Todd Kashdan (@toddkashdan) is a Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University and co-author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self — Drives Success and Fulfillment.
What We Discuss with Todd Kashdan:
- Why trying to be positive and happy all the time may be harming your ability to get things done and achieve the results you want.
- How what you may think of as negative emotions — like anger — can be useful superpowers with the proper awareness and application.
- The problem with living in a time and place when distraction from discomfort comes in an easier and greater variety than ever before.
- Why every decision you make now is based on how you expect to feel in the future — and you probably underestimate your ability to tolerate distress.
- How you can use the discomfort caveat to ease out of the “put on a happy face” rut around others.
- And much more…
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Most of us listening to this podcast are lucky enough to live in a time and place where soothing ourselves with distraction as an alternative to feeling uncomfortable in any way is easier than ever. It might sound like a utopian dream come true, but is it healthy?
The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self — Drives Success and Fulfillment co-author and clinical psychologist Todd Kashdan joins us to explain why we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not only avoiding uncomfortable situations but neglecting the development of a useful toolbox in the process. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
If you’re a writer, it’s unlikely you’d tackle any serious project on the condition that you could only use words from half of the dictionary — even if you could choose the half ahead of time. Doubtless you’d eventually run into an instance where you could perfectly convey a concept if only you had access to the forbidden half. It would be a frustrating exercise ending with half-baked results.
We as human beings often go through life on the misguided advice to, as the old song goes, accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative from our attitudes if we want good things to come our way. But as Todd Kashdan, Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University and co-author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self — Drives Success and Fulfillment explains, we rob ourselves of wholeness when we concentrate on showing only one side of ourselves to the world. In other words, we’re trying to write our story with only half of the dictionary.
The Whole Truth
“Wholeness is the ability to access all the psychological resources at your disposal for the variety of situations that you’re going to handle,” says Todd. “The basic thesis that (The Upside of Your Dark Side co-author) Robert and I have is that all of us prematurely rule out really valuable psychological tools, tactics, social relationships, and experiences because they make us feel uncomfortable. And because of that, we’re at a market disadvantage in life for all the things we’re looking for.
“Happiness, creativity, meaning in life, love — you name the outcome — the inability to withstand frustration, physical discomfort, and emotional distress makes you physiologically and psychologically weaker.”
To Todd, even anger and embarrassment can be harnessed into superpowers under the right circumstances.
“You can think of anger as a courage enhancer,” Todd says. “If you feel that someone is stepping in your way and obstructing your goals, the experience of anger motivates you to take a step forward as opposed to a step back. But anger in and of itself is definitely a psychological tool that is incredibly valuable for a number of reasons.”
The ability to pursue what we care most about despite the presence of pain is what Todd calls psychological flexibility, and it’s a concept that probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s had any amount of success in life. Growth doesn’t come without some level of discomfort, and understanding how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable is a cornerstone to making any real progress from where we are to where we want to be.
“When people think about what is the number one strategy for you to acquire higher performance, creativity at work, higher happiness, engagement, meaning in life, and healthy, romantic relationships and friendships, probably what I would argue — that the 15 years of science will tell you — is this skillset, this ability to have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and still be able to move towards goals that you actually care about that are aligned with your values, your interests, what’s meaningful to you, this is the gem,” says Todd. “It accounts for profound amount of variance in explaining the things that we care about and the things that organizations care about.”
Here in the United States — and it might be safe to say in most prosperous western countries — we tend to actively avoid discomfort whenever possible, preferring instead to soothe ourselves by any number of available distractions. While avoiding discomfort may be a natural instinct for any human being, we’re in a place and time when distraction comes in an easier and greater variety than ever before.
Instead, Todd says you should be “accepting that this is part of your evolutionary birthright to be a fully optimized human being in a volatile, uncertain world.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how getting acclimated to and growing from discomfort is akin to putting ourselves through physical exertion to get stronger and be able to withstand even more punishment when it comes our way, why every decision we make now is based on how we expect to feel in the future, how we underestimate our ability to tolerate distress, how anger can be useful in the right increments, how we can use the discomfort caveat to ease out of the “put on a happy face” rut around others, creative ways to harness the wholeness of our emotions without labeling them as positive or negative, the importance of distinguishing between guilt and shame, why mild discontent may serve us much better than happiness, and lots more.
THANKS, TODD KASHDAN!
If you enjoyed this session with Todd Kashdan, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self — Drives Success and Fulfillment by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
- Todd Kashdan’s website
- Todd Kashdan at Twitter
- Jack White’s Infinite Imagination by Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker
- Maya Tamir on the Dark Side of Positive Emotion, Experts in Emotion with Jane Gruber, Yale University
- Eddie Brill
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- TJHS 37: Duana Welch | The Science of Jealousy and How to Manage It
- Interview With June Price Tangney About Shame in the Therapy Hour, American Psychological Association
- Mood as Information: 20 Years Later by Norbert Schwarz and Gerald L. Clore, Psychological Inquiry
- The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths
- Pornography by The Cure
- The Most Narcissistic U.S. Presidents (Prior to 2013), Pew Research Center
- The Narcissistic Basketball Association: Top Five NBA Narcissists by Taylor Angel, Bleacher Report
- The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Transcript for Todd Kashdan | The Bright Truth about Your Dark Side (Episode 60)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Today, we're talking with Todd Kashdan, author of The Upside of Your Dark Side. Why being your whole self, not just your good self-drives success and fulfillment. This book and this discussion is an interesting counterpoint to the idea that we always have to be positive and happy and why these emotions might actually harm our ability to get things done and achieve the results we want. We'll discover that happiness sometimes backfires and bad emotional states are sometimes good. We'll also explore the concept of avoidance, how we as Americans especially are addicted to avoiding discomfort. This isn't just an American problem, but us here in the States are particularly prone to this and we'll learn how to be comfortable with negative emotions while also making sure that we know how to control them so we don't turn into the office drill Sergeant in the name of results, outcome or achievement.
[00:00:48] And what I found really interesting here was that these negative emotions that we're looking at that often we try to surprise actually become more useful than let's just be cheerful and happy all the time. Functional anger, functional sort of discontent with the status quo and unhappiness when it's not chronically part of our identity is actually more useful than this all-time positivity. So I really enjoyed this episode and I think you all will too. And don't forget we have a worksheet for this episode so you can make sure you solidify your understandings of the key takeaways here from Todd. That link is in the show notes along with everything else you might need at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. All right, here's Todd Cashton.
[00:01:27] So in the book of course, it's telling us, look, every emotion is useful. The concept of wholeness is something that you discuss at length. Tell us what wholeness really means in the case that you use it in the book.
Todd Kashdan: [00:01:39] Yeah. So homeless is basically the ability to access all the psychological resources at your disposal for the variety of situations that you're going to handle. And the basic thesis that Robert and I have is that all of us, including me and you, Jordan, prematurely rule out really valuable psychological tools, tactics, social relationships, and experiences because they make us feel uncomfortable. And because of that, we're at a market disadvantage in life for all of the things we're looking for. Happiness, creativity, meaning in life, love, you name the outcome, the inability to withstand frustration, physical discomfort and emotional distress makes you physiologically and psychologically weaker
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:26] Really? So essentially every emotion is useful, even things like embarrassment and anger and things like that?
