Reader's notes from Never Eat Alone

Wharton student David Moradi has written up a summary of Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone: and other secrets to success, one relationship at a time. You can download his notes here: Reader’s notes from NeverEatAlone.

Teens Set Trends in Online Interaction

Many of my generation (I’m 39) and older seem to have a really hard time with the idea of 100% virtual relationships being comparable to face-to-face relationships. But today’s always-on teens (those with broadband access) are changing this right before our eyes.

E-Commerce Times recently featured an article, In the Internet Fast Lane about this trend. As an example, it tells about the social life of University of Illinois freshman Abe Hassan:

It has been a while since 18-year-old Abe Hassan read a book of fiction or went to bed before 10 p.m. After his parents signed up for broadband Internet access, Hassan began making daily rounds of the social-networking Web site, where he can talk to any of its 6.6 million other members.

“It has been a complete transformation of my lifestyle,” he says. “Now, I am up until 1 or 2 a.m. or later, because there’s always someone around [on the site].”

Hassan’s social life revolves around He celebrates important events like National Pi Day with fellow online math enthusiasts, and his virtual friends give him suggestions on what music to buy. “These are people I spend most of my days with,” says Hassan, now a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Indeed, Hassan’s buddies make up half of his 40 or so friends and live as far away as Australia.

Being the parent of an “always on” 10-year-old, I get to experience this first-hand. I asked him one time how many of his 10 best friends were online-only, and he said 3 or 4. He makes little, if any, distinction between the quality of face-to-face vs. online interaction.

The article goes on to predict the impending dramatic shift that will result from a generation raised on ubiquitous Internet access:

Younger users, particular teenagers, are leading the way in this new broadband lifestyle. Experts say they’re often the first adopters and trendsetters. In fact, today’s Internet-savvy youth could be as influential to popular culture as baby boomers were in the 1960s.

Already, 28 percent of teens keep blogs, the Web logs that are fast becoming a prominent alternative source of news and commentary, while only 16 percent of adults do the same, according to market researchers Jupiter Research.

Some pundits call the under-25 crowd the super-communicators. They love instant messaging (IM) and spend more money on their cell phones than on cigarettes, candy or music. They like to be in touch with their friends while at school, the mall, or home.

Thanks to high-speed connections, they can do just that: They can learn, shop, play games, exchange photos and video clips, and talk with friends online. As a result, they’re “doing more and more of their interpersonal communications virtually,” says Rob Callender, trends director at TRU. “This is a wide-scale shift.”

The ubiquitous Marc Canter then comments on the growing number of social networking sites:

As youngsters embrace online social networks, adults likely won’t be far behind, and the number of social networks, now pegged at 350, is expected to surge. “We won’t have a million people in 10 social networks,” says Marc Canter, CEO of social-portals design consultancy Broadband Mechanics. “We’ll have millions of social networks with 10 people in each.”

Gender Differences in Spoken and Written Communication

Prof. Naomi S. Baron will soon publish an article on See You Online: Gender Issues in College Student Use of Instant Messaging. This article is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in designing effective IM systems.

More generally, you can see that even on the allegedly anonymous medium of the Internet, people can still often guess your gender. One study that she references found that reviewers could guess the gender of the author of a paper with 75% accuracy.

Some highlights:

For example, women tend to use more affective markers (e.g., “I know how you feel”), more diminutives (e.g., “little bitty insect”), more hedge words (e.g., perhaps, sort of), more politeness markers (e.g., “I hate to bother you”), and more tag questions (e.g., “We’re leaving at 8:00 pm, aren’t we?”) than do men. Men, on the other hand, are likely to use more referential language (e.g., “The stock market took a nosedive today”), more profanity, and fewer first person pronouns than are women.
Herring (2003) offers a thorough analysis of language and gender issues in one-to-many CMC forums such as listservs and newsgroups (both of which involve asynchronous communication) and Chat, MUDs, and MOOs (all of which involve synchronous communication). In both venues, Herring reports gender asymmetries. On asynchronous discussion lists and newsgroups, “males are more likely to post longer messages, begin and close discussions in mixed-sex groups, assert opinions strongly as ‘facts,’ use crude language (including insults and profanity), and in general manifest an adversarial orientation toward their interlocutors” while females “tend to post relatively short messages, and are more likely to qualify and justify their assertions, apologize, express support of others, and in general, manifest an ‘aligned’ orientation toward their interlocutors” (Herring, p. 207).

