Have you ever wondered why, in romantic comedies, everyone always roots for the hapless underdog? Why does everyone love the goof, the nerdy person who always seems to be constantly doing something embarrassing or falling all over themselves?
You may have noticed, few people cheer for the traditional heart throb or the ultra-confident person who always has their stuff together. The funny thing is, we don't cheer for the underdog in spite of their character flaws, we actually cheer for the underdog because of them. Remember when Jennifer Lawrence stumbled up the stairs to accept her award at the 2013 Academy Awards, and everyone loved her just a little bit more? This is called the Pratfall Effect.
Researcher Elliot Aronson, discovered this phenomenon in 2014 when he studied how simple mistakes can affect attraction. He found that the attractiveness of someone increased if they made a mistake or did something unintentionally foolish. For example, people were seen as more likable at the end of an interview if they did something that was seen as a blunder, such as spilling a cup of coffee or tripping as they walked in the room.
We relate to those who are flawed like us
But why is this? The fact is, if you're too perfect, people tend to see you as a "superhuman" and you can come across as distant. If you never make mistakes, you can seem unapproachable, or even judgmental. This may be a characteristic you want to see in a hero or athlete, but not in a co-worker.
People can relate more to those who are flawed; when you make a mistake, you're sharing a piece of your humanity and showing people that you're more vulnerable. Even better, if you embarrass yourself and recover gracefully, people will think even more highly of you because of your ability to overcome adversity.
So, next time are leading a team, meeting a new client, or are even up in front of hundreds of people giving a talk, if you can demonstrate that you're human, and slightly flawed, you may have a better chance of people cheering for you. You don't want to go too far, however. The key here is to not to overshare with your employees all of your insecurities, tell your client how drunk you got over the weekend, or flop the talk because you weren't prepared, these things will come off as self-destructive and unprofessional.
On the other hand, if you happen to catch a bit of spinach in your teeth, spill a bit of coffee on yourself, or fall up the stairs at the Oscars, you may get that little added boost of support from your audience. Embrace your humanity, you'll thank yourself for it.