Can making mistakes make you admirable? | The Pratfall Effect

Hey there!

I’ve had been through a couple of interviews and in each one, I felt I somehow botched it. In some, I was selected (and that came as a surprise). In some, I was rejected (as expected).

But, what if there is another effect that is at play oblivious to us?

How is it that I was selected in some interviews and rejected in others even when I made mistakes? Even after I admitted doing some mistakes!

This can be better understood by the Pratfall effect which I came across in Give and Take by Adam Grant.

According to this effect making mistakes/ showing vulnerability can have two opposite outcomes:

  1. When a competent/superior person makes mistakes, the audience or the people around find the person more likeable.
  2. When an average person makes a mistake, the audience or the people around liked the person even less

This might have been intuitive to you!

You might have been in a situation where someone made a mistake and people were okay with it and when you did it, all you got were weird stares!

This is also evident when the cool person of the group cracks a joke in bad taste which fits well with the rest, but anyone else says it, you know what happens …😔


  1. When the audience/people perceive someone as better than them, an expert or their superior, vulnerability makes them much more relatable. People no longer feel them be too good to be true which humanizes them even more.
  2. But when an average person shows vulnerability, it is just another reason for the audience or the group to not like him/her.

What is it that we can take back from this is the fact that vulnerability is a two-edged sword that has to be wielded carefully.

Being vulnerable and making mistakes boosts a person’s status only when the audience perceives them to the superior to them.

Superiority doesn’t have to be just hierarchial. It depends on

  1. The comparative collective self-esteem of the audience/group and the person.
  2. The person is an expert in their field (You wouldn’t mind Satya Nadella spill water on himself while giving a talk would you?)
  3. The person’s social standing in a group of people.
  4. Recent studies have observed that gender also plays a significant role based on culture.
  5. The ideologies of the person with those of the ideologies of the collective.

Vulnerability doesn’t always work in our favour.

Especially not when the group doesn’t see you leave a strong social mark!

The Pratfall effect can be seen everywhere, from interpersonal relations, advertising, business, politics, marketing etc.

Maggi was banned in India! Yet, people were willing to forgive it, when it was sold out within hours of its re-release. This shows the power of the pratfall effect in advertising.

After Mussolini’s first failed coup in his journey to establish a fascist regime in Italy, he was imprisoned. When he accepted the facts and his defeat, his following grew even larger which helped him gain momentum to eventually become the prime minister of Italy! This effect can be seen everywhere in Politics!

And that is why people sometimes care more when celebrities have a tough day at work while most of our problems are ignored by the public!

This also seems to be the answer to my initial surprise during my selections at interviews.

The ones I’ve been selected in, vulnerability helped me as I must’ve shown skills that made the interviewers respect me and vulnerability worked in my favour!

Two Minute Task
To understand this concept better. Think of a time when your mistakes/vulnerability was regarded with great honour and the times when similar mistakes were frowned upon!

In each context, think about where you placed socially in the group.

Look around your social circles, professional or personal, and think if vulnerability would pull you back, or propel you to great heights?

Think about it and act on it!!

With that,
More Power to you!


Were there any events in your life when you resonated with the Pratfall effect?

I hope this post was helpful!
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