For a summary of this paper, see LiveScience reports that the writing style of IM users is surprisingly formal. These different communication styles are one of the reasons why female avatars face gender bias online. (Source: danah boyd)

On the silliness of job interviews, what job interviews really tell us, and how to get Steve Ballmer to recruit you

Malcolm Gladwell writes on the silliness of job interviews, what job interviews really tell us, and how to get Steve Ballmer to recruit you. This is consistent with a lot of our research, which shows that people place more faith in the value of face-to-face meetings than is perhaps justified by the facts.

If anything has proven that trust, rapport, and even love can be initiated from a long-distance connection, it is online matchmaking. Online dating has become a popular and often preferred way to meet a romantic partner, because of its efficiency, confidentiality, and convenience. Online business networking will grow for the same reasons.
Online dating is one of the largest segments of U.S. internet commerce (more than business/investment or entertainment/lifestyles sites), with estimated spending of $449.5 million in 2003. About 38 million Americans visited online dating sites in October 2003 . The leading U.S. site,, claims more than 89,000 of its members reported they found the person they were seeking in 2003. The firm has more than 766,600 paying subscribers and 8 million individual listings, equivalent to nearly 5% of the U.S. adult population.
Both a “push” and a “pull” are driving the dramatic growth of online dating. The “push” is the frustration with traditional methods of meeting people; the “pull” is the unique power of online dating.

The “push”: Why traditional methods of finding people are inefficient
Most people partner and marry people who are similar: by age, ethnicity, religion, build, cultural background, and so on. Traditional methods for finding partners include meeting randomly through the workplace, through third parties like your parents, through common friends, and complete and total chance.
Given that people want to partner with compatible folks, traditional methods of finding people to meet are grossly inefficient. This is true regardless of whether you are meeting for business or romantic purposes.

• Your choices are extremely limited geographically. You are restricted to meeting people in the places you live or visit. That is a very small pool of people, particularly for people who are members of minority groups. For example, a widowed Korean-American grandmother has a very small pool of people of her age and cultural framework whom she is likely to find compatible.
• You are typically locked into meeting people from your immediate social network. If your interest is marriage, then that is probably a positive aspect of traditional dating methods. Someone you meet through your social network is likely to have been pre-approved by your mutual friends; you have many ties that help bind you together. However, let us say that your goal is a short-term transaction, whether that is buying a used car or a one-night stand. The internet facilitates that, because you can meet someone who is compatible with your interests but totally disconnected from you socially. You are compatible enough to accomplish your transaction, but either of you can terminate the relationship very easily and not worry about seeing the other person again.
• Certain superficial factors (mainly appearance) are disproportionately influential. The best-looking woman at the bar gets a disproportionate amount of attention, even though that woman may be a very inappropriate potential partner. By relying heavily on her physical beauty to attract attention, that beautiful woman may have underdeveloped social and empathic skills. Similarly, more attractive and more fit people consistently get offered higher salaries than their less attractive and athletic brethren.
Your photo on an online community is clearly a very strong driver of the interest you attract. However, on the web you have a chance to learn about someone’s interests and background; you can absorb all that data in addition to evaluating their physical appearance

The “pull” of online dating

Meeting people online offers certain functionality which simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else. In particular :
• You can meet people you would never otherwise meet. You will meet only those people who are most compatible with you, because you can screen out the people who do not fit your target profile.
• Online dating is private and confidential. If you want to terminate a relationship, you can do so more easily because you are unlikely to see your ex again.
• Online dating is far more convenient and efficient than traditional ways of meeting people. You do not waste time with inappropriate matches. It is hard to say to someone you just met in a bar, “So, are you interested in marrying me, a short Norwegian orthodontist, and having lots of babies?” On the web, you can ask exactly that, and the other person has a clear incentive to provide an honest answer. Whether the answer is yes or no, it is in both of your interest to determine whether you should continue talking with the other person, or move on.
• Lastly, “it is quite possible that online dating is safer than conventional dating.” Many people have a perception that online dating is risky because you are meeting people without a historical social context. However, the study Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada found that people had as many or more “uncomfortable” or frightening experiences with traditional dating as with online dating. The first reason is that online dating gives you time to get to know a person and double-check his story, before committing to an in-person meeting. Second, online dating makes it much easier to reveal information gradually. You can just trade emails for a while from a temporary email address before giving away your home number. This makes it much harder for someone to harass or stalk you.