Todd Kashdan: [00:02:33] Those are two great examples. In some situations, they're super powers. You can think of anger as a courage enhancer, which is if you feel that someone is stepping in your way and obstructing your goals or someone that you care about, the experience of anger motivates you to take a step forward as opposed to a step back. But anger in and of itself is definitely a psychological tool that is incredibly valuable for a number of reasons.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:01] I love the concept of wholeness because it actually goes against what I think a lot of the self-help kind of BS industry and a lot of these personal growth shows, books and seminars are teaching, which is you got to be happy, you've got to be positive all the time and we'll get into that in a second. I want to go back to what you'd originally started with, which is the idea that if we're trying to only use positive emotions or are only trying to feel positive emotions, we actually weaken our ability to deal with distress. So distress tolerance is a concept that you introduced early on in the upside of your dark side. Tell us what that is and why it's important.
Todd Kashdan: [00:03:37] Yeah, I'll actually take it one step further to distress tolerance. I'm being better wrote the book a couple of years ago. We'll talk about the term psychological flexibility, which is basically the ability to pursue what you care most about despite the presence of pain. And when people think about what is the number one strategy for you to acquire higher performance, creativity at work, higher happiness, engagement, meaning in life, and healthy romantic relationships and friendships. Probably what I would argue that 15 years of science will tell you is this skillset, this ability to have uncomfortable thoughts and the feelings and still be able to move towards goals that you actually care about that are aligned with your values, your interests, which meaningful to you. This is the gym. I mean it accounts for profound amount of variants and explaining the things that we care about and the things that organizations care about.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:35] Okay, so distress tolerance, what is it really? We need to be good at dealing with negative emotion because we have it and we can't really get past that. Is that kind of the short version of this?
Todd Kashdan: [00:04:45] We have to be good at recognizing that our emotional experiences offer signals for particular behaviors. What's going to potentially work best in challenging situations? And so the reason that I moved away from the word tolerance is because there's a couple of levels you can go. So what most people tend to do, particularly in American society, is we don't want to feel crappy because feeling crappy feels crappy. And so we will procrastinate, we'll worry, we’ll ruminate, we'll bring other people in to complain too. We'll engage in activities to distract ourselves. We'll be alone at a bar. We'll grab out our smart phone because we can't deal with being bored for more than two and a half minutes. We might have sex or exercise, which is normally as healthy, but we might use those behaviors as a way to escape from feeling something uncomfortable, sadness, feeling disillusioned, feeling solemn, whatever the emotional state is.
[00:05:43] So one thing is not to avoid those emotional states. Another level is to be able to white knuckle and tolerate those states. But we're actually arguing there's actually two more levels, which is one is accepting that this is part of your evolutionary birthright to be a fully optimized human being in a volatile, uncertain world. And you can go one step further, which is some great work that's just come out recently in Israel and Stanford, which is that you can harness these emotional experiences that are uncomfortable and perform better than your optimistic, positive, smiley counterparts.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:06:20] All right, so let me break that down a little bit because I think a lot of people might just be kind of humming along in their car at the gym. That's a really key point here. You not only, we not only should embrace this idea of wholeness that every emotion is useful, but you're going a step further in saying not only is every emotion useful in some sort of holistic feel good sense where we should be accepting of those, but actually emotions like anger might be the most useful tool in the moment that we have, instead of just trying to cover it up with happiness. Because postmodernism, because self-help, because you had a Tony Robbins seminar a couple of months ago or whatever, or any sort of self-help seminar a few months ago.
[00:07:05] The emotion of anger, guilt, there's a reason that we've evolved it and instead of ignoring it, trying to paint over it, we might use that as a useful tool. Because I'll tell you, it can be pretty lonely if that's the right word. Trying to pursue happiness all the time and someone like me who doesn't always feel happy. I don't have depression or anything as far as I can tell, but I don't always feel happy. I'm often in patient and you know, there's other things going on where I feel guilty because I ate too much of a fried thing at dinner the other night, and instead of beating myself up and telling myself I should be happy, you're kind of giving me permission to embrace all of my emotions and not only because that's more emotionally healthy, but maybe, just maybe there's a tool to be found here in these emotions that we've been beating down and shoving back in the closet. Is that correct?
Todd Kashdan: [00:07:53] Yeah. I mean you have books that say how to live an anxiety free life. You have books that say how to live a stress free life, how to have happiness for no reason. We're offering a revisionist view. This not just meant to be hopeful. It's a closer match the size, and it requires to have a more nuance view. I'll just give you an idea of like the last two days of my life of two examples, which was so Jack White, if your viewers don't like him, then I'd like them, from White Stripes rec on tours. He's coming here to D.C., May 29th I miss tickets like usual because I have three kids, and so I had to go online and kind of figure out how to buy tickets from someone who kind of was an overcharge me. And an anxiety provoking endeavor despite how many decades you've gotten, you know, take us from scalpers.And so that anxiety motivated me like okay, what is the best strategy to buy tickets from people on Craigslist? And it listed out five different strategies.
[00:08:49] Actually Google the email to make sure it's an actual person. Make sure you get actual hard tickets as opposed to a PDF, because if they give the PDF to more than one person, the first person to get in there, they're the ones who gets a ticket. The second person is out of their luck drinking beers on the street out of a camp. And so the flexibility offered by anxiety only is harnessed by me having the belief that anxiety is not something to kind of get rid of and take a benzodiazepine right there or shoved down some bourbon, which we should just doing just for the fun of it, but not to get rid of anxiety. But the belief that I have that anxiety is useful, makes me tap into this intuitive mindset which is, it's making me think of all the things that can go wrong and it's making me clearly be a scout and scour around for information for other people and online to help me resolve this scenario.
[00:09:44] This is what fear, anxiety and nervousness do, but we've been led to believe it feels uncomfortable. People feel uncomfortable if they see an anxious person, you will function better if you are common poise and all of those messages prevent us from tapping into a neglected resource or tool that we can add to our psychological arsenal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:06] Great. Good. Because unwanted negative experiences., I feel like those often shaped the most important developments of our lives in the first place.
Todd Kashdan: [00:10:15] Exactly. I mean just think about exercise. We know that the number one mistake that people make when they exercise is they over train. They go in the gym for too long, too many days in a row. How do you actually change is an analog of how to actually grow and reach your potential in every area of your life. You go in two to three times a week at most for the physical exercise, lift heavy weights pyramid your way down from curling in 45 pound dumbbells to way you get down to five pound aerobic weights and you can barely even lift them and you look foolish because you're struggling and the arteries are bursting out of your neck.
