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Underestimate Your Way to Social Success

Research from the Chinese University of Hong Kong reveals an unlikely truth about successful networking.

Want to make friends and influence people? A new study from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) shows that the budding networker should always underestimate if they want to impress.

While studies show that people are happiest when they have a positive view of themselves, the CUHK study – overseen by marketing professor Xianchi Dai – showed that being underestimated by one’s peers is far more likely to leave a spring in the step than the opposite.

Chinese graduates in one city were far happier to have their salaries underestimated than overestimated, while American MBA students were much happier when their classmates underestimated, rather than overestimated, their GMAT scores. Underestimation was found to be preferable not only to overestimation but also to a spot-on guess in both cases.

Professor Dai’s research team propose that the reason underestimation is nicer to hear than overestimation is that they make the reality seem so much more preferable.

For the American students, it was better to feel proud of a 720 than ashamed they hadn’t quite got to a 750, while for newly-employed Chinese graduates, hearing their salaries underestimated gave them a sense of wealth and achievement.

Dai explains: "Imagine that, at a party, you have learned that your friend, Linda, is selling her house, which you believe is worth approximately $500,000. Her friends, including you, are guessing how much she can sell it for. Because Linda does not yet know the truth (the actual sale proceeds), we suggest that you should guess high, if you intend to make her happy. You might say, 'it's such a nice house, I guess you can sell it for $600k.'

“Now, imagine an alternative scenario, in which Linda has just sold her house, is desperately in need of money, and cares more about the actual proceeds than others' impressions. In this case you should guess low. Rather than saying, 'It's such a nice house. You must have sold it for $600k,' you should say, 'I'm not sure. Would $400k sound reasonable?' Now Linda can say to herself, 'Wow, I am glad I sold it for $500k ...' and savour the pleasure."

So, next time you’re seeking to win over sceptical acquaintances or get your name out there t a networking event, remember to underestimate!

Comments.

Friday 19th August 2011, 11.52 (UTC)

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underestimate other people?? Initially it sounds strange but actually the logic is there, as long as you're not underestimating yourself!

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