Online dating reduces search costs and transaction costs, and as a result the transaction volume has increased. In other words, online dating has made it much easier to meet people. Similarly, comparable software for business makes it much easier to do business with more people more efficiently.

Negotiating via email

A study by Professor Don Moore (and colleagues) looked into how to make email negotiations more successful. In particular, Moore wanted to find out how to prevent email negotiations from breaking down. (Don A. Moore, Terri R. Kurtzberg, Leigh L. Thompson, and Michael W. Morris, “Long and Short Routes to Success in Electronically Mediated Negotiations: Group Affiliations and Good Vibrations,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 77 (1), (1999): 22–43.)

Earlier studies have found that negotiators using email, as opposed to negotiators using traditional lines of communication, felt negotiations took longer, felt less satisfaction, and perceived less fairness. Moore wanted to bridge this gap: to allow people to leverage the advantages of remote negotiations without the trust-destroying disadvantages.

In the study, MBA students from Kellogg and Stanford had to conduct negotiations entirely via email without other means of communication. The researchers found that participants could take two measures that dramatically improved their likelihood of success:

• The participants who shared personal information about themselves established better rapport and had more successful negotiations. Even simple biographical details (photo, background, education, and personal interests) and some casual social chatter before the negotiations began made it much more likely that negotiations would be successful. Face to face or online, people like to do business with people they “know”. The researchers also encouraged the participants to use “emoticons”, symbols used to express emotion via email (for example, “;-)” for a wink and “:-I” for indifference).

• Participants who were members of the same business school were much less likely to hit a dead end than people who were negotiating across business schools (Stanford vs. Kellogg). The implication: when negotiating remotely, you should emphasize the groups that you have in common with your counterpart. You may have worked for the same company, lived in the same neighborhood, etc.

Several related psychological patterns create the greater success rate for people who are in a common group. That common group is often a closed group; we discussed earlier the many advantages of functioning inside a closed group.

• People see people who are similar to themselves as more attractive than those who are dissimilar. It is easier to negotiate with people about whom you feel positively.
• Any interaction with another group member is a repeated interaction, not a one-time interaction. Membership in a common group encourages you to be more honest and pleasant with your fellow group members, because you will likely have to see them again. By contrast, sometimes very polite people are inconsiderate and rude when driving, because they know that they are highly unlikely to interact with the other cars’ drivers ever again.
• People are sensitive to their reputation. If you develop a reputation as an unpleasant or dishonest negotiator with a co-worker, that reputation not only impacts future negotiation with her, but is also likely to spread to many other people in your shared group.

Moore found that casual socializing and common group membership provided a basis for a positive relationship. That allowed the participants to express positive feelings for one another, which in turn led to better rapport. Lastly, that better rapport led to more successful negotiations.

Michael Morris and colleagues completed another study which found that negotiators took advantage of email by exchanging more complex, multiple-issue offers than when they negotiated face-to-face. (M. W. Morris, J. Nadler, T. R. Kurtzberg, and L. L. Thompson, “Schmooze or lose: Social friction and lubrication in email negotiations,” Group Dynamics 6 (2002): 89-100.) They could easily email complex documents with all of their changes redlined. However, email reduced rapport-building conversation about contextual issues. For example, it is easier face to face to get a feel for how strongly management at another company is pushing its deal team to complete a particular deal.

Negotiators on email also asked fewer clarifying questions which could prevent misunderstandings and build rapport. Email negotiators compensated for this lack of communication with more explicit statements about the relationship, but these were less effective in preventing mistrust and misunderstanding.

This Morris study also tested two groups of negotiators: one who moved directly into negotiations without any preliminary chat, and one who had a telephone “schmooze” before the negotiation in which they deliberately talked informally and avoided discussing any specifics about the negotiation. Consistent with the Moore study mentioned above, the telephone schmooze gave the participants the chance to plan a cooperative, positive negotiation experience from the outset. They attained better economic and social outcomes than the non-schmoozers.

