The Science of Connection

Increase your social skills and create connections with research-backed tips from Wonder.

shame wonder

Here’s Your First-Aid Kit for Dealing with Shame

Emotional Intelligence

Why Giving Can Be More Rewarding Than You Think

Giving has a bad reputation. We often equate generosity with being weak or yielding to pressure too easily. Givers are sometimes seen as doormats who will concede to any request to avoid conflict or gain others’ approval. But that’s not always the case. Giving can be very rewarding. Here’s why:

1. Giving makes you feel good

Yes, helping others can drain you. But it can also energize you.

Business professor Adam Grant makes the distinction between selfless, selfish, and otherish givers.

Selfless givers put other people’s interests above their own. This makes them feel burned out, disappointed, and like they can never give enough. 

Selfish givers help to get something in return. 

Otherish givers look for ways to help others that are either low cost or even high benefit to themselves — “win-win,” as opposed to “win-lose”. They choose their causes carefully and make sure that giving enhances their self-worth. As a result, they feel energized and motivated to give even more.

To maintain the balance of being generous with taking care of yourself, become an otherish giver, helping in ways that are meaningful to you, and that benefit more than hurt you.

2. Giving helps you achieve more

You accomplish more through collaboration than through competition.

Imagine the following scenario: ten people enter a contest to solve a puzzle for the prize of one million dollars. They are told to use any resource available in the room.

They look around and notice that there aren’t any books, computers, or calculators. Immediately, some of them start working on their own. The others rearrange their chairs in a circle and start sharing their ideas.

Four hours later, the participants who worked together are the ones who arrive at a solution and share the prize. The remaining contestants have either given up or are still struggling on their own.

In Grant’s terminology, the competitors were takers, while the collaborators were givers. Takers focus solely on rewards. Givers focus on finding solutions. 

Though givers aren’t thinking of rewards, they ultimately are rewarded as a consequence of helping others. Collaborate more, compete less, and you’ll reap more benefits in the long-run.

3. Giving helps you build and maintain relationships

Giving establishes powerful connections between people.

When someone is generous, word spreads about it quickly. A generous person’s network expands as others discover their role as a giver. Those who aren’t in their network want to become a part of it. Those who are go at great lengths to remain.

Eventually, giving spreads as the norm. By giving, a generous person eventually creates a community of givers on which he or she can rely in times of need.

So be generous. You’ll inspire others to do the same. Which essentially means you’ll have generous people to turn to should you need support in the future.

Sum up:

  • Find a meaningful cause. Give your time and energy to support something you feel strongly about. 
  • Collaborate more, compete less. Find opportunities to combine skills and resources with others rather than reaping individual rewards in every situation.
  • Be kind. Ask a friend how their day went. Help your new coworker figure out software they’ve never used before. Give someone your undivided attention. 

Already a giver? Let us know how you give and how has giving has helped you in the comment section below.

Sonia Codreanu
Sonia Codreanu
Psychometrics Analyst at Wonder
Sonia Codreanu is a psychology student at the University of Bath and a psychometrics analyst for Wonder. She's passionate about personality testing and investigates innovative ways in which it can be used to improve human performance and connection. In her spare time, she loves dancing.
writing goals achieve

The 3-Step Formula To Achieving Your Goals

Writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. Sharing them with a friend helps increase those chances even more. Doing both of these things — plus sending the friend a weekly update — makes failing much more difficult, says a new study from Dominican University.

The study, led by Dr. Gail Matthews, professor of Psychology at Dominican, tested the impact of writing down of your goals, making your commitments public, and holding yourself accountable on goal achievement.

Over 100 people took part. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of five groups and used none, one, or a combination of goal setting strategies, according to the division below:

Group 1 members kept their goals to themselves;

Group 2 members wrote them down;

Group 3 members wrote them down, adding action items;

Group 4 members shared the goals with a friend;

Group 5 members wrote down the goals, shared them with a friend, and sent that friend weekly updates.

At the end, more than 70% of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend (Group 5) accomplished their goals, compared to 35% of those in the group that kept their goals to themselves and didn’t write them down (Group 1).

These findings suggest that setting goals is just the beginning. To achieve them, it helps to take these three steps:

1. Put your goals in writing.
Some experts also suggest adding action items and giving each one a deadline.

2. Make your commitment public.
According to the study, sharing your intention with just one supportive friend works.

3. Hold yourself accountable.
Give a friend a weekly update on how you’re doing. This step is crucial, so don’t even think about skipping it! If you think you’ll cheat on this one, ask your friend to ask you for news.

For a summary of the study, click here.

What are your goals for this month? This semester? This year? Make your commitments public by posting them in the comments below!

Marcelle Santos
Marcelle Santos
Mars turns complicated ideas into content that's easy to understand and interesting to follow. At Wonder, she's diving deep into emotional intelligence and the psychology of relationships to come up with what she hopes is useful and inspiring information for users of the Wonder app.
Emotional Intelligence, Social Skills

Reading Helps You Develop Empathy, But Only If You Pick The Right Books

We all know that books make us smarter, but did you know they also help us better relate to other people?

Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from the New School of Social Research in New York, showed that reading award-winning novels and short stories improves our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that those who read critically-acclaimed literary texts were better able to guess what others are going through.

They scored higher on tasks like the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, where participants are asked to guess the feelings being expressed by different sets of eyes in photos.

Empathy Training

According to Kidd and Castano, interpreting the thoughts and emotions of literary characters is just like trying to make sense of people in real life.

“The same psychological processes are used to navigate fiction and real relationships,” says Kidd. “Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience.”

As such, reading is great practice for real-life interactions. With added benefits: it poses fewer risks than the real world, and gives us the chance to explore the inner lives of others beyond stereotypes and convention.

Why Best-Sellers Don’t Work

But only challenging works of fiction give us the opportunity to exercise our empathy skills, researchers say.

What Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë can give you that Nicholas Sparks can’t? Internally unpredictable characters, implicit meanings, and multiple perspectives — a combination that engages us, as readers, in the active role of making sense of characters’ actions and the story as a whole.

“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” says Kidd.

By forcing us to “fill in the gaps” and search for meanings among many possible ones, novels and stories flex our interpretation muscles. In doing so, they prepare us for the tough job of understanding  people in real life.

Marcelle Santos
Marcelle Santos
Mars turns complicated ideas into content that's easy to understand and interesting to follow. At Wonder, she's diving deep into emotional intelligence and the psychology of relationships to come up with what she hopes is useful and inspiring information for users of the Wonder app.
Growth Mindset

5 Videos That Will Help You Redefine Failure

Almost anyone who has ever been successful at anything had to go through numerous failures to get there. Failure comes in all shapes and forms — unusable drafts, rejected prototypes, errors of judgment, speling mistagkes — but it’s always an opportunity to learn. Problem is, though failure is what success is built on, many of us have a complete phobia of making mistakes.

At Wonder, we believe redefining failure is crucial to growth. Whenever we need to be reminded that it’s okay to be wrong, we turn to the five videos below:

Khan Academy: You Can Learn Anything

It’s not our lack of abilities that hold us back. It’s our mindset. This inspiring video from Khan Academy shows us that achieving our goals starts with thinking we can.

Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing That You Can Improve

Rephrasing failure as “not yet” can radically affect our performance and attitude towards achievement, says Stanford psychology researcher Carol Dweck.

David Foster Wallace: Ambition

In this short interview, David Foster Wallace discusses perfection, and how his desire to always achieve this perfection negatively impacted his work.

Kathryn Schulz: On Being Wrong

On this TED Talk, which explores everything from the Chinese character for picnic bench to the mistakes of Wile E. Coyote, journalist Kathryn Schulz questions what it means to be wrong, and suggests that allowing ourselves to be wrong more often could change our lives (for the better).

J.K. Rowling: Harvard Commencement Speech

In her now famous address to the new students at Harvard, J.K Rowling gives a personal account of the many failures she encountered when she was an aspiring writer, and how these failures helped her strip away the inessential in order to focus on her work and who she wanted to be.

Growth Mindset

Believe You Can Grow: Three Strategies For Changing Your Mindset

Are you hard on yourself when you make mistakes? Do you tend to stick to your comfort zone rather than take risks? If so, you might be seeing life as a test that you either pass or fail. To start seeing it for what it could be — an experiment you can learn from and have fun with — we recommend trying one (or all) of the three things below:

(Writers’ Note: We think you’ll enjoy them even if you’re pretty good at failing).

1. Read a biography

There’s an old cure to beating yourself up for not being really good at something: it’s reading your hero’s —or anybody’s— biography.  Biographies tend to be perfect illustrations of Thomas Edison’s mantra (“genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration”) and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. By narrating the countless times successful people have struggled, failed, and (most importantly) persevered, they help us all put things in perspective.

2. Get good at positive self-talk

People who are scared to fail listen to the voice inside their heads that tells them they’re not gifted, clever, creative, young, or (insert desirable trait here) enough to do whatever it is that they would secretly love to do. That is the voice of their inner critic. Creativity expert Julia Cameron recommended that her students work with their inner critics instead of shushing them completely. She gave them the following exercise: whenever you hear your inner critic, take note of what it’s saying. Then, convert each nasty statement into something positive (“I, Jessica, am stupid and lazy”, for example, into “I, Jessica, am capable and determined.”)

3. Do something challenging

When it comes to taking on challenges, you were likely a lot braver as a baby than you are now. Think about it — you took on the inconceivably humongous challenge of learning how to walk, and you failed (in public) hundreds of times before you finally succeeded. To become as curious and eager to learn as you were when you were an infant, embrace a new activity, like learning a new language or an instrument. Allow yourself to make plenty of mistakes. Watching your slow, steady progress will motivate you to take on even greater challenges.

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