work, you feel upset with yourself for not having started earlier. Imagine a conversation between ‘you today’ and ‘you tomorrow’. If ‘you tomorrow’ could chat with ‘you today,’ what would he have to say?

  1. Set creative punishments – negative consequences

Make the consequences of inaction so unbearable that you have no choice but to get busy now. You could write a check to someone or something you really dislike: a rival team, if you’re a sports fan, or to the opposing political party. Give the check to a friend with strict instructions to mail the check if you do not achieve your goal. The more you dislike the other party, the stronger the incentive to get the task done.

  1. I was there – witnessing accountability

Going public with a goal increases your support and accountability. Consider going on a diet: Is there more pressure if you don’t tell a soul, or if you announce it to all your friends, with strict instructions to refuse if you ask for a chip? It may seem an obvious way of making yourself feel guilty, but it can also be highly effective. Be careful with this tactic, as some research has found that making intentions public gives us a false sense of progress and thereby reduces the likelihood of success – it’s the action-illusion issue I mentioned earlier. So here’s the trick: ask for support, but don’t kid yourself that support equals progress.

Procrastination is the silent killer of dreams. Everyone suffers from it. By seeking to understand and fix your procrastination, you’ll discover you jumpstart many areas of your life.

Dr. Sebastian Bailey is a bestselling author and the co-founder of Mind Gym, a corporate learning consultancy that transforms the way people think, act and behave at work and at home. His next book, Mind Gym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently, will be out on September 9, 2014. The book gives readers actionable ways, based on years of research, to change their way of thinking to achieve more, live longer and build better relationships. Connect with Sebastian on Twitter @DrSebBailey.

TIME psychology

6 Things to Do to Improve Your Relationship

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In the past I’ve covered the research regarding what you should look for in a marriage partner.

What do studies say about what you can do to improve your relationship?

Excitement

Divorce may have less to do with an increase in conflict and more to do with a decrease in positive feelings. Boredom really can hurt a relationship:

Being bored with the marriage undermines closeness, which in turn reduces satisfaction, Orbuch said.

“It suggests that excitement in relationships facilitates or makes salient closeness, which in turn promotes satisfaction in the long term,” she said.

We spend a lot of time trying to reduce conflict but not enough time experiencing thrills. And the latter may be more important.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.

The research points again and again to how important thrills are:

  • Think a pleasant evening is all it takes? Researchers did a 10 week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

So do something exciting. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple.

Let Yourself Be A Little Deluded With Love

Being a little deluded helps marriages:

…people who were unrealistically idealistic about their partners when they got married were more satisfied with their marriage three years later than less idealistic people.

And it’s not just true for marriages:

…relationship illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love, and trust, and less conflict and ambivalence in both dating and marital relationships. A longitudinal follow-up of the dating sample revealed that relationships were more likely to persist the stronger individuals’ initial illusions.

5 to 1

Keep that ratio in mind. You need five good things for every bad thing in order to keep a happy relationship:

A 2.9: 1 means you are headed for a divorce. You need a 5: 1 ratio to predict a strong and loving marriage— five positive statements for every critical statement you make of your spouse.

And when you’re dealing with your mother-in-law the ratio is 1000 to 1. I’m not kidding.

Be Conscientious

Conscientiousness is the trait most associated with marital satisfaction:

…our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.

Actually, you can kill a lot of birds with this one stone because it’s also associated with longevity, income, job satisfaction and health.

Gratitude

Gratitude can be a booster shot for a relationship:

…gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.

It can even create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop:

Thus, the authors’ findings add credence to their model, in that gratitude contributes to a reciprocal process of relationship maintenance, whereby each partner’s maintenance behaviors, perceptions of responsiveness, and feelings of gratitude feed back on and influence the other’s behaviors, perceptions, and feelings.

Try

Sounds silly but it’s true. Want a better relationship? Try.

Sounds ridiculous but:

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Over-Confident People Are Seen as Smarter, Even When They’re Not

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Fooling yourself can help you fool others into thinking you're not a fool

Turns out “fake it till you make it” is actually real. A new study found that over-confident students were more likely to be perceived as smart by their peers, regardless of their actual grades.