An urban legend: face-to-face communication is the best vehicle for communication

Many people believe that the lack of non-verbal cues makes online communication inherently inferior to face-to-face communication. Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor, completed research in 1967 showing the significance of non-verbal cues in communications. He concluded, in part, “The combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects — with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively.” (Albert Mehrabian and Susan R. Ferris, “Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels.” Journal of Consulting Psychology 31 (1967): 248-252. ) Out of context, this implies that in face-to-face conversation, 38% of communication is inflection and tone of voice, 55% is facial expression, and only 7% is based on what you actually say.

This statistic has grown into a very widely quoted and oft-misunderstood urban legend. Many communication skills teachers and image consultants misuse this data to indicate that your intonation, speaking style, body language, and other non-verbal methods of communication overpower your actual words. As a result, many people are concerned that online communication is much more difficult because body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions cannot today be effectively conveyed over the internet.

Not true. Mehrabian’s study only addressed the very narrow situation in which a listener is analyzing a speaker’s general attitude towards that listener (positive, negative, or neutral). Also, in his experiments the parties had no prior acquaintance; they had no context for their discussion. As Mehrabian himself has said explicitly, these statistics are not relevant except in the very narrow confines of a similar situation.

The conventional wisdom that face-to-face interactions allows more trust-building also makes us more vulnerable to false appearances. We may be easily duped by a nice suit, a firm handshake, and direct eye contact.

Pablo met Jonathan at a business networking event for Princeton alumni. Tall, handsome, and well-dressed, Jonathan looked like the very picture of a respectable businessperson. Pablo was favorably impressed.

When Pablo came home, he did a quick web search on Jonathan. The very first result that he turned up was an Administrative Proceeding by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Jonathan for violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In his future interactions with Jonathan, Pablo was careful to keep the information he learned in mind.

In online dating, people are frequently concerned about misrepresentation, because almost everyone in online dating sites is using a pseudonym. However, when building business relationships online, most people use their real name and real company. As a result, it is much easier to double-check the background of someone you meet.

If you suspect someone of misrepresentation, just check alternative sources of information. For example, try calling their corporate switchboard and reviewing their corporate website. A more subtle method is to check their domain name registration. Let us say you are investigating a startup company, like Go to and type in “”. You can see who owns that domain name. The address and phone number there are an alternative way of verifying that a business really exists, and where that business is really located.

Before doing business with any individual over the internet, we recommend doing an extensive search on both their name and their business name on an internet search engine, as well as running a literature search on them (e.g., with Lexis/Nexis). If the list of search results is too large to review them all, be sure not to just start on the first page of results and work your way forward—start at the back and check some random pages in the middle. This is where you are more likely to find any less-than-favorable information. F—— is probably the most useful website for finding negative information. (The F—– stands for a common vulgarity.) Ed. note: F’dCompany is a highly biased source and not always reliable source of information. But if you’re looking for dirt, that’s one place to find it. Take what you read there with a grain of salt, though.

The internet puts information about people at your fingertips before and during your interaction with them. The public information about them can give you even more useful insight into their motives than non-verbal cues, such as facial expression and tone of voice.

I haven

Counterintuitively, a number of academic studies have found that people like each other better when they first meet over the internet, versus first meeting face to face. In a 2002 paper, three New York University professors (John A. Bargh, Katelyn Y.A. McKenna, and Grainne M. Fitzsimons) explored this pattern. (J. A. Bargh, K. Y. A. McKenna, and G. M. Fitzsimons, “Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the internet,” Journal of Social Issues 58 (2002): 33-48. )

A key reason for this pattern was that people tend to project their ideal or hoped-for qualities onto those whom they initially meet remotely. Since you have no data, you err on the optimistic side when evaluating the person. Similarly, if we describe a potential spouse to you, you may assume that she or he is charming and beautiful, unless we give you reason to assume otherwise.

This expectation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You hold a belief that your ideal business partner is honest and loves golf. You meet Tim online and guess that he is that honest golf-lover. You treat him as a trustworthy person, and in response, he acts in a trustworthy way. When you eventually meet in person, you play a fair game of golf together. Countless studies have shown the power of your expectations in shaping behavior of those you encounter.

Bargh and his colleagues describe four key differences between online and face-to-face interactions which encourage greater self-expression and, in turn, greater bonding.

