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3 Ways to Use Social Psychology to Get Ahead


The more you understand people, the easier it becomes to give them what they want, and set them up to give you what you want. Use social psychology to your advantage in the workplace.

(Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios/Flickr)

1. Reciprocation

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Reciprocity is a tenet of social psychology. Cross-culturally, people tend to return favors and punish unfair behavior.

That guy who is always trying to do favors for the boss probably knows this, but we advise against walking the boss’ dog or picking up the boss’ dry cleaning. However, it is acceptable to recognize that doing reasonable favors for folks you want on your team is smart. Not only will people feel obligated to be nice to you in return, but when people treat you well, they will, possibly unconsciously, expect good treatment back from you.

It may sound simple to say, “be nice to people who you want to be nice to you / collaborate with you / give you an opportunity,” but it is worth taking a moment to recognize that reciprocity is real and may have an affect on decision-making.

2. Reliability

People consider information valid when it comes from a trusted source. Follow through when co-workers are counting on you, check information for your boss, and be reliable. If you are thought of as reliable, people will be more interested in your opinion, which may help you get noticed and get ahead.

3. Affability

Affability may be the simplest, most obvious, and most overlooked of these important social psychology traits. People want to work with others who are easy to be around. Sue may have more education, but Jane isn’t grumpy and Sue is. If she does a good job, Jane may find herself in the good graces of co-workers and managers, and may be looked at for promotion before grumbly Sue.

Tell Us What You Think

Which do you think works better, being nice or being a bully? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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