[00:10:53] That strategy, two sets of that is more valuable than you spending 10 sets of the gym. The extreme incidents, exposing yourself to levels of intensity that your body cannot handle as it rested in-between days where you expose yourself to these difficult incidents, your body becomes stronger. And so the same way we need to train ourselves to be uncomfortable because if we're not, when we're in Detroit and we're on a train and we're out of our element and we're the only white person in an area, you're not going to be able to focus and functional in those scenarios. When you're negotiating with someone who you believe is much more powerful than you because their social position, you're going to lose your shit because of the anxiety, because you don't have enough exposure and experienced being uncomfortable. And when someone challenges you on an idea that you are in love with, a venture capitalist maybe or a colleague, you might get really defensive as opposed to curious of what questions they have because you're not comfortable being anxious. And so we can train ourselves to improve our relationship with this emotion because we are blessed with the skill that most of us end up discarding.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:05] All right. So we can essentially build up a capacity for dealing with negative emotions, but it can't tie to, can't just be as simple as, all right, well, I'm going to try to feel this a lot and then I'll get better at it, because we all know the anxious mess in the office. We all know the negative Nancy, or the person who is always guilt tripped by their parents or guilt tripping themselves or the angry guy. Those people have plenty of experience with those emotions and yet they don't seem to be handling them particularly well. So it can't just be exposure that we're looking for to create this skill set or this, this tolerance or this ability.
Todd Kashdan: [00:12:41] So one of the things that's really important, for example, so focusing on anxiety or fear or nervousness, is separating your performance from the outcome on a regular basis. Now, we tend to view the world through a binary lens. Either you succeed or you fail. In reality, the world is much more complicated. So if it ends up being you're single, you're trying to pick up a beautiful lady or a guy with this 12 pack from bar, we tend to think of if I end up getting their number or going home with them, that's a success. We focus on the outcome. We really should be focusing on what is the performance, because you could see being incredibly witty and funny, throw softballs of amazing conversations of what is the most popular, you know, search terms in porn websites, in Scotland versus India versus Indonesia. All sorts of interesting conversations that people should want to be, should possibly be involved in.
[00:13:34] And they may just be in the wrong place or have or be waiting for somebody or have just had some major stressor, major breakup, and you have no idea what's happening. So part of just exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations is very carefully calibrating how were you going to evaluate yourself in terms of the improvement that you have? So what is focusing on the performance, not the outcome? And an element of that that makes it very helpful is to predict how you think you're going to behave and respond when you go into the bar by yourself, sit by yourself, and there are sitting next to an attractive person. What do you think you're going to do? What do you think you're going to feel beforehand? And then tap in afterwards of actually how far away and how off your preconceptions were in terms of what you actually do.
[00:14:27] What we find for most people is people tend to make unrealistic expectations of how bad things are going to be and are surprised of how strong they are and be able to withstand physical and emotional discomfort. That alone ends up being an awakening of itself. So that's the first strategy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:47] Can you put that into like one or two sentences?
Todd Kashdan: [00:14:50] So one of the things we know is you can take an assessment of how you think you're going to behave in an uncomfortable situation. And after entering that situation, focus on what your performance was like and what you experience compared to what you anticipated the situation to be. You're going to find that you are vastly superior and be able to withstand difficulties and challenges compared to what you expect. Those gaps between what you anticipate and what actually happens over time, it ends up getting calcified in your brain that you can reach stronger than you actually can imagine, but you don't normally put yourself to the test, especially in the past five or 10 years of smartphones invented the picture we enter into your fewer uncomfortable or ambiguous social situations than we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s when you would just go onto the bus and go to the mall as a 13-year-old, and you'll just strike up a conversation with five other people that were in the back with you.
[00:15:53] Those situations are less frequent in the modern world, and we're finding that as people have more materials and technologies that can make them comfortable and escape uncomfortable feelings, any moment you can in any situation, in any moment, you can make bored and disappear by going onto a smartphone. We lose the opportunity to practice skills and develop skills of how to handle ambiguous situations.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:22] So predict what our behavior or what our result might look like, and then observe the actual situation. You know, “Oh, okay, I'm going to feel really anxious when I talk to this person. Did I feel really anxious or am I feeling really anxious right now?” “Not so much.” This is easier than I thought, and then check our own predictions later and go, “Actually, that wasn't so bad.” And then what do we do? Are we journaling this so that next time we have that situation, we realized, “Oh, I was this anxious before I asked for a raise last time,” and then the conversation went really smoothly and it actually turned out in my favor. How are we actually managing this process of predicting, observing, and then checking our predictions?
Todd Kashdan: [00:17:01]If you wanted to maximize skill development, you internally, do you need to journal? Absolutely not. The key thing is you're changing your beliefs, and here's the beliefs you're changing. The belief that a particular uncomfortable emotion is useful. So if you believe anger is useful, you do better in difficult negotiations, you're able to actually to handle disagreements better, and you're able to elicit higher levels of concessions from people. If you believe anger is like the belief actually alters your confidence and your behavior in the situation. So that's one belief, that belief that the emotion is useful. The second belief is the belief that the emotion is manageable. So you don't want to be enraged mode if you're negotiating with a scalper for the price of, you know, for the price of tickets to see Bruce Springsteen, you want to be upset, frustrated, annoyed, but it's kind of like 30 miles per hour in a speedometer.
[00:17:58] You don't want to be crossing into 70 miles per hour, 80 pounds miles per hour in terms of boiling with rage and overflowing with disdain for other people that happens there. So you want to be able to manage your emotion such that you're feeling uncomfortable, but you're still the person in charge of the situation. And the other belief that's important is so you have the belief that emotion is actually works, is functional. Belief that emotion is actually controllable. And then that the belief that an emotion is actually going to be under your control to match the situation at hand, that you can actually whip it out when necessary.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:41] Okay. So the reason belief is important here is not because if you, if you build it, they will come. It's important because as your science has shown it is useful, but if you decide that it's not and that you should be happy, instead you're just going to short circuit this process, right?
Todd Kashdan: [00:18:57] Yeah. This is Maya Tamir’s work, where she actually shows when people believe that anxiety has no function. It's really anger. What I've seen over traveling, when Robert and I traveled across the world giving workshops on this, we find that there's a sizable minority of people that believe that there is never a use for anger. I think this comes from like Buddhist or Hindu practices or New Age books. The fact is, is it's just wrong
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:24] Few angry emails from most of the world's major religions continue.
Todd Kashdan: [00:19:29] What happens is that anger is functionally, and Jordan, you hit on this really well. So we know that if a sports team goes into half time, you know, insert your favorite watch, soccer, football, basketball, hockey, whatever the hell you want. And a coach gives a pep talk and it ends up trying to be positive and uplifting going into the second half, it has almost no effect in their performance the second half. Now, if a coach expresses their dismay and their anger, it has a quite a sizeable effect on their performance the second half. If and only if that coach is not an angry person regularly, so but ends up being a uncommon deviation from how you tend to behave anger is an incredibly motivating vehicle to get maximal performance from people in a situation.
