You might want to tell your big idea to everyone, but be selective about who you share with, says a new study. It’s telling your ambitions to higher-status people that will help you succeed.

In a set of studies from researchers at Ohio State University, it was found that people show greater commitment to their goal and performance when they told their goal to someone they believed had a higher status than themselves.

There was no improvement when people told their goals to someone who had a lower status or kept it to themselves.

In other words, if you have a great business idea, try telling it to the sharks on Shark Tank – not the guy on the next barstool.

Spread the word (a little)

These results run counter to a widely referenced 2009 study that indicates telling other people your goals at all isn’t helpful, said Howard Klein lead author of the new study, in a release.  Klein is a professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“Contrary to what you may have heard, in most cases you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don’t – as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value,” Klein said.

Study results showed that people became motivated by sharing a goal with someone they thought had higher status because what that person thought of them and their performance as they worked towards their goal had meaning towards them.

“You don’t want them to think less of you because you didn’t attain your goal,” Klein said.

For example, when Sara Blakely – CEO of Spanx, now a billionaire – came up with the idea for women’s shapewear, she told Inc. that she only talked about her idea with “patent lawyers and people in the undergarment industry. Ideas are fragile in their infancy, and I sensed that if I talked about it with friends, I might be discouraged.”

In other words, the patent lawyers and undergarment industry bigwigs were held to a higher status than Blakely at the time. Her friends were the same status or lower, and they had the potential to rain on her parade.

No matter how you slice it, says Klein, there’s just one major rule when it comes to sharing a goal or ambition.

“The important thing is that you need to care about the opinion of who you are telling,” he said.

Klein’s co-authors were Robert Lount, professor, and Bryce Linford, doctoral student, both in management and human resources at Ohio State; and Hee Man Park of Penn State University. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Originally published on The Ladders.

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