The Happiness Hypothesis

by Rob Wicker

One of the interesting trends in psychology is the current focus on positive living. For most of its history, the research in psychology has concentrated on understanding why human beings are unhappy. In the last decade psychologists have spent more time analyzing why and what makes people happy.

A great book on this topic is The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, a professor at the University of Virginia. Haidt goes beyond the platitudes that comprise most self-help books. He provides the latest scientific research to substantiate his analysis of five major topics: how the mind works, social life, happiness, flourishing and meaning.

The book is written for the layman and is fun to read. Very practical as well. For example, under Haidt’s section on Social Life, he tells us that people have a “reciprocity reflex.” Reciprocity is some of the grease that makes social life run smoother. “Reflex” is the key word: if you give me something, my instinct will be to give you something too.

How can this work for you? Make an offer of value to prospective clients. I have seen agents offer all kinds of services in their print ads and on their websites: current market reports, CMAs, school data, relocation packages, videos. When prospects accept one of your offers the reciprocity reflex kicks in and they are more likely to provide contact information and accessibility. Another example is the loyalty you generate by providing exceptional customer service. There is recognition that you have given me extra value and I want to give you something back (hopefully a referral).

The Happiness Hypothesis is a rich book. It can help you understand why there is often a disconnect between what you are trying to do and what you end up actually doing. One explanation, explored in detail in the book, is that our rational, goal oriented self is often dominated by our large, unruly emotional self. This makes for some messy professional and personal decisions. If you have an interest in psychology, buy this book.

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