• You have greater anonymity while communicating over the internet. You are free of the expectations of your peer group, and the traditional sanctions for new behaviors are absent. For example, you are normally a quiet and reserved person. Online, you can be more aggressive in pursuing a sale than you normally would, or make more jokes than you normally would. None of your colleagues are around to mock you for being more aggressive than usual.

• Outside of your usual social group, you have much more freedom to discuss your taboo or negative aspects (or those that may be perceived as negative). In traditional face-to-face interactions, there are real costs to disclosing these aspects. In a job interview with a conservative firm, you are unlikely to discuss your gay partner, because of concern about discrimination. A gay investment banker may find it difficult to find and build relationships with other gay peers, some of whom may keep their sexual orientation discreet. However, that banker may join a web-based group for gay businesspeople, which could be a powerful network for him. This is comparable to the “strangers on a plane” phenomenon, in which you might discuss very personal aspects of your life with a complete stranger precisely because you are unlikely to see that listener ever again.

• The aspects of traditional face-to-face interactions that may make you anxious are absent. For example, some people are distracted and anxious about their physical appearance. They worry about discrimination because they have acne, they have a handicap, or they are unattractive. Your gender, age, physical attractiveness, ethnicity, weight, and speech impediments may all make it harder for you to communicate with certain people in person.

• Lastly, you have more control over the conversational pace online. Instead of having to reply almost instantaneously while talking in person, you have a few days to respond when communicating online. You are able to think about and even change your response before revealing it to the other person. Some people who are inarticulate in person may see that they are much more skilled communicators online.

Lies, damn lies, and telephone calls

Via Heath Row at Fast Company

In general, I don’t like talking on the telephone for business. If it’s extremely focused on what I’m working on, like the three hours I spent on the phone last night with Konstantin Guerecke, then it can be really stimulating. Or, if it’s just short messages for clarification, and there’s some sort of urgency, like I do with my co-author frequently, that’s fine, too. But in general, I’m not a big fan of the telephone. I don’t like to do “exploratory” phone calls — send me an email.


For one thing, the phone is extraordinarily time-consuming. Phone calls usually take 20-30 minutes, whereas an email read/respond usually only takes 5-10. I can read faster than you can talk.

Two other big reasons that I have long preferred email, though, are accountability and thoughtfulness. If we make a written record, we are both accountable to that record. There’s no, “But I thought you said…”, or, “You didn’t tell me that.” Also, on the telephone, or in face-to-face conversation, there’s an implied expectation of an immediate response, so we tend to answer off the top of our head, rather than taking some time to reflect on what we want to say. In conversation, I frequently find myself saying things that are not, in retrospect, reflective of my true feelings.

Well, a new study at Cornell University supports this. Volunteers were asked to keep track of their emails, instant messages, telephone calls, and face-to-face contact. The results will shock you:

Lies were told in 14 percent of emails, 21 percent of instant messages, 27 percent of face-to-face contact – and a whopping 37 percent of telephone calls.

The findings are a surprise, because emailers would normally be considered to be the most persistent liars, given the detachment of the Internet.

The researchers believe that two factors contribute to this: the immediacy of the communication and whether or not it’s being recorded.
– Telephone: immediate, and not recorded
– Face-to-face: immediate, “recorded” by the other person’s observation of your face (higher risk of getting caught)
– IM: immediate, potentially recorded completely (the person may or may not save the IM session)
– Email: not immediate, recorded completely

According to the research, people tend to lie in face-to-face conversation to cover themselves when they get caught off-guard. The classic example is the old, “Do I look fat in this?”

Needless to say, this has implications for business:

The telephone might be the best medium for sales employees who are encouraged to stretch the truth, but emails would be better for workers where honesty is a priority.

I feel SO vindicated… this is going in the book today.

Negotiations over the internet

I recently attended a conference where several people (including the fascinating and influential Bob Cialdini) referenced this Stanford GSB study on email negotations. The summary is:

When neither common ingroup status nor a personalized relationship existed between negotiators, negotiations were more likely to end in impasse. These results are attributable to the positive influence of mutual self-disclosure and common group membership on negotiation processes and rapport between negotiators.

In other words, sharing personal information about yourself and being members of a common group creates a higher likelihood of a successful negotiation.