Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: How do people signal ‘social status’ in online communication? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
The most common mistake people make when trying to signal social status online is to act like someone who is trying to signal social status.
Truly high status people are confident that other people already know they are high status, and so worry more about doing what is right than “looking good”.
- Don’t intentionally delay replying to emails – High status people care more about making sure everyone is unblocked and productive than communicating their own status. If you are slow to reply, it is either because you are busy with something else, or because you asked someone else to reply.
- Don’t make emails unproductively short – If your email is short, it is because a short email says all that needs to be said, and you don’t want to waste people’s time reading something longer.
- Don’t try to win every argument – High status people aren’t threatened by other people’s status, and care more about helping other people grow. They thus try where possible to allow others to make decisions and learn from their mistakes – provided the risks aren’t too great.
- Don’t make people look stupid – High status people don’t need to score points off people because everyone knows they are awesome. If they see someone else say something wrong, they chat with that person in private, and encourage them to follow up with a public correction themselves.
- Don’t be over-confident – High status people care more about making sure the right decision is made than that people think they are smart. They are quick to point out cases where they don’t know the answer, or are working off low-confidence hunches.
- Don’t avoid admitting mistakes – High status people want to treat mistakes as learning opportunities and encourage others to do the same. They are quick to admit mistakes, even when the mistake might be more fairly assigned to someone else.
- Don’t try to seem intimidating – High status people worry more that their status makes them too intimidating for people to challenge bad ideas they might have.
In general, the principles are pretty much the same as in real life interaction.