Researchers at Newcastle University and University of Exeter found that students who over-estimated their own grades tended to be perceived as more talented, and students who under-estimated their grades were seen as less talented, regardless of their actual capabilities. “Our results support the idea that self-deception facilitates the deception of others,” concluded Shakti Lamba and Vivek Nityananda in their study published Wednesday in Plos One. “Overconfident individuals were overrated and underconfident individuals were underrated.”

Because the study was focused on students studying psychology and anthropology, subjects that generally attract more female students, the sample size was female-biased. But while Lamba and Nityananda acknowledged that previous studies have found that men tend to be over-confident and women tend to be under-confident, their research found that gender had no effect on how people perceive self-assured men and women.

The researchers also warned that over-confidence can have more of an effect on individual decisions like picking a mate or hiring for jobs, resulting in self-deceptive and risk-prone people being promoted to powerful roles. “Promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk,” they wrote.

In other words, even if you’ve made it, you’ll probably keep on faking it.

TIME psychology

Can You Really Predict What Will Make You Happy?

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Here’s what most people think will make them happy, in order of importance:

Via The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain:

A survey of more than 2,015 people conducted by the British research company Ipsos MORI revealed that people believe the following five factors are most likely to enhance happiness (they are listed in order of importance).

1) More time with family
2) Earning double what I do now
3) Better health
4) More time with friends
5) More traveling

Are they right?

Looking at the research, and sticking with just these five options, the order of importance looks more like this:

1) Better health
2) More time with friends
3) More time with family
4) More traveling
5) Earning double what I do now

Health

How people value health varies dramatically based on age, which probably isn’t too much of a surprise. Tali Sharot points out that:

Only 10 percent of respondents from fifteen to twenty-four years old rated better health as one of the top five factors that would make them happy, as opposed to 45 percent of people over seventy-five.

That said, economists value your health as equivalent to an extra $463,170 a year, dwarfing other factors:

Improvement in health has one of the largest effects on life satisfaction; a move from having a very poor health to having an excellent health is worth around an extra £300,000 a year.

A good deal of research lumps friends and family together. Harvard Happiness expert Daniel Gilbert (author of the bestseller Stumbling on Happiness) sums up much of his research by saying:

Family & Friends

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

Having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in terms of life satisfaction:

I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

Slumdwellers in Calcutta are much happier than you might expect largely due to relationships.

Travel

Travel, in terms of vacations, provides a modest benefit. (Commuting, on the other hand is devastating to happiness and might even end marriages.)

Money

Money, once you get above a pretty good salary, doesn’t add much happiness:

…people in the US who make $75,000 a year…are just as happy as those who make $150,000. Any higher income is not going to increase emotional well-being, but a lower income is associated with less emotional well-being, Scollon explained.

That said, how you spend money can affect how much it increases happiness. And at the risk of splitting hairs, while money has very little effect on moment to moment happiness, it is associated with being more satisfied with your life when looked at in the big picture.

Why do we get it so wrong?

Looking at Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness my main takeaway was this:

Much of our unhappiness springs from the fact that we’re terrible at accurately remembering how things made us feel in the past, so we make bad choices regarding the future.

In Gilbert’s own words (and backed up by many studies):

We overestimate how happy we will be on our birthdays, we underestimate how happy we will be on Monday mornings, and we make these mundane but erroneous predictions again and again, despite their regular disconfirmation.

Do you dread going to work, going to the gym or to that family gathering? How do you really feel when you finally get there or after? It’s often very different from your prediction. Some things that look like an enormous chore to do in the future are actually very fulfilling in the moment and afterward… like, oh, blogging.

Stop trusting your memory. Write things down.

Does that seem like work?

Well, Gilbert has a great research-backed suggestion that is quick and easy:Look at other people, what they do, and how they react in the moment:

This trio of studies suggests that when people are deprived of the information that imagination requires and are thus forced to use others as surrogates, they make remarkably accurate predictions about their future feelings, which suggests that the best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see how others are feeling today.

Want to learn more about what will make you happy? Go here.

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