[00:20:21] But if you are an anger written person, people to now, what happens? Because it's kind of like what you described before is that when we have people in the workplace who were chronically anxious and worried all the time, we can predict with almost 90 percent accuracy there are going to be worried, if we make a decision to spend some money. We tune them out. You need to have some ability to, with great discernment decide when to express anger on a semi regular basis, not a regular basis, so that people listen to the threats and the minority views that are getting lost in the mix that something might go wrong. Here are the possibilities, let's put them into consideration so we can get the best possible outcome. I don't want to make my anxiety contagious. I want to help us get the best possible decision. It's a super power.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:13] So when it comes to negotiation, motivation, maybe some conflict resolution, anger is a tool that we can use to navigate those particular social situations. Those particular types of interactions or situations.
Todd Kashdan: [00:21:28] Yeah. And one of the other, one of the cooler areas where anger is useful is it makes people more creative. I mean, just think about when you have to deal with budget constraints and you have a neighbor that is basically like blocking you from getting a basketball court. Your anger makes you think of tons of ideas to get around that roadblock. It's a useful tool in the moment to generate a whole school of ideas and that people that may not share the same disappointment and anger and anxiety that you have other people can pick from those that long list of ideas you generated to figure out which ones are the most functional, they'll actually work and be effective.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:22:13] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Todd Kashdan. Stick around and we'll get right back to the show after these important messages.
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[00:24:51] Thank you for listening and supporting the Jordan Harbinger Show. To learn more about our sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/advertisers, and don't forget to check out our Alexis Skill. Go to jordanharbinger.com/alexa, or search for Jordan Harbinger in the Alexa App. Let's get back to Jordan and Todd Kashdan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:10] What if we're so used to being pleasant and nice all the time that we don't really like being angry? We're not good at it, and I know that sounds ridiculous, but there are definitely people who fall into that category. Can we just sort of fake the anger? Is that going to do the trick in this particular situation?
Todd Kashdan: [00:25:24] Oh yeah. I mean you're describing the majority of people that walk around the United States, which is inside their bubbling with undesirable experiences, but they put on a happy face. I mean, this is what the self-help market kind of feeds. We know that when you conceal and hide uncomfortable experiences, you have less mental energy to actually function in tests like your ability to retain information goes down, your ability to learn those down, your ability to perform those down. That happens there. You bring up a good point. We call this the discomfort caveat. One way of handling anxiety, guilt, anger, or sadness when it comes to interacting other people is to just explicitly tell them that, “Listen, I'm experiencing a lot more anger or, or anxiety than I expected. So if whatever I'm going to say, it might not come out the way I want to, but I want you to know that I don't want to hold this in because I care about our relationship.”
[00:26:19] We call it the discomfort caveat. The reason you do this is because you bring people's defenses down. We're looking for interest, curiosity, and willingness to entertain whatever we're thinking about and whatever feedback that we want to give. So we want to bring their guard down. Now to address your point, even if you don't actually feel confused by your feelings, you feel uncomfortable, it's worthwhile to open with that statement before you say whatever it is you want to say. That little bit of white space, front loading that you're a little bit overwhelmed right now is enough to bring people's guards down so they have an opportunity to listen and receive whatever is you're going to tell them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:03] That's interesting. So essentially this is kind of a disclaimer that frames the emotion and a potentially negative emotion in a positive way. Like, “Look, I don't want to come across as overly negative here, or I don't want this to come across as harsh, but this, this, this and this.” So not only does it highlight the negative emotion, it also serves the function of maybe separating it from your personality, like, “Look, I don't normally talk like this, but you really blew it on the McCarthy account. Here's what happened in my perspective.” So it highlights that while separating it from that person's concept of your identity and also I guess magnifies the effect instead of just, well, Jordan threw a temper tantrum because whatever happened with the McCarthy account, what a dick, right? It's different somehow.
Todd Kashdan: [00:27:49] I love the addition that you gave, which is so that people realize it is a momentary experience. It's transient, it's going to go away. It's not part of your personality. Yeah, it's strategy. I mean, this is part of persuasion. We're not trying to manipulate people, although in some ways, and if we had to be real candid about it, persuasion to some degrees is sending them of manipulation. We're persuading people to get the best possible outcome in this situation for all parties. And what the thing is, is that being positive and optimistic is often exactly the opposite of what you need to get the best possible outcome. We live in an environment that is moving faster. People are making responses quicker if they've actually done calculations in political science, which is you see politicians, their response time to questions in news interviews has increased like eight fold in terms of the speed to which they actually respond to questions.
[00:28:45] So what this means is that people are going on purely on hot emotions as opposed to contemplating and reflecting what people are asking. And they're usually complicated questions about tradeoffs of like should we be creating like increasing the amount of money for the park system when we have deficits in terms of teacher salaries and what kids have in terms of resources. They're complicated questions. If you're responding quicker, you're going to have suboptimal outcomes. So the idea just being the sitting with the concerns, the worries, that guilt that you're going to make some people unhappy and just absorb that is going to lead to more optimal outcomes. And if you kind of had this you front load this caveat, you're going to actually bring down the defenses of the 20, 30 percent of people that are going to be on the exact opposite side of the issue in terms of how you're going to respond. I mean all of these are strategies to persuade people through using neglected, easily dismissed psychological tools.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:51] So in this way, in not avoiding negative emotions, we gain emotional agility is kind of what we discussed in the beginning of the show here, but we talked about healthy or unhealthy emotions a little bit. Is it beneficial to be labeling emotions as healthy or unhealthy, right? Sort of like the anxiety, the guilt, shame, anger. A lot of times we label those as unhealthy emotions when really what it sounds like you're saying is there are things that are healthy or appropriate for a given situation, not healthy or unhealthy emotions in a general sense.
Todd Kashdan: [00:30:26] Exactly, yeah. That's why we do not use the language of here are the positive emotions and here are the negative emotions. If you are one of those people that are obsessed with video games. If you play soccer like I mean if you're playing tennis, you a healthy emotional when you enter into game mode is pure adrenalized anger like disdain for the other person. My cousin spent 20 years working for David in the David Letterman Show, and his job, Eddie Brill was to choose which comedians end up going on the David Letterman Show. And when you talk to them and you ask them like what separates the great comedians? You know the Joe Rogan's, all these great comedians from the others. He'll tell you like one single characteristic he'll describe which is that the comedians that are great are the ones that when they go on stage, not before they go on stage, when they go on stage, they don't give a flying shit about their audience's feelings.
[00:31:25] They're going in there all that, listen, this is going to entertain you. You work in a possibly like walk away, like completely feel like icky about yourself and like healing over and not being able to talk to your date afterwards. I don't care if you get in a car accident the way home, I have 30 minutes of content, I'm going to shove this down your throat. I'm going full six cylinders at you for those 30 minutes. They do not deviate because of hecklers, people are yawning, people are upset. They just override that because they're coming in there with, they've listened to their audience for years. They pay careful attention and when they walk onto the stage, they're not going to let slight deviations and slate signals that things might not be working, transformed their belief that they can execute perfectly.
