When you think about making a good impression on someone else, I wonder what comes to mind? Quite likely, is to highlight your strengths and success stories, but in fact psychology suggests that highlighting your weaknesses and failures can have a positive impact too.

Researchers at Harvard University in the 1960s came up with a behavioural phenomenon they called the Pratfall Effect – it relates to the fact that when we see someone make a mistake, or perhaps admit a weakness, it can result in us actually liking them more.

Think for a moment your reaction when you have seen someone make a mistake – for example spilling their coffee or forgetting their lines when presenting – often the emotion is empathy. We feel for them.

Another situation could be when someone chooses to tell us they aren’t very good at something – essentially admitting weaknesses. This has been linked to authenticity, which has been shown to be a hugely positive and powerful characteristic when it comes to social interaction.

What this comes down do is the fact we like people who are like us and there is no one reading this now who hasn’t made a mistake so, if you meet someone who has, then you immediately have something in common.

In a world that seems obsessed with strengths and high performance, remember vulnerability, failure and weaknesses have their place too!

I’ll be back in a week’s time with some more meetology® – exploring the fascinating psychology powering exceptional people skills.

See you next week, until then take care,


Jonathan Bradshaw
The Meetology® Lab


Aronson, Elliot, Ben Willerman, and Joanne Floyd. “The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness.” Psychonomic Science 4.6 (1966): 227-228.