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How to Improve your Social Life by Making Mistakes

In 1961, President Kennedy ordered troops to the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to invade Cuba. This action at the time appeared to be the best course to take from the newly established president of the world’s largest superpower.

Nevertheless, the invasion was a complete disaster, and historians today still regard it as one of biggest military blunders of the 20th Century.

However, a national survey taken after the failed invasion showed that the public opinion of the president had increased. Up until this point, Kennedy was already vastly loved throughout America, fast becoming the most popular president since Roosevelt; he appeared flawless and perfect.

After the disaster at the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy made no excuses and accepted full responsibility for the blunder. This, in the eyes of the public made him appear real and tangible, almost as if he was one of their own. No longer did people see him as some kind of demi-god super human, instead they saw him as something far better; he was a real person.

The Prat-Fall Effect

147441632_2In psychology this is a well known phenomena known as the prat-fall effect. It has been tested by leading psychologists for the better part of the last century and is a well-documented human social response.

The effect suggests that if you happen to see somebody fail socially in front of you, they fall over or fail to do something correctly. You immediately gain a level of rapport, especially if that person is trying to win your favour in either a professional or social sense. The only time that this doesn’t tend to happen is if the person is quickly angered by their failure, as people will instantly dislike anyone that they’ve just met, especially if they display any degree of anger towards themselves.

The Experiment

Professor Richard Holfman, an expert in the field of human sociology and psychology, conducted an experiment to test the Prat-fall effect.

He set up two separate stands, both of which were a platform for a new product that had just been launched on the market to help get rid of stains on dry clean only items of clothing. Each of the booths were identical in every way, apart from the presenters.

In booth one the first presenter was a late twenties female, around six foot tall, long blonde hair, tailored designer suit, slim with the standard model like features, she was also a professional presenter and had been presenting products to large crowds for many years.

In the second booth, the presenter was also female, but slightly older in her late thirties. She wore smart casual clothing, very little make-up, had a slight regional accent and was a professional actor.

The audience was mostly made up of young mothers and families from a middle class background.

The first presenter delivered her pitch. It was flawless; she spoke about where the product had been sourced, how it cared for the environment etc..She even went on to answer any questions from the audience.

The second pitch from the other booth was far less professional; the actor posing as a presenter, dropped the shirt at one stage, laughed nervously, nearly swore, but still managed to pull off a very convincing pitch to the audience.

After both presenters had pitched the product, it was time to find out what the members of the audience thought.

A survey went around to over sixty audience members, to find out what they thought of the presenter. The questions asked were:

     1.       Which of the two pitches was the most professional?

     2.       Which of the two presenters would you purchase the item from?

Much to the Professors expectations, 78% of the audience answered the first presenter for question one, and a whopping 91% answered the second presenter for question two.

It’s all About Being on the Same Page

People find it extremely easy to relate to other people if that person has failings in some way. As we saw with the second presenter she came across like she was from the audience’s usual social circles. The reason for this, is because each of us regard ourselves as being less than perfect and almost all of us are plagued with feelings of awkwardness in social situations. That is why when you meet a group of new people for the first time you’re always encouraged to be yourself. People buy people especially if they can relate to them. And this is never truer than in a social situation.

What to Do

Instead of trying to impress any new strangers that you’re talking to with the usual default brag of the impressive elements of your job or where you have traveled etc., simply try leveling with them, letting them see you for your failings, share stories of where you’ve messed up in the past at other social situations and listen to theirs, then simply sit back and watch them love you for it. 


Robert-BradleyRobert Bradley

Robert is a freelance journalist, writer and cultural commentator. Residing in London, you’ll likely find him at either one of the Tates, or hunched over his MacPro in Queens Park’s Costa. You can follow Robert on Twitter @FocusOnTheDay. Read more of Robert’s writing at Huffington Post UK, London Calling, and Tearmatt.

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