Whether in love or leadership, choose kindness.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m kicking off a multi-part series on a topic I love to talk about: love. Because, why don’t we learn marriage counseling topics until it’s too late? Scientists have studied relationships for decades, putting couples in a lab and predicting their potential for divorce with over 90% accuracy. For such a monumental decision, I’m personally offended they didn’t teach me this at 18!
Relationship science is also rarely taught in workplaces. Yet, it has immense relevance. It simply happens that you can’t put two colleagues into a room and pay a therapist $300/hour to hash out their problems. Yet, professionals spend more waking hours speaking with colleagues than with friends and family. If there’s research that can help people who spend two days a week together, why don’t we share it with those with whom we spend five?
So, here is the first of my top takeaways from Capsule’s Mission 8: Choosing, Loving, and Fighting Well, and how they apply to both work and life.
Tip #1: Choose Kindness
Choosing Kindness in Leadership:
Would you rather work with a competent jerk or a lovable fool? Amazingly, researchers took all the traits we use to describe personality, and discovered a universal dimension of social cognition: that all these traits can be defined on a scale of warmth vs. competence.
Most would agree that jobs require a certain level of competence. So, these findings are situation-dependent. However, in general, research shows that warmth is judged more quickly, contributes more significantly to evaluations, and is perceived as more enduring and accurate. Warmth is weighted more heavily when assessing others, whereas competence is weighted more heavily when assessing ourselves. How many people are losing jobs because they focus on being competent, not realizing they come off as dominating, when they could be gaining more popularity by coming across as modest?
Let’s look at HR statistics to demonstrate the impact. According to a Leadership IQ studydone over 3 years involving 5,247 hiring managers, when new hires don’t work out, 89% of those failures are due to a lack of soft skills, not hard skills. The top 5 ways in which people failed?
26% because they can’t accept feedback
23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions
17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel
15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job
Lack of technical skills came in at #5, affecting only 11% of failures
So, when hiring or interviewing, choose (and exhibit) kindness.
What does this have to do with marriage counseling?
Choosing Kindness in Love:
Researcher Ty Tashiro, author of The Science of Happily Ever After, has an entertaining and informative TED talk on the traits that predict a happy marriage. It may seem depressing that even the happiest marriages decline in satisfaction over time. But, there is one thing that can mediate the decline: choosing the right traits in a partner from the get-go.
Tashiro polled people on the top three traits they wanted in a significant other. While most respondents said they wanted someone kind (obvious, right?), in practice they prioritized… you guessed it, looks and money. He followed these couples to determine a “return on investment” in the relationship. If we were to say each relationship starts with $1 million, by year 13, poor-choice couples have lost ~$800K. On the contrary, those couples that chose traits like kindness and emotional stability only lost 10% of relationship satisfaction, setting themselves up for a long and lasting love.
The beauty is that even a trait like kindness can be learned. Yes, it entails more than common sense! In fact, it’s surprisingly much more nuanced and tactical, and relationship science breaks it down for us in a way that leadership courses don't. In the following series, I’ll explain how.
For now, happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Jasmine Chen is Founder & CEO of Capsule, a comprehensive cognitive training for mastering your mind, improving work productivity, and building lasting relationships.