By Jean Rhodes
“If you have ever been to an award ceremony, then you know the drill” observes psychologist Abdo Elnakouri and his colleagues, “Awardees dutifully list off those who helped them along the way: mentors, family, friends, and perhaps a surprisingly crucial acquaintance or two. Without them, the crowd is told, success would not have been possible.” Although deflecting praise and sharing credit may seem almost ritualistic, Elnakouri et al. (2023)’s important new study, (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,) provides a scientific basis for this gratitude. We often look to individual factors like self-control, grit, and growth mindset as the cornerstones of success, but it is relationships with “instrumental others” (IOs)—those people who help us reach our goals—that often help us the most. As the authors note, “having instrumental others by one’s side can be a boon for goal success.”
To explain this, the authors introduce the concept of “shared reality” (that wonderful sense of truly connecting over shared feelings and beliefs), a “mind meld of sorts… it distinguished from adjacent concepts (e.g., empathy, perspective taking) in capturing the experience of sharing a similar subjective state about something in the world—a target referent—with at least one other person (see Echterhoff, Higgins, & Levine, 2009; Higgins et al., 2021, for reviews).” We all have this yearning for a “shared reality” and eagerness to think that others see the world through the same lens.
Well, it turns out that this sense of shared reality is essential to reaching our goals. It is a “key variable explaining why certain relationships facilitate goal success more than others. Unlike closeness and liking, shared reality involves creating a shared understanding of events, people, and objects external to the relationship (Rossignac-Milon et al., 2021)…..Given that reaching one’s goals involves successfully navigating this external world, we propose that creating this sense of shared reality about the external world may be especially critical for facilitating goal success because it may validate not only the importance of one’s goals and one’s sense of how to achieve them but also the feeling that one’s goals are attainable and that one is truly equipped to attain them.”