[00:32:13] So it's not that they don't like their audience, they love their audience, but they're now in execution mode. This isn't time to think about, do I care about being liked? Should I make it easier? My joke, should I reduce the sarcasm and kind of reduce the bite a little bit? And that's what separates the best from the second tier of the comedians.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:31] So this is this beneficial negativity as I believe it's referred to in the book. How is this different than just being a jerk?
Todd Kashdan: [00:32:40] Well in that example is actually really good, is that you can separate it into periods, right? There's a prep period where you're thinking about what? What would separate, what would give me content that's new and a distinctive view of Trump or of the environment or you know, insert modern issue when I step on stage? What will give my audience the value for the money that they're paying for me? Separate the preparation stage of like from interviewing people, talking to people, practicing on people from when you get on stage and execute. It's important to distinguish these two. The other element of to make sure that you're not an asshole and using this in a way that pushes people away, is realizing that you have allies that want to help you on the quest to perform exceptionally. They're not going to be everybody, so be extremely discerning, like be kind, but selective in selecting who are the allies that you're going to share your content, test drive your content, and then you trust them, they'll give you candid feedback regularly.
[00:33:45] And what you find is this. This is an important deviation from the idea that the best strategy to socialize is always be kind, grateful, forgiving, and compassionate. There are times where it's important to be discerning, and if you look at entrepreneurs, they fall right in the middle on agreeableness. They're not argumentative and quarrelsome. They're not curmudgeonous that we steal your kickball that went over their fence, never give it back. That evil neighbor. They're not Mahatma Gandhi or Dalai Lama. They're right there in the middle, which basically is capturing the fact that when the situation requires them to tell you right to your face, listen, you are not doing what I hired you to do. I need to wipe that off my whiteboard, but I hand you an assignment and know it's going to be completed. And at other times to make sure that they give you as much praise as you deserve and make sure you get credit, not me. You delivered exceptionally to happen there. To be able to waiver between praise and extreme harsh criticism and mashing it to people and tests is what makes great entrepreneurs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:50] So a lot of us, of course, especially as Americans or Westerners, we're always kind of trying to switch these as you'd sort of slammed the negative emotions. We're trying to turn those off, but it sounds like what you're saying is that if we choose to numb the bad, we numb the good as well. And some of these negative emotions, so to speak, are exactly what we need to succeed as entrepreneurs, small business owners, people in the corporate workplace, or and in some particular life situation. But if negative emotions are so good, why do we then avoid them so much in the first place?
Todd Kashdan: [00:35:25] You asked the killer question here. We have a culture where, Robert and I used the phrase, when we are addicted to comfort. If you were to do a Google search for the word discomfort, you're going to find a bunch of people pulling their hair as they're sitting at their keyboard. People that are lying in bed with the blankets over them, just like the idea that this internal despair that they can't get over. If you type in the word comfort, you're going to see body conforming pillows. You're going to see acupressure match, yoga match. You're going to see first-class Lufthansa lounge seats. That kind of this basically or is bigger than your bed, and the ideas what you're seeing, what Google offers you is insight into the culture which is discomfort is something that internally we struggle with, and the way to get out of that is to get some kind of material resource by something that's going to make us comfortable, physically and mentally. That whole framework that we can make ourselves comfortable by altering the temperature of the room, altering the comfort of our chair. Choosing very carefully, carefully manicured websites that match my political views, hang out with people that think like me and looked like me. This is what people do in society.
[00:36:48] This cultural pressure to be comfortable. This cultural push to offer you strategies to be comfortable has made us weaker. If you don't work out muscles, they atrophy. If you don't exercise regularly, your bones become brittle. If your immune system isn't tested by walking outside, it ends up being weakened. That happens or in the same way psychologically as we aspire, which is a good thing. I'm not arguing against bubble baths, lobster, and sex on the beach. What I'm arguing for is that there's some bicarb that sucks, which is that as we acquire more physical and emotional comforts and even handicaps to help us get through life so we feel soft and comfortable and pleasurable all the time, we are mentally weaker when exposed to ambiguous and challenging situations and this is where our emotional prejudices come from.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:45] That's interesting. Okay, so let's talk about some of these so called negative emotions. We already kind of dipped into anger a little bit. What about things like guilt and anxiety? There's a lot that you'd mentioned in The Upside of Your Dark Side that I think could be really useful for these very common negative emotions or these very, I should probably stop using that phrase, for these very common emotions that people view as negative or that we try to suppress in the first place.
Todd Kashdan: [00:38:12] Yeah. I'll tell you my favorite emotion that gets avoided. And you know, it basically is called a the green eyed beast, envy. And people have this really allergic reaction to this motion, which basically means that you are downplaying your own strengths and potential and putting other people on a pedestal. So there's like two lane things happen simultaneously. You treat yourself like you're crap and you're idealizing other people. And I think this, I want to revise the way we view envy. The way you envy is we see strengths, characteristics, behavior, behavior patterns that are valuable that we believe we do not possess in the same amounts. And so I'll give you an example. Tim Ferriss, right? When I listened to Tim Ferriss, I'm interviewing people, and I have to interview people regularly for from my own work as a scientist, I think to myself, he asks amazing questions, but what's most impressive, what I'm envious about is his ability to follow up in ways that takes them deeper into the origins of where they came up with their ideas that I would've never thought of on my own.
[00:39:21] And I'm constantly like kind of replaying it, reversing it and playing it over again. Kind of where was the point where you kind of went one step further into the intimacy of the conversation to bring out something they probably never shared before. When I see that, I experienced discomfort, and I label as envy, like I'm envious that he has this ability to tap an extra layer to beneath the surface to get to the core of what someone cares about and why something is important. Now, when I experience this emotion, I've revised my belief. I believe now that it's valuable. I think to myself, how can I steal that tool and tactic, and then apply it to my own life? See you like an artist. I think to myself, okay, here's the way that he does that. He has a deliberate pause between the first question and the answer. During that deliberate pause, he usually stumbles on his words. It makes him look vulnerable as if it's very organic, the conversation at that moment, and then he stumbles into a question that is never actually articulated beautifully, but it leaves the other person to feel comfortable that we're going to a place where we're going to expose their vulnerabilities and people share more.
[00:40:33] You just basically disassemble the things that make you envious and add them to your own repertoire. And so it's actually like a really beautiful emotion. Basically, it is a sort of a strength recognition device when you have this emotion. You are recognizing strengths you don't believe you process, and you can basically like add them on into your own toolkit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:57] How do you know when you're recognizing a strength that someone else has versus just highlighting your own insecurity all the time?
