UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome, Brad Bitterly, Michigan Ross, to host a research seminar discussing ‘Strategic Communication’
In this talk, I describe fundamental communication processes that enable conversational partners to advance important strategic objectives (e.g., impression management, ingratiation, power). In the first part of the talk, I describe the costs and benefits of different response strategies to direct, difficult questions, (e.g., Do you have other offers? When do you plan on having children?). Specifically, I describe how respondents can incur economic costs for honestly revealing information, reputational costs for engaging in deception, and interpersonal costs, including harm to perceptions of trust and liking, for directly declining to answer the question (e.g., I would rather not answer that question). I introduce deflection, answering a direct question with a question that redirects the conversation, and show that deflection causes significantly less reputational harm than detected deception and causes significantly less interpersonal harm than directly declining to answer a question. In the second part of the talk, I explore power and the use of humor. Through the analysis of 73,620 email messages, I find that humor is pervasive in communication but is more frequently used by the person that occupies the position of higher power (the “high power person”). I demonstrate that humor is fundamentally tied to power, and that to fully understand power and the effectiveness of communication, we need to understand the use of humor.