Ask Ariely: On Mirror Moments, Social Shares, and Product Projections

February 20, 2021 BY Dan Ariely

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.


Dear Dan,

I have a job interview coming up. For the past week I’ve been very stressed about it, and to help myself cope I’ve been giving myself little pep talks in front of the mirror. What else can I do to deal with the stress?


Telling ourselves “I’ve got this” or “I’m so ready for this” is a very common strategy for preparing for a challenge, and it makes intuitive sense. But self-talk can actually be more effective if you use the third-person: “Julia’s got this” instead of “I’ve got this.” Using the third person creates an emotional separation between ourselves and the stressful event, making it feel more like enthusiastic support from a friend. Research shows that this approach can help people manage stress more effectively. So from me to you: “Julia, you got this.”


Dear Dan,

There is hardly any informal social interaction at my company now that we’re all working from home. Is there a way to introduce virtual coffee chats for employees to hang out together, without making it seem like just another work obligation?


By now we all know that when it comes to socializing, online meetings are no substitute for face-to-face interactions. And if employees start looking at these new chats as a chore instead of a spontaneous water-cooler conversation, the odds of them turning into a positive social interaction are even lower. So instead of adding a new item to people’s agendas, why don’t you try dedicating the first 5 minutes of your regular weekly meeting to a social activity. Since people might freeze if they have to come up with something “social” on their own, give participants specific instructions: recommend a book or TV show, share a recipe or favorite quarantine pastime. Not only will this lubricate the social wheels, it will also allow team members to learn more about each other.


Dear Dan,

I’m planning to buy a home projector so my family can watch movies outside when it gets warmer. I found a great deal on the model I want, but it doesn’t allow for returns. Is the loss of flexibility worth the discount?


When we make decisions, the idea of keeping our options open is so appealing that we’re often willing to pay more just to have some flexibility to change our minds. But once a purchase is made, the flexibility that drew us to the product might actually undermine our enjoyment of it.

In your case, if you have the option of returning the projector, every time you use it you’ll be tempted to think about whether you’re getting your money’s worth from it, or if you should send it back for a refund. This continuous rumination can destroy part of your joy in the purchase. With this in mind, I suspect that getting the nonreturnable projector would serve your needs best. And when you use it, try to think about the great decision you made.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.