Podcast #376: When to Compete, When to Cooperate, and How to Succeed at Both

Being successful in life requires social adeptness. And part of that social adeptness is balancing two seemingly opposing social strategies: competing and cooperating. But how do you know which approach to take in the hundreds of different social relationships you navigate day in and day out? For example, should you go out of your way to promote your achievements to your boss or should you spend more time helping your fellow co-workers? 

My guest today explores these subtle and often complex questions in his book Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both. His name is Adam Galinsky and he’s a professor at Columbia Business School. Today on the show, Adam and I discuss why all of our relationships— even personal ones — are both competitive and cooperative and how our natural tendency to compare ourselves to others either causes us to cooperate or compete. Adam then shares how cooperation can lead to high status and success, but how once we gain status, our natural tendency is to become a jerk, which leads to our downfall. He provides some research-backed advice on how to avoid that from happening to you. 

Adam and I then discuss why teasing nicknames are a form of social bonding and why men use them more often, as well as why putting all of your credentials in your email signature just makes you look insecure. 

A fascinating discussion about the quirks of human social dynamics.

Show Highlights

  • Why all our relationships — both personally and professionally — are competitive and cooperative at the same time
  • How social comparisons spur us on in both competition and cooperation
  • Why being an underdog can at times either motivate or hamper us
  • How does social media impact social comparisons?
  • Humility and power
  • The difference between feeling powerful and being powerful
  • The ways in which power corrupts, and how to check it
  • How to treat people with respect when you’re in a position of power
  • Why the “flat” model of hierarchy and business organization can come back to bite you
  • How teams can best navigate power dynamics and talented members 
  • Why NBA “super teams” don’t tend to perform as well as expected 
  • The power of checklists in the workplace 
  • On nicknames — how powerful they are and why you can’t give yourself one  
  • Why you should hone your ability to give nicknames 
  • What your email signature says about you 

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