The theory of Robert Kurzban also has implications for our toolkit how to react to youngsters of Generation F. Our four main tools can be reinterpreted to fit Kurzban’s concepts.
To start with, online communication as a tool can now be understood as an acknowledgement of the fact that many youngsters use the Internet to distribute their press secretary modules’ messages. They use profile sites like Facebook to send the maximum defendable positive messages about themselves – a phenomenon that triggered researcher Sherry Turkle[i] to conclude that youngsters hide behind beautiful online masks and led Gardner & Davis to claim that they have gathered “considerable evidence that youth take care to present a socially desirable, polished self online”. On the other hand, many youngsters use ephemeral messages, for instance on Snapchat, to present their press secretary messages tailored for their peers. By communicating with youngsters online we show that we respect the publication medium of choice by many of them.
Other tools rephrased
Positive empathy in the light of Kurzban’s concepts can be seen as an instrument to acknowledge not so much the form of the youngster press secretary’s messages, as online communication does, but the content of these messages. This instrument both encompasses understanding the messages and empowering them. Constructive confrontation translates to constructively coaching youngsters to avoid non-defendable positive messages in the form of narrow and absolute identity labels. This confrontation can only be constructive under the precondition of using the instrument of positive empathy. In its turn, the avoidance of non-defendable positive messages is the precondition for being able to employ 21st century skills. One cannot conduct a dialogue, negotiate, come to a mutual understanding or solve conflicts sincerely when one is only interested in getting one’s success stories across.
Kurzban’s theory also helps us to understand why the classic sales techniques by Dale Carnegie[ii] still make sense. These sales techniques, when put in Kurzban’s phrasing, can be roughly equated to the elements in our toolkit: (1) Don’t strive for the maximum defendable positive messages about yourself; (2) Try to understand the other person’s press secretary’s messages and modules; (3) Empower the other person’s press secretary’s messages and (4) Constructively challenge the indefensible in the other person’s press secretary’s messages. In the sections below Carnegie’s concrete advice will linked to these four broad techniques. This advice will be augmented with advice by a modern Dale Carnegie: Dave Kerpen[iii].
Don’t strive for the maximum defendable positive messages about yourself
Carnegie’s and Kerpen’s basic idea is that one should understand one’s press secretary – although they naturally do not call it this way. Starting from this, one has to create one’s own strong image while at the same time being kind and generous to others.
One’s strong image starts with focusing on what one can control and letting go of what one cannot. One should be self-confident and set clear frames as a leader. One should use one’s strength and create one’s signature style. It is advisable that one is transparent and conveys a consistent image offline and online.
One cannot do this on one’s own. Therefore, one should collect advisors around one’s self and be accountable to them.
When one tries to get something done, one should storytell and simply ask for what one wants. It is important to be patient and persistent.
In contact with others one should be kind and friendly. One should smile, be interested, be positive and not be afraid to show one’s emotions. One should project that one feels fantastic and feels grateful for what one has.
One should listen, talk less, and adopt the other person’s frames. One should avoid claiming ideas; it is far more effective if the other person claims one’s ideas. One should focus on the other person’s strength, offer help, and sincerely praise that person. One should perform acts of kindness, positively surprise the other person, give them special attention and provide real value to them. It is greatly valued if one introduces people with one another.
When in the wrong one should quickly and generously admit this. One should never bluff. And one should remember that it is better to be happy than to be right.
Try to understand the other person’s press secretary’s messages and modules
One should listen to the other person as if one were glued to the television. Listening is the starting-point to authentically connect and is key to influencing others. One should ask profound questions. And one should be interested in the other person. This will make one interesting to the other person.
One should try to understand the other person. Understanding leads to sympathy, tolerance and kindness on the part of the other person. When one understands what makes the other person tick one should help them want something for their own reasons. The other person should see the benefits of some proposed action or idea for themselves.
It is essential to find the other person’s good points. And it is essential to sincerely make the other person feel important since everybody has a desire to feel important.
Empower the other person’s press secretary’s messages
One should validate what the other person says and be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires. One should often say the other person’s name – to that person this is the sweetest and most important word. One should talk lengthily about the other person and the other person will listen eagerly.
One should do to the other person as they want done to them, not as one wants to be done to one’s self. As was mentioned before, it is essential to adopt the other person’s frames and interests. From a position of strength the other person should be able to see what is in it for them. The other person should want something for their own reasons. The other person should be able to see success for their future selves. In this way one can ask for what one wants in such a way that the other person can only say “yes”.
One should challenge the other person to be good. One should provide the other person with an image to live up to and appeal to the other person’s noble motives such as fairness, honesty, truthfulness and the willingness to find a solution. If the other person is successful also challenge the person in other ways. It will provide the other person with a chance to express themselves, prove themselves and win. One should in return sincerely praise, congratulate and promote the other person.
Constructively confront the indefensible in the other person’s press secretary’s messages
One should never directly challenge the other person’s opinion or plainly criticize, condemn or complain. One should never bluntly state that the other person is wrong because this will make the other person defensive. One should always use an indirect approach and avoid getting into an argument. And one should never start a conversation like this when one is angry or the other person is angry.
When one provides feedback, this should never be done publicly but always in a situation in which one is one-on-one with the other person. This way the other person will not lose face.
One should never evaluate the other person: judge the other person as a whole. One should rather provide coaching and focus on something concrete that the other person said or did – or did not say or do. If one criticizes this concrete aspect, one should do so in a friendly way. One should start by showing kindness and sincere appreciation and by first talking about one’s own mistakes. One should avoid using the word “but” after one’s praise before turning to one’s less positive remarks. Instead one should use the word “and”. Ideally one should offer praise, then negative feedback and then again praise.
One should avoid making the concrete mistake by the other person look big. The mistake should seem easy to improve to the other person. One should use encouragement to help the other person start improving their mistake. And one should readily offer one’s help and support.
The recommendations by Carnegie and Kerpen are fully in line with the instruments in our toolkit that were developed by us in reaction to our research results and augmented with insights from prophylaxis and literature from the fields of neuroscience, (social) psychology and sociology. Kurzban’s frame unified the insights of all these disciplines with Carnegie and Kerpen.
Our instruments, as well as the concrete recommendations, by Carnegie and Kerpen trigger a situation of trust in which the press secretaries from all sides present can do their work with more vulnerability and with less stress. Rather than having to prove one’s self all the time or to defend one’s self aggressively, in this situation one can open up and be ready for coaching. Fragmentation thus no longer is something to cover up to avoid accusations of hypocrisy and the prospect of not being a valuable person anymore but can be starting-point for a real dialogue. This new situation enables the emergence of a relationship in which both sides influence each other constructively and all strengthen their position as valuable individuals.
[i] Sherry Turkle – Alone together (2011)
[ii] Dale Carnegie – How to win friends & influence people (1936)
[iii] Dave Kerpen – The art of people (2016)