Discover more from Overcoming Bias
Breathing is very important to us. Even so, it is hard to say that we do much of what we do just to breathe. Instead, we adjust what we do to make sure we can breathe. We do this mostly unconsciously, but we do it.
Similarly, status is very important to us. But it looks bad to do things to directly for status; that seems too desperate. So usually we have other conscious motivations, and unconsciously adjust our behavior to manage status. This lets us avoid showing or seeing how much status matters to us.
With this in mind, I thought I’d try a quick status audit of my blogging behavior, using this fascinating list of status moves. I’ve listed the 41 of them that plausibly apply below. Considering my usual blogging style, I’ve tried to code as red moves where what I tend to do or not do typically raises my status or lower others’, and as blue moves that typically lower my status or raise others’. Black moves were harder to code.
A. High-status behaviors
Having no visible reaction to what the other person said.
Speaking in complete sentences.
Talking matter-of-factly about things that the other person finds displeasing or offensive.
Speaking authoritatively, with certainty.
Giving or withholding permission.
Evaluating other people’s work.
Being surrounded by an entourage.
B. Low-status behaviors
Speaking in halting, incomplete sentences.
Dancing around your words when talking about something that will displease the other person.
Shouting as an attempt to intimidate the other person.
Adjusting the way you say something to help the other person understand.
C. Raising another person’s status
Be laughed at by them. … laughing with them at someone else.
Ask their opinion about something.
Ask them for advice or help.
Express gratitude for something they did.
Apologize to them for something you did.
Agree that they are right and you were wrong.
Defer to their judgement without requiring proof.
Address them with a fancy title or honorific.
Downplay your own achievement or attribute in comparison to theirs.
Do something incompetent in front of them and then apologize.
Mention a failure or shortcoming of your own.
Compliment them in a way that suggests appreciation, not judgement.
Obey them unquestioningly.
Wait for them.
D. Lowering another person’s status
Laugh at them. (Not with them.)
Criticize something they did.
Contradict them. Tell them they are wrong. Prove it with facts and logic.
Give them unsolicited advice.
Approve or disapprove of something they did or some attribute of theirs.
Shout at them.
Ignore what they said and talk about something else.
One-up them. E.g. have a worse problem … a greater past achievement.
Announce something good about yourself or something you did.
Disregard their opinion.
Talk sarcastically to them.
Make them wait for you.
Taunt them. Tease them.
I count 20 red, 13 blue, and 8 black. So I gotta admit I overall do more things that raise my status and lower others’ than the other way around. I’d like to think I don’t that much care about my status, and so I should be willing to adjust my behavior from red to blue, at least where time/effort costs are low. But looking over this list, I’m not sure I see any easy wins.
I’m proud of a few blue items where I’d consider myself insufferably arrogant to do otherwise – I’m reluctant to taunt, laugh, or insult folks here. But seeing how many other things I do that raise my status and lower others’, I wonder if that is just self-righteous prudery. Should I let loose my taunting, laughing, insulting self? Suggestions?