Tim Ferriss (Author; The 4-Hour Workweek)
“Never make a defense or an apology until you are accused.”
King Charles I (Former Monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland)
“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
Confucius (Chinese Philosopher)
Self respect is a performance enhancing trait.
In graduate school, I was diagnosed with a pretty serious illness and in some sick way thought that it was my ticket to getting my degree faster. For over a year, my mentor was sandbagging my career progress and telling my thesis committee that I wasn’t ready to get my Ph.D. The truth was he just didn’t like me. I was too loud and happy for his taste. Fair enough. So, when I got sick, I figured it was my chance to repair the relationship by being quiet, weak, and sad. I settled into the idea of being pathetic. I actively put a depressed look on my face and shuffled around the lab sullenly like a leper. I did whatever I was told, said yes to everything, and apologized for all of my past mistakes. I thought he would feel sorry for me. I was wrong. He hammered me worse than ever before. Why?
In five hours we installed thirteen, 1,000-pound ATMs into a dozen different Family Dollar stores throughout Delaware. The average install time was one ATM per hour, not counting driving time. The day before, we only installed two ATMs in eight hours. The difference today was that we hated each other’s guts. My friend and I were working for an ATM company that buys old ATMs from other countries, refurbishes them, and then sells them to U.S. businesses, usually restaurants, bars, and convenience stores. Once the ATMs sold, our job was to load them into a 26-foot Penske truck and deliver each one with nothing more than a hand cart. We did this together for a couple of summers in college. The only problem was that working together, moving large, awkward machines, and dealing with annoyed store clerks who often had no idea their bosses had ordered an ATM, was taxing to our friendship. The morning of our record breaking day, we both snapped at the same time and blamed the other person directly for not pulling his weight the day before. We pushed each other, yelled, pointed fingers, and then moved ATMs at superhuman speeds, working in perfect unison, while giving each other the silent treatment. Afterwards, we laughed and wondered what the hell just happened.
The Science Of Self Respect
People with low levels of self respect are both more aware of their social standing and more sensitive to social feedback. As a result, these people are constantly distracted and easily influenced, especially by the opinions of others. A study by psychology professors at Dartmouth University found that having low levels of self respect can actually alter a person’s neural responses. The study showed that two different parts of the brain were overactive in people with low self esteem – the ventral anterior cingulated cortex (vACC) and the medical prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Researchers could predict a participant’s opinion of herself by measuring the activity of these two brain regions in response to socializing. Other studies have identified vACC and mPFC activity as important to other psychological disorders including social anxiety disorder and depression. The key is that, in most cases, you can condition these regions of your brain to be less active by changing your focus and behavior. For example, overlooking insults, refusing to feel embarrassed, and ignoring the opinions of others have all been shown to increase self respect. And, as an added bonus, these behavioral changes have also been shown to increase productivity. Here are 5 more scientific things you can do to increase your self respect and productivity:
1. Do Not Apologize
Everyone wants you to apologize for everything. We are taught from a young age that saying “I’m sorry” is the right thing to do – it’s the responsible and reasonable thing to do. It’s the grownup thing to do. After all, apologizing is the only way to get along with other people at work and at home. What will other people think if you don’t apologize? Will they stop liking you?
Protect your apologies. Understand that always apologizing erodes your integrity. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that refusing to apologize provides several psychological benefits, including empowerment, confidence, and greater feelings of integrity and self respect. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should never apologize. If you did something legitimately wrong or failed to deliver, own up to it, learn from it, and move on. But, if you’re apologizing for your beliefs, your desires, your goals, your past, or who you are in general, stop it. Nothing is more soul sucking and distracting than constantly worrying about offending other people. If who you are offends other people, that’s their problem, not yours. In graduate school, a few months after being sick, I promised myself that I would never apologize to my mentor again. In a matter of months, I was able to defend my thesis. Try this: don’t apologize for 10 days. If you make a routine mistake, instead of saying “I’m sorry” or “my apologies”, say, “I didn’t mean to do that” or “Here’s what I meant to say…”
2. Single People Out
Not everyone deserves a free pass. Every now and then, you have to blast someone openly for their bad behavior or crappy performance. The problem is that being direct with other people is becoming more and more taboo. We don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. We don’t want to be negative. We don’t want to be a hater. As a result, the bar for productivity gets set lower and lower and the number of excuses people get away with making climbs higher and higher. The truth is, improvement is impossible without criticism. And the best type of criticism is direct criticism. A review in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that negative feedback should be given as directly and transparently as possible. The biggest misconception that most people have is that negative feedback should be sandwiched with positive feedback. This is wrong. Research shows that giving positive feedback with negative feedback acts to undermine both your message and your relationship with the other person. The more direct you are, the more other people will respect you and the more you will respect yourself. Of course, you shouldn’t be blasting people every day or without a good reason. That just makes you a jerk.
