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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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Ask-bragging and Ask-complaining: Feigning interest in others to elicit admiration and sympathy

People often wish to share positive or negative information about themselves with others—they brag to elicit admiration and complain to elicit sympathy. We introduce pervasive and thinly-veiled disclosure strategies: ask-bragging and ask-complaining. In both cases, people ask their conversation partner a question (“How was your weekend?”). Then, in a subsequent turn of the conversation, the question-asker answers the question him or herself (whether the partner has asked the question back or not). Ask-brags and ask-complaints are viewed as adherences to social norms and erroneously believed by the asker to leave a better impression than overt disclosures. The strategies are commonly deployed, but are quite ineffective. Recipients realize that ask-braggarts and -complainers have little interest in their response, but are instead setting up their own disclosure (“Mine was amazing!” / “Mine was awful!”)—and prefer people who straightforwardly brag or complain.

Ryan Hauser
Yale School of Management
United States

Alison Wood Brooks
Harvard Business School
United States

Michael Norton
Harvard Business School
United States

 


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