When you’re not in a powerful position, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you don’t belong, which in turn causes your subsequent performance to suffer. This is especially so when pressure is high. A recent study highlights how the use of self-affirmation can help to overcome this and deliver your potential.
See Also: How to Use Affirmations
"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," the authors say. "Performance in these situations is closely related to how we are expected to behave."
The study saw three experiments conducted to understand how we perform when the pressure is on. It appeared that power was a key factor, with those placed in high power positions tending to perform better in high pressure situations than their colleagues who were in low power situations.
They found, however, that when self-affirmation was deployed, this uneven playing field was considerably levelled.
"You should reflect on things that you know are good about yourself," the researchers say. "Anyone has the potential to do really well. It’s how you respond under pressure that makes a key difference."
The Power of Self-affirmation
The first experiment saw participants paired up, with one playing the role of a recruiter, and the other a job candidate. The pair were instructed to role play a tough negotiation for things such as salary, holiday allowance and various other job based benefits. To up the ante, half of the participants were informed that their performance in the negotiation would be taken as a reflection of their negotiation ability. The other half had the pressure lowered by being told that the exercise was designed to be instructive and teach them various concepts of negotiation, and was therefore no reflection on their abilities.
The results revealed that when those in the job candidate position were placed in the low power/high pressure group, they did significantly worse in the subsequent negotiation than their peers in the low pressure group. When the participants had power, however (i.e., they were the recruiter), they actually did better when the pressure was increased.
A second experiment tested these findings further. This time the pairs were acting out the role of buying and selling a biotech plant. This time it was the sellers who had all of the power, and the results revealed that they tended to be more assertive when placed in high pressure situations, thus negotiating a much higher price for the sale. Just as in the previous experiment, the buyers in the situation faired worse.
The third, and final experiment, also took place in a biotech setting. Just as in the previous experiment, the pairs had to negotiate the sale of a plant. This time however they added self-affirmation to the mix. Half of the participants were asked to write about their best negotiating skill. The other half were asked to write about their worst.
The results revealed that those who had primed their brain to think positively did much better in the subsequent negotiation than their peers from the low self-affirmation group.
Whilst pep talks have long been used to get us in the right frame of mind, the authors suggest that writing down this affirmative message can help even more. So, for instance, if you have a performance evaluation coming up, maybe you can try jotting down your best skills and abilities.
See Also: How to Develop Positive Thinking in Your Life
"Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations," they conclude. "Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat."
Do you use self-affirmation or any similar techniques to boost your performance? How effective do you find them? Your thoughts and comments below please...