Priming is a condition where the exposure to one stimulus, influences the response to another stimulus. Let’s consider the words forgetful, bald, wrinkled and gray. If you were to take a walk at this point of time, it is highly likely that you will walk slower than you usually do. As per a study was done by psychologist John Bargh, exposure to words associated with old age can impact your walking pace. Similarly, holding a pen between your teeth or by pursing your lips can significantly alter your mood. Nodding increases the tendency of you accepting a message unless you know for a fact that it is false. Briefly holding a hot beverage can make you behave more ‘warmly’. These are just some of the many examples of priming that exist in the world around us.
For many, the thought that actions and emotions can be primed by events that you may not be aware of can be disturbing. However, it is important to know that we are all exposed to priming in everyday life and it can be leveraged for our benefit. Take for example Google priming its employees to eat well by keeping healthy food at eye-level and placing M&M’s in opaque jars.
The question now is how does one use priming for positivity and success? Here are a few ways you can attempt to do so:
Priming by words
You’ve probably heard this before but you’d be surprised by the impact words have on people. Using words like success, productive, happy and creative can make you feel more upbeat and focused. Studies have shown that people primed with words related to ‘success’ subsequently perform much better on intelligence tasks. Avoid negative words, especially in meetings.
You’ve seen the craze around strength based discussions. These discussions go a long way in priming an individual to play to their strengths.
Priming by environment
Actions speak louder than words and if words can have the impact I mentioned above, imagine what actions can do. Next time you feel upset, try placing a pen between your teeth and forcing yourself to grin. Surround yourself with magazines, memorabilia, gadgets and tools that remind you of happiness, success, and achievement. Ever been asked to ‘dress for success’? Yes, they were talking about priming.
This is my favorite. Did you know that exposure to acts of kindness makes an individual more perceptive to positive aspects in the world around them? It is also said to increase resilience. Think of it as a pay it forward mechanism except that it actually works.
Priming when done right can sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Remember the scene from the Will Smith movie ‘Focus’? Look around you. What is it in your environment that is priming you on an everyday basis? Is it the color of the wall, the photograph on the mantelpiece or the inspirational desktop picture? The environment has an immense impact on you. Leverage it for your success and better still for the success of your team at work.