I’m not perfect. I am too blunt. I can’t leave work on time. I never take the bins out.
Most people in medicine are high performers, like winning, and worry about what people think of us. This combination is perplexing. We are certain everyone else is nailing life except for us, and so we try to hide our flaws.
The Pratfall Effect reminds us that people prefer imperfect humans.
In 1966, Aronson recorded high-performing contestants answering a quiz. At the end they spilled their coffee on themselves. Study participants were asked to watch the recordings and rate how much they liked each quizzer. Some watched the video with coffee spilling; some without. People liked the coffee-spillers more.
This is lucky for me because I knock everything over.
It’s not just about hot drinks though, being fallible benefits us:
1. We look human
We relate to people better when they show vulnerability and aren’t robots.
Colleagues who never make mistakes may be heroes initially…but that soon turns to envy. It’s hard to feel connected to them.
2. We encourage honesty and sharing
When we can be honest about our mistakes, our colleagues feel safe to share theirs. They trust us because we know how it feels.
3. Our strengths are respected more
When we share our weaknesses, people respect our strengths more. They know how hard we work for success, and realise that it doesn’t come easily.
Stop pretending you’re breezing through life. Start being honest and vulnerable.