Todd Kashdan: [00:41:04] I would actually argue it doesn't matter. And actually it'll be my answer for a lot of these questions, in terms of when you give a discomfort caveat, whether you actually are uncertain that you're going to express your thoughts clearly when you're upset in another person. It doesn't really matter whether you actually confused, by you just saying it, you basically like someone's guard comes down because you've made a reveal that this is one of those difficult conversations, and whether it's your insecurity or someone else's strength, the fact is whichever one you believe, there's something for you to improve on and envy has activated the fact of there's an opportunity to expand and level up in your skills and resources.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:45]Yeah. We just had a long discussion with Lana Welsh earlier about jealousy and envy, how they're different and how we often mislabel one as the other, and it can be very useful. In fact, most emotions are useful in some way as long as they don't start to control you. So when we try to suppress things like anger, envy, minimize it, things like that, then it becomes problematic because our subconscious mind often will just not let that stuff go in the first place. So envy. Good. I love the idea of disassembling why we might be envious and figuring out if it makes sense and if there's something there to learn. You know, if you're envious of somebody because their parents were rich and they left them a ton of money, not a ton that you can learn there. But if you're envious for a different reason because oh well, you know, they left him a ton of money so the guy doesn't have to work that hard. So he's always working out and he looks really good and I'm 30 pounds overweight. Well, maybe there's something else there, and maybe we can shift things around in our life to get what we desire instead of just focusing on how much we dislike the other person because life isn't fair, somehow.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:42:52] Fingers off that skip button. We'll be right back with more from Todd Kashdan after these brief announcements.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:57] This episode is sponsored in part by Nickelodeon. Yeah, Nickelodeon. On the all new Double Dare. The trivia's tough. The challenges are rough and the giant nose is stuffed. Is that work Jason? Can I do it?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:43:08] That works for me.
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[00:43:29] I have a future in being the annoying guy on every voiceover ever. If this doesn't work out.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:43:36] Keep your day job for now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:38] By the way, I know a lot of people have been asking me about the Six-Minute Networking course that we have. It's a mini course on networking and relationship development. I go through a lot of the little hacks, drills, exercises that I do daily, weekly, just a few minutes a week to reach out to other people, maintain relationships, build relationships with influencers, people that were or will become guests on the show, and how I use systems to create and maintain those relationships as well. And so I put it together in a little mini course called Six-Minute Networking. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. Jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:44:15] This is the stuff I wish I had known 10, 15 years ago and I want everyone to have it. So go check out jordanharbinger.com/course, and let me know what you think. And that'll be linked up in the show notes of course as well.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:44:26] Thanks for listening and supporting the Jordan Harbinger Show. Your support keeps us on the air. For list of all the discounts from our amazing sponsors visit jordanharbinger.com/advertisers. And if you would be so kind, please drop us a nice rating and review in iTunes or your podcast player of choice. It really does help us out. Now for the conclusion of our interview with Todd Kashdan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:50] What about things like guilt and shame? You made a clear distinction between those two things in the book and I thought that was interesting and useful as well.
Todd Kashdan: [00:44:59] Yeah, this is important. So basically, if I ended up upsetting you because they used to too much profanity, for example, in this broadcast, I could feel guilt or shame. So if it was guilt, it would be like I shouldn't have like used so much profanity. I didn't even ask if it's actually there's like guidelines here, right? So that's, that's guilt. There is a behavior, something that I did that was probably the wrong thing for the situation. If I feel shame, damn, I'm not good at these interviews. I can't control myself. I'm impulsive, I shouldn't be doing this stuff. So it's basically like there's something wrong with me. And basically that's what appeared on us talking on this podcast, and it's probably going to show up everywhere else as well. This is just one more bit of data that I am in.
[00:45:52] I am basically like a sub optimal person. So it's the idea of separating like I shouldn't have acted that way, or I shouldn't have been that way. And the idea is like, is it you that's the bad thing or is it the behavior that's the bad. Guilt is one, it's the behavior. Shame is when we believe like there's something wrong with us as a person that happens there. So they're very, very few things that are good about shame. Shame makes us want to escape from the world. Shame makes us want to go into a quarter of void and disengaged from the situation and not come back. So if it ends up being that you ask somebody at work whether they were pregnant, ends up, just drank too many beers over the past couple of months and now the season has changed and you didn't notice. If you feel shame, you might not come in for a couple of days.
[00:46:41] It's hard to stare someone down if you believe that you're a bad person for asking that question. If you believe they're like, “Ah, I shouldn't have asked the question. I shouldn't have made a statement. I should have collected more information before I said something,” then I can come back in, apologize and rectify the situation. Why guilt is such a useful emotion is this is basically your superpower about restoring and repairing relationships that have ruptures. If we had a society without guilt, we wouldn't sense what we say to our family. We would not be able to beat a monogamous romantic relationship, and we would tell our kids constantly that they're unattractive, they're uninteresting, they're not intelligent based on their behavior, if we didn't have the emotion of guilt. And we will be saying everything that's on our mind because there wouldn't be repercussions. We have this emotion that we feel upset at ourselves. If we recognize that you do something that deters or bothers another person.
[00:47:43] It is a beautiful social emotion, moral emotion to have in your arsenal. And what the research shows is that people that have substance abuse problems, for example, you find that when they are asked about why they want to quit, why they want to stop using narcotics or alcohol. Those people that showed the greatest level of guilt in those interviews drink the least amount of alcohol or use the least amount of drugs in the subsequent year of those interviews. Guilt makes you repair problems, but it doesn't feel good. I mean, this is where you're thinking about, you think about the church, you think about Jewish ans. It gets a rap of guilt is just a very annoying social control device. When you use it for yourself, it makes you a better person.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:36] So guilt helps shape behavior that's good for us, good for society, which explains why we didn't evolve to get rid of that emotion in the first place. And shame makes us dislike ourselves as opposed to shaping our future behavior.
Todd Kashdan: [00:48:53] Exactly. Yeah. Shame makes us self banish ourselves from the groups that we link ourselves to.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:02] So in that case, shame could in many ways perhaps even increase the behavior we're trying to stamp out, if you end up with isolation and other things like that. Have you ever researched anything like that? I would be curious to hear if that is the effect.
Todd Kashdan: [00:49:15] Oh no, no, that's exactly what happens. Right down the hallway here at George Mason University is the shame and guilt research lady, June Tangney. And she's basically been studying people in jails. If you look at the data from the department of justice, about 67 percent of people who go to jail end up back through that revolving door within a year, 67 percent. This is like we're not doing a good job with our jails and our prisons here.
[00:49:41] Those criminals that are expressing high levels of guilt about their crime, they are substantially less likely to engage in recidivism. It is a function, but those people in jail and in prisons that experience shame, they are more likely to engage in extra amounts of crime. They're a bad person. They've labeled themselves that way. Society has labeled themselves that way. The wardens in the prison have labeled them. Listen, you are an anathema to society. When they reentered the community, they remembered that it's calcified in their brains. And so what else would someone is a bad person society do? Do things that are bad for society and they end up back in prison or jail again, that happens there.
