Social psychologist Daniel Balliet shares his research-based recipe for harmony for warring partners, teams, and, of course, political parties.
Though humans can be incredibly productive when they collaborate, they can also be incredibly stubborn when obsessed with their own self-interests.
Consider the recent U.S. debt-ceiling crisis. Last summer, many Republican representatives held this vote hostage to push their agenda, even though Congress had unceremoniously raised how much the federal government can borrow to pay its bills 72 times before. By standing their ground, they got the major spending cuts they wanted. It soon became clear, however, that there were no winners in this political game of chicken. The noisiest, most obstinate Republican bloc, the Tea Party, lost much of its popularity, and Standard & Poor downgraded the country's once-pristine credit rating.
Thankfully, social psychologists like VU University Amsterdam's Daniel Balliet have uncovered plenty about conflict resolution during such social dilemmas where individual or party interests clash with the greater good. For this week's Professional Help, he reviews past research, including his own recent paper in Psychological Bulletin, to come up with the perfect recipe for society during these divided times: five tips to help warring romantic partners, team members, and, of course, political parties to cooperate.
Talk about the situation. Research has shown that meeting up to discuss the social dilemma at hand increases cooperation. When participants in one study were allowed to express their desire to work together, not only were they more inclined to do so, they also felt guilty when they didn't. Moreover, don't rely on text or email. Another study found that written messages don't promote as much cooperation as face-to-face or video communication.