3. Get Angry
Making things happen is not easy. Trying something new takes a lot of effort. On the other hand, doing what you’re told and staying within your comfort zone is a piece of cake. The problem is that without taking risks – without growth – both your self respect and productivity will suffer. Staying uncomfortable is the only way to keep adding value to your life in a way that earns both the respect of others and the respect of yourself. But change is not easy. Change requires a strong trigger. Without overcoming discomfort, confusion, embarrassment, boredom, worry, and other negative emotions, nothing would change. Sometimes, the best way to overcome negative emotions is with another, stronger, negative emotion. Research at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory found that anger both encourages people to believe they can control their future and then motivates them to take risks. Anger both narrows your focus and directs your attention outward. It also primes you for action. Understand that agitation is an incredible trigger. Allowing yourself to get agitated and then channeling your anger into productive action is a great way to increase your performance.
Snide remarks make you superhuman. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that people who listened to an angry interaction between a customer and a customer service rep worked harder and faster on a subsequent problem than their peers who listened to a nice call. But that’s not all. Those who listened to a sarcastic interaction worked as hard and fast as those exposed to anger, but also had more accurate and creative results. This is why working with 1-2 individuals who you don’t get along with very well can greatly enhance your productivity. Most people think that they should only work with nice people who think and act just like them. The truth is you should work with people who make you really angry every now and then. People who agitate you, and who see things differently than you, will help you stay motivated and effective. The key is to use anger as a trigger only. Once you’ve kickstarted change and action, shift your perspective to being positive and staying productive. This shift is critical to your success. Sustained anger can be destructive physically in your body and externally in your relationships.
4. Say No (A Lot)
One of the biggest downfalls that successful people in business and entrepreneurship claim to have made is not being able to say “no” more. In today’s world, turning down opportunities is becoming one of the fastest ways to both get ahead and get respect. Saying “no” is harder than it sounds, especially for driven people. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that turning down an opportunity will mean missing out on a potential million-dollar payout down the road. Or, it might mean burning a bridge between you and the next Steve Jobs. But, in reality, successful people, by far, turn down more opportunities than unsuccessful people. They also get more respect for doing so. People who say yes to everything are often seen as pushovers while people who say “no” are recognized for having boundaries and more important things to do. Saying “no” eliminates stress and makes you more dependable. Saying “no” will also make you more creative. Being selective with your tasks both frees your mind and gives you time to sharpen your natural strengths.
No is better than yes. The problem is that we are taught to say “yes” to everything. Team players say “yes.” Champions say “yes.” On the other hand, saying “no” is selfish. Kevin Ashton, the co-founder of the MIT Auto-ID Center, sums it up well here: “Saying ‘no’ has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know. We are not taught to say ‘no.’ We are taught not to say ‘no.’ ‘No’ is rude. ‘No’ is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. ‘No’ is for drugs and strangers with candy.” Try this: say “no” to 5 things you normally wouldn’t say “no” to every day. I’ve started doing this recently and it’s completely changed my life.
5. Never Play The Victim
No one admires a voluntary victim. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that showing off their weaknesses will get them the attention and respect they deserve. This is especially true in today’s world where everyone is running around telling everyone else how busy, sick, and poor they are. “I had such a crazy week last week…I had to put out so many fires…if only I had more money…my fibromyalgia is acting up again…” In the past few years, a lot of research has done on the importance of being vulnerable, but there is such a thing as being too vulnerable. Vulnerability, without reserve, is nothing more than playing the victim. The goal is to be open and honest, not wimpy and helpless. As harsh as it may sound, people despise deliberate weakness. Wimpiness is never attractive. Of course, a weakness can be repositioned as a strength, but real weaknesses, such as sadness, underperformance, cowardly behavior, or lack of self respect are never strengths.
Confidence is always a strength. In a study involving 242 MBA students, researchers at the University of California Berkeley’s Hass School of Business found that confidence, not talent, was a bigger predictor of career success. Specifically, a component of confidence called self efficacy, or a can-do attitude, sets people apart from their lower performing peers. Self efficacy is the belief that you are able to accomplish a particular goal. For example, “I can find a way to do this job” or “I can make this relationship work.” A Stanford University review defined self efficacy as a person’s belief about his capability to produce designated levels of performance. Self efficacy determines how a person feels, thinks, motivates himself and behaves. Amplifying your self efficacy will elevate your performance and your self respect. It will also help you get respect from other people – respect that you deserve.