Our Toolkit (Continued)

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SHame as Master Emotion

Research in social psychology shows that the avoidance of shame is a foundational driver of ordinary behavior. Shame arises when we believe that we’ve been judged as somehow defective by consequential members of our community (e.g. our colleagues, friends, and family). In contrast to common understandings of shame, the research shows that shame-related feelings (e.g. shyness, insecurity, embarrassment, humiliation, etc.) are pervasive, not occasional, guiding how we conduct ourselves in ordinary moments, including—how we engage others, how we define ourselves, what we buy, what we wear, even regulating our expression of other emotions. A particularly provocative aspect of this research holds that our personalities are largely the result of the specific tactics we’ve developed to avoid shame. 


What if the value of a product is mostly symbol-based? To refine a product or service idea, play this game: imagine that what motivates a person to choose one product over another within a category is purely the meaning that it conveys beyond its immediate practical value. Imagine that we buy things because they symbolize a value system, a kind of person, or a particular lifestyle. Now look at your product or service idea again. What symbols might it convey to different social groups? Adjust the idea so that it conveys the right values, identities, aspirations, etc. MORE