The Problem With Being “Too Nice” at Work | Tessa West | TED

TED

TED

16 min, 56 sec

A detailed exploration of how anxious niceness manifests in social interactions and its consequences.

Summary

  • The speaker investigates how anxiety influences niceness and generic behaviors during uncomfortable social interactions.
  • Three main outcomes are explored: controlled verbal communication, harder-to-control nonverbal behaviors, and involuntary physiological responses.
  • Studies in the lab setting reveal that anxious niceness can lead to synchronization of stress responses between individuals.
  • Receiving overly nice feedback can have negative consequences on performance and reputations, especially for disadvantaged groups.
  • The speaker proposes strategies to break the cycle of anxious niceness and provide more effective feedback.

Chapter 1

Introduction to Anxious Niceness

0:03 - 15 sec

The speaker introduces the concept of anxious niceness and its prevalence in uncomfortable social situations.

The speaker introduces the concept of anxious niceness and its prevalence in uncomfortable social situations.

  • When people feel most anxious, they tend to be overly nice and generic to those around them.
  • These behaviors are often a coping mechanism during socially uncomfortable moments.

Chapter 2

Research Background

0:24 - 23 sec

The speaker provides background on their research in social psychology focusing on uncomfortable social interactions.

The speaker provides background on their research in social psychology focusing on uncomfortable social interactions.

  • The speaker, a social psychologist, has been studying uncomfortable social interactions for over 20 years.
  • Research areas include roommate relationships, negotiations, upward feedback, and doctor-patient interactions.

Chapter 3

Research Methods and Outcomes

0:48 - 39 sec

An explanation of the research methods and the three main outcomes studied in uncomfortable social interactions.

An explanation of the research methods and the three main outcomes studied in uncomfortable social interactions.

  • The research looks at controlled speech, nonverbal behaviors, and physiological responses during social interactions.
  • Studies include lab interactions such as negotiations and getting acquainted, often requiring feedback to partners.

Chapter 4

Engaging the Audience

2:03 - 35 sec

The speaker engages the audience by asking them to recall an awkward interaction and hints at an interactive exercise.

The speaker engages the audience by asking them to recall an awkward interaction and hints at an interactive exercise.

  • The audience is asked to think about their last awkward interaction and anticipate sharing it.
  • This exercise is a setup to illustrate a point and is not actually carried out.

Chapter 5

Physiological Stress Responses

2:40 - 38 sec

The speaker discusses how lab studies show immediate stress responses in participants during social interactions.

The speaker discusses how lab studies show immediate stress responses in participants during social interactions.

  • Participants exhibit increased heart rates and blood pressure within seconds of the interaction.
  • Nonverbal behaviors like fidgeting and avoiding eye contact also manifest.

Chapter 6

Anxious Niceness in Doctor-Patient Interactions

3:18 - 12 sec

The effects of anxious niceness in doctor-patient interactions are shared as an example.

The effects of anxious niceness in doctor-patient interactions are shared as an example.

  • Uncomfortable doctors tend to focus more on charts or screens rather than maintaining patient eye contact.
  • These nonverbal cues are a form of anxious niceness.

Chapter 7

Synchronization of Stress Responses

3:30 - 3 min, 58 sec

The speaker explains how stress responses can synchronize between individuals during interactions.

The speaker explains how stress responses can synchronize between individuals during interactions.

  • Studies show that Black participants become physiologically synchronized with anxious white participants in cross-race interactions.
  • This synchronization includes nonverbal signals and cortisol reactivity.

Chapter 8

Consequences of Anxious Niceness

7:28 - 1 min, 31 sec

The negative consequences of anxious niceness on performance and reputation are highlighted.

The negative consequences of anxious niceness on performance and reputation are highlighted.

  • Overly positive feedback can harm performance and make it hard to know where one stands.
  • Such feedback can also damage reputations outside the interaction context.

Chapter 9

Strategies for Effective Feedback

9:00 - 2 min, 7 sec

The speaker proposes strategies for breaking the cycle of anxious niceness and improving feedback.

The speaker proposes strategies for breaking the cycle of anxious niceness and improving feedback.

  • The speaker suggests assessing the real support for niceness culture at work and moving towards honest feedback.
  • It is important to frame feedback as either general or specific and positive or critical.

Chapter 10

Cultural Shift Towards Constructive Feedback

11:09 - 5 min, 40 sec

The speaker discusses the need for a cultural shift towards more constructive and specific feedback.

The speaker discusses the need for a cultural shift towards more constructive and specific feedback.

  • Neutral feedback can be a starting point for providing specific and useful critical feedback.
  • Positive feedback can be reframed to be more engaged and aligned with the receiver's goals.

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