Promotion vs. Prevention Focused

As Heidi Grant Halvorson explains in her book No One Understands You and What to Do About It, our brain jumps to quick and biased impressions when first meeting someone. Not only are we not as easy to understand as we think we are, but the more distracted the person perceiving us is, the more likely his brain is to take shortcuts to get the job done.

To better understand how we come across to new people, it helps to understand some of the biases people perceive each other through, which Heidi explains as "lenses." In my previous post I explained one of the lenses used: friend/power/ego. Another lens used is promotion vs. prevention focus. 

For the promotion-focused people, opportunities are great and life is all about potential and the necessary risk and failure that goes along with it. For the prevention-focused people among us, life is about mitigating risk and potential loss. Promotion-focused people are looking to improve their lot in life while prevention-focused people are looking to hang on to the status quo. Promotion-focused people are therefore elated by success while prevention-focused ones will be more calm: the former will be thrilled at having their risk pay off; the latter will be relieved things didn't go badly, as they had anticipated and worked to prevent.

So if your boss is promotion-focused, go ahead and explain the golden opportunity that you cannot miss. But if your boss is prevention-focused, focus on how much more they have to lose by not acting on the opportunity.

As Heidi reminds us, we should use our new awareness to try and not jump to false impressions about others we meet. One way to do so is to remind ourselves that we want to be fair. Apparently keeping this top of mind when meeting someone new, even if we're distracted at the time, reduces the likelihood of a biased impression occurring.

The book was fascinating and gave me lots to think about, both in how I potentially came across at different times in my life and perhaps incorrectly perceived others. Knowing the above, what are you going to do differently next time you're introduced to someone new?

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