[00:50:24] And if you think back to, Jordan, you and I when we at, you know in grade school and you got punished, almost every punishment tactic in a public school is shaming. You get shoved in, in school suspension, it does not look like the breakfast club. There is no attractive woman to date in school suspension. You are in there with the, there is no differentiation between the kid that showed up late for five days of school versus the kid that aides are basically sexual assault at seven people on the women's soccer team. You're in there together and basically it's a shaming to be stuck in a room with the glass window in the door, so everybody can see. You're one of the delinquents in the school. That's shaming, makes it more likely that you're going to engage in delinquent behavior again. And schools, workplaces, prisons, jails, families, we need to be very careful that when we were trying to punish undesirable behavior, we focus very clearly on the behavior. Even just explicitly tell them, it's not you. It was an impulsive move. It was a bad choice. It happens. I've been there before, and I'm just, I want to spend time to think about the behavior. But you are a good person or else I wouldn't spend this time talking to you in the first place to try to kind of, because I know that this is not what you want to be. It's not who you are. When you clarify this, people become better persons. You're increasing the probability.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:53] It seems like we confuse guilt with shame all the time. This is what we feel when we think we feel guilty about eating a cookie or something like that. Really, it's shame a lot of the time.
Todd Kashdan: [00:52:02] Yeah. I'm glad to send that, because yeah, the lay person use, it's really important to use the words with great precision because they elicit very different experiences of who you are as a person.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:15] Before we get into the dark triad stuff, which I want to make sure we do, I want to talk about why happiness is less useful because if we're talking about guilt or anxiety or anger being useful sometimes, then great. Let's bash happiness a little bit because we've very rarely do we get this opportunity, right? So why does happiness not useful and what does it do when we're trying to be happy all the time and maybe it's not really suitable for that situation.
Todd Kashdan: [00:52:43] I'm so glad you asked this and I really hope listeners pay attention to what I'm I’m about to say, is that we have this completely ignored body of work that was done in the 1980s, because we forget things that are more than 15 years old by Gerald Clore and Norbert Schwarz, and then basically what they found was when things feel good, we think that they are good and it leads us down a lot of wrong directions. And I'll give you like a really cool like organizational or group example. When you get people that are a completely non diverse group of people, right? Just go grab the Senate or the Congress, right? People that have a ton of money, most of them are middle aged white men, soap and cigars, and when they get together and they are able to, the Republicans get together or the Democrats get together and they start thinking about the issues and what they should decide. They feel really good because they're cohesive. They have the same values. They know exactly what the party line views are, sticks to the party lines because they want to be reelected. And because they feel good, they feel as if they perform well, and they're creative even when they're not.
[00:53:57] And this is what's scary, is that when you feel good in a group and you feel good in a group, when people think like you or look like you because there's no tension, there's no conflict, there's no concern about what you're going to say because you can predict that most people are going to agree with all the things that you're hot and bothered about that happens there. So people think they're creative and they tend to be less creative. They think they're high-performers and they tend to have suboptimal solutions. We use our emotions as a gauge.
[00:54:27] We don't, I don't want to hire people to work for me, that use this as the metric of creativity and effective performance, that they feel good. I want people to stress over, there are tons of competitors. There are tons of decisions and possibilities of what I can do and think carefully about I'm going to hope for the best and think of all the possible bad outcomes that can happen in hopes of choosing a pretty optimal solution. So happiness gets sent away because are when we feel good emotions, we stopped. Why would you want to rock the boat or change things if you're satisfied, when we're feeling mildly unhappy? So I'm not rooting for unhappiness. I'm rooting for mild discontent. When we're mildly discontent, we think to ourselves, all right, I don't want to stop searching for the answers to this problem yet because I want to ask a few more people, get a few more suggestions, and I'm not under time pressure right now in terms of getting my book out, or my blog posts. I'm not mapping the genome, and so that mild disconnect makes you more likely to collect extra information as opposed to prematurely stick with the first seemingly good solution that appears.
[00:55:47] I want a doctor that's not happy because I don't want a doctor that's going to think that they had the right answer after talking to me five minutes. I want them to ruminate a little bit. I want them a little bit sad, kind of and distressed and wondering of the, okay, I'm not quite sure I want to go online, just kind of check something, because this profile reminds me of something but I don't quite remember what it is. I want them to consider multiple courses of action before I get drugs or surgery.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:17] So happiness has this negative effect on our success because it slows us down or it tells us, look, you don't really need to work that hard or you don't really need to worry about this. I also noted in your work that happy people are often less persuasive. They're worse at detecting lies and they're too trusting, which seems like two sides of the same coin, and they have trouble getting rid of bias. So when we're in a business situation, being happy sounds like a massive disadvantage actually.
Todd Kashdan: [00:56:49] Oh yeah, yeah, no, and man, Jordan, you do your reading, I'm impressed. Yeah. This is exactly right. When we are in a happy mood and you just say, all your listeners have to do is just think of the last time you were really content. You think superficially. You think abstract like things are chilling. You grabbed your lemonade, grab your bourbon. Hopefully, there's some bacon and maple in there, and you're chilling. You don't think about the precise way to describe something to convince someone, this is the restaurant we should go to. This is why the Avengers was a bad movie. You're just like, all right, we disagree. That's cool. Because you're already in a good mood. We tend to take shortcuts, mental shortcuts when we're happy, when we are mildly unhappy. Just as you described, we described things more concretely. We searched for multiple alternative ways to get the best possible outcome. We're persuasive because we spend, we exert a little bit more effort and energy to make sure that we articulate why this idea is good and the other alternatives aren't.
[00:57:57] And if you wanted to create the ultimate group dynamic, it would be that everybody who speaks is accountable for selling the reason why their ideas good and why they did not choose the other options. But what we tend to do in group settings is whoever is the loudest, most exciting, optimistic person, they take the floor and people get excited. They want to feel excited and they go in that direction. And like you're saying, if you're constructing a group to decide the fate of money and time and energy, you actually want mildly unhappy people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:35] That's so interesting. So how do we utilize this? Just be depressed all the time that I find that maybe not the best option.
Todd Kashdan: [00:58:42] Play the Smiths, play the Cure in the background for meetings. Low gloominess I think one, you know there's a lot of ways of going this route, and one strategy is to just impress on people the gravity and the meaningfulness behind the decisions that are being made. And when you do that, you don't make people unhappy. You just bring out that, this is poignant. Like we have intelligent, creative people at our disposal. We are bringing people together to communicate for reason. And when you make things poignant, it's not that people become sad or depressed or angry or frustrated. There's silo, but they're serious, and there’s that mild differentiation from just being happy. In that state of mind, you consider more alternative outcomes and here's one of the kind of the cool things, is that you're more likely to focus on the unique information and perspectives people have as opposed to what makes us good as a group. What is the thing that we harmonize about? What is the thing that all of us have in common?
[00:59:51] Happy groups focus on shared information, and most situations have hidden information that each person brings from their own unique books they read, people they talk to, podcasts listen to, movies they watch, ideas that they contemplate about. You want unique information and the way you're more likely to get that if the group is a little bit unhappy and you're less likely to get it if the group is experiencing intense positive emotions.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:21] All right, let's wrap with the dark triad. Tell us about this. Whenever we read about this, it's always about somebody who's dysfunctional. The black sheep of the family, somebody in prison. Why are we now leveraging this? What are we, what are we doing here.
Todd Kashdan: [01:00:36] Yeah, let me start with my hero, and my hero is Theodore Roosevelt, who's considered by most historians, the fourth or fifth best president in history, who if they had a hard 21 historians rank presidents on who is the most pre-Trump, who is the most narcissistic presidents?
