Let’s admit it: we’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you feel so downtrodden that you just lack the “uhmf” to kick start your day; or that feeling you just aren’t all that geared up for that occasion. No matter how depressing you feel, there’s that boost of confidence in you that you only can spark to life. Research says, having a good sense of self-affirmation may calm your jitters and boost your performance. Here’s how!
Related media: How Positive Affirmations Will Help You Achieve a Healthy, Happy Life
Are You Under Pressure?
In a 2015 study published online on the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people in positions of low power may perform better by using self-affirmations to boost their confidence — especially when the stakes are high.
“Most people have experienced a time in their lives when they aren’t performing up to their potential. They take a test or have a performance review at work, but something holds them back,” says Sonia Kang, Ph.D., the study’s led author. “Performance in these situations is closely related to how we are expected to behave.”
For the study, the researchers conducted three experiments to assess performance in pressure-filled situations. To test this hypothesis, they sought to know: When participants were in a position of high authority, would they perform better under pressure than those who were with less authority given the same working environment. Self-affirmations, however, helped to level the playing field and effectively reduced their power differences.
“You should reflect on things that you know are good about yourself,” says Kang, an assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto. “Anyone has the potential to do really well. It’s how you respond under pressure that makes a key difference.”
Get Ready To Get Under Pressure
In the study’s first experiment, the researchers sampled 134 participants (60 percent being women) and them paired based on same gender to portray a recruiter or job candidate in a competitive negotiation that involves setting wages, vacations, and other job benefits.
Half of the paired participants, while under pressure, were told the negotiation was an accurate measure of their negotiating strategy; whereas participants in the low-pressure situation were told the experiment would help them acquire negotiation strategies, and wasn’t an accurate measure of their negotiating abilities. Job candidates, who were in low authority, performed significantly worse in the high-stakes negotiations than those in the low-pressure group. Recruiters, who held a more higher authority, actually performed better under pressure because their initial expectations for success were magnified, Kang says.
In the study’s second experiment, 60 male graduate students with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) were paired together as the merchants (buyers and sellers) of a biotechnology plant. The sellers, who were in a high authority, were more assertive under pressure and negotiated a higher selling price, while the buyers performed worse under pressure.
In the study’s final experiment, the same biotechnology plant exercise was used with 88 MBA students (33 pair of males, and 11 pair of females), but all the participants were told the experiment would measure their negotiating strategy to raise the stakes. Prior to the exercise, half of the participants wrote a five-minute summary about their most important negotiating strategy, while the rest wrote about their least important negotiating strategy.
The buyers who took time off to write a positive self-affirmation, performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing power differences between the buyer and seller.
Now, What’s Self-Affirmation?
Writing down a self-affirmation may be more effective than just thinking it, but both methods can help, Kang says. Before a performance review, an employee could write or think about his best job skills. Writing or thinking about one’s family or other positive traits that aren’t associated with the high-stakes situation also may boost confidence and performance.
“Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations,” Kang says. “Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat.”
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Mar 30, 2019.