Who is the greatest, has the greatest cycle pathic features, right? I mean this is, you tend to think of Ted Bundys, Jeffrey Dahmer like who has the most psychopathic behaviors?
[01:01:06] And what you find is Teddy Roosevelt is the number two president narcissism in the history of the United States. And his narcissism is the reason he was so successful. So I just kind of want to hit this. There are two types of narcissism that we can think about. One is about admiration and one is about rivalry. So that's the essence of being a narcissist is that your grandiose, you think you have amazing qualities, you have like conflated self-esteem, and you have a sense of entitlement. You believe you are entitled to top first-class service. People should listen to you and you like to get attention. You like the spotlight to be on you. That's at the core of narcissism.
[01:01:51] So the admiration element of narcissism is basically about recognizing that you are, I believe that I'm amazing and I'm going to work my tail off to develop those skills, showcase those skills, use those skills. Kobe Bryan had this in spades. Michael Jordan had this in spades. Pelé had this in spades. So did LBJ, Teddy Roosevelt, Elon Musk, Steve jobs. They had this quant, they believe they were amazing. They were grandiose. They had a sense of entitlement. But this is about, they work hard because they feel they have gifts that the world needs to see. And if you know, when Kobe Bryant was still playing for the Lakers, one of the things that was interesting was, he was the first and last person to leave practice. This guy worked harder than everyone else. And this is from the mouths of the other Lakers on the basketball team.
[01:02:48] Now he could be an annoying guy. He felt he has the court should be his to decide what to do and the rest of the Lakers work on those half of the field when they were practicing. With that, he made high quality decisions of how to use people's time and how to tap into what makes people take it. How do I get the best out of my colleagues when we're on the court? This narcissistic did admiration, the belief that you're amazing and putting great effort into it is a strength. You find that people are more engaged because there's this effervescence about people who think they're amazing and do the hard work to show that they're amazing. That'll turn off 20 percent of people, but we're interested in if we're interested in products, we're just saying actual ideas, improving processes, improving products. These are people that are willing to bend the rules because they're not going to agree with authority just because someone says that someone was in power. They're going to ask does the rule help me create or does it get in my way? Is it actually unethical for me to kind of actually do things a different way?
[01:03:56] Having more than one narcissist in a group increases the creativity of the entire group because the group realizes from their sense of entitlement that, you know what? Why are we doing it the way that people did it before? Like who said so? Who is the person that decided that we're going to do, we're going to have research and development in this building, and then the marketers in this building? Like we're just following what people did before. Having a couple of narcissist makes you realize everything is potentially flexible, let's put it on the table and evaluate whether something's useful. And it comes from a place that makes people pretty uncomfortable. Because people don't tend to feel, if you're going to be grandiose and emphasize some entitlement, you think you're better than me. But in the context of actually creating and leading, it leads to bold, risky moves and a willingness to see things beyond the rules that are blinding other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:56] So how do you turn this on when you need it and then off again, because I'd love to leave people with the practical that isn't just “Hey, tolerate lots of Machiavellian narcissistic psychopaths or become one.”
Todd Kashdan: [01:05:07] I think the most important thing is to break this down into behaviors, which is that it is not a bad thing to self-promote your ideas. If your focuses on the group can do things better and I see a better way, and so it's the idea of persuading people through your confidence, through your belief that you have strengths that are not being appreciated. That's okay. I think the strategies what persuades people is focus on what the group could do better and what the group has failed with or been subpar in in the past is you can focus on, you're doing it for the group, we're working for the tribe. People are willing to listen and give you the podium to speak about your alternative views that may be quite divergent with the status quo.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:02] Is there anything else that's practical that you want to make sure you leave us with?
Todd Kashdan: [01:06:06] If there was one strategy that I would recommend to people, it's that people consider the value of being a defensive pessimist, which is essentially is instead of assuming everything is going to be good in the future and everything's going to work out is, and this is customs of border protection, who I work with. This is their motto is “Hoping for the best but bracing for the worst,” is to mentally simulate all the things that can go wrong as a premortem ahead of time and by doing so, like thinking of all the things that go wrong before you go on a podcast, all the things that can go wrong before you go on the stage for a TEDx, all of the things that can go wrong before the group gets together. You have 30 people spending time for one hour to brainstorm all the things going wrong before that happens.
[01:06:56] And here's what happens when you have this mentality, which is different from the optimistic, preparing for all worst case scenarios. If bad things happen, you're prepared. And Customs and Border Protection, CIA, Navy Seals. This is why they're amazing. They prepare for all possible bad outcomes. If the bad thing doesn't happen, you will have more appreciation and joy for safety, security, and goodness than any positive Tony Robbins workshop going character that happens there. You get greater joy from positive events and you are prepared when bad things happen. And I think we really need to appreciate this negative visualization and move away from positive visualization which has been there since you know Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie had how to win friends and influence people.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:51] Well, great. Todd, thank you so much. I really agree. We should learn both hard and soft strategies to be effective and when the situation calls for it, sometimes it's good to turn these different, not necessarily negative but different non positive emotions on, and use them to our advantage. Thanks so much for your time today, man.
Todd Kashdan: [01:08:11] Oh, it's my pleasure to be on this. I love your podcast.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:15] Yeah, Jason, like I said functional anger. This book is good news for a lot of us, because I think many of us go, “Oh, well, I got to be happy all the time,” and I'm not that person as you know, and neither are you, you know.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:08:27] yeah, no doubt.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:28] And like it's not comfortable for me to be like, “Oh, I need to be extra positive today even though this person is doing this.” It's like, “No, I need to get angry and kick things off and I need to like make sure that this wrong is righted and make sure that this is working.” So this was great. It was kind of permission to be my whole self and not just be like, “Oh, I'm feeling angry. I should shut it down and put a smile on my face.” It's actually functional to have these emotions and that there's an upside to the dark side really, you know. If I'm sad, I might be better at reading people, and that way I think abstractly when I'm feeling in a certain way instead of trying to change that state all the time. Like I think a lot of self-help addicted people try to do. I can say, “Oh well, at least I'm going to be better at reading people because I'm feeling a little down today” or you know, “this sort of made me angry so maybe I'll just use that as motivation” instead of being like, “No, be happy. Must be happy.”
Jason DeFillippo: [01:09:23] Always be happy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:24] Exactly. Exactly. And it's unhealthy. And now we have science to prove that that's the case. Not bad.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:09:29] Not bad at all. Functional anger is my new stripper name.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:33] There you go. Functional anger. Yes.
[01:09:35] Great big thank you to Todd Kashdan. The book title is The Upside of Your Dark Side. Very appropriately titled. If you enjoyed this one, don't forget to thank Todd on Twitter. Tweet at me your number one takeaway from Todd. We'll also have my social media and his linked up in the show notes. Don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you've heard from Todd, make sure you go grab the worksheets. Also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:09:57] This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes by Robert Fogarty.
Booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got a lot more in the pipeline and we're very excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
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