Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ahoy There

This past week I got a chance to ride the rides on the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. The build-up to the rides is quite exhilarating. There is a count-down as you wait for the full effect of exactly how high you are to filter into your brain. What was so interesting to me is that the second time I went on the ride, before the ride even began I could feel the pressure in my body that the ride would create.

Even though it was totally unintentional, the build-up to the ride and the count-down worked together to create an anchor for what my body was going to feel! My brain essentially remembered what had happened and reproduced the physical reactions necessary to handle the high G force that it knew would follow.

Anchors are any inputs which induce or trigger responses. For example, when you smell coffee it might invoke memories, or feelings. If someone said the word chocolate, it might make your mouth water. Anchors can take any form of input and provide almost any form of response. Of course, some work better than others. Here are some examples to consider:
  • sight - what makes a "power tie" powerful? why do we like shiny things? how did red become the "danger" color?
  • sound - ever heard a voice that was just "sexy"? what about running water when you have to pee?
  • touch - do you enjoy a soggy handshake? what makes silk sheets so great?
  • taste - doesn't something sweet after dinner just seem right? is eggnog only for the holidays?
  • smell - how can you tell if a car is really new? where do you eat popcorn?
Those are just some simple everyday anchors that you may or may not share. In reality, we all have them and we actually rely on them all the time. We use them to remember the words to songs, what errands we have to run, even the details of important dates.

In Practice
The cool thing about anchors is that you can use them to bring out responses you are looking for in yourself and others. Here is a simple exercise you can try on yourself. First, you need to be at rest. So sit back and relax. Now think of a very postive, enjoyable, and pleasing experience. Envision what you were seeing at the time. Recall and listen to what you were hearing at the time. Allow yourself to feel the same experience again. As you immerse yourself in the experience and the intensity builds, squeeze your thumb and finger together gently for a moment. Then come out of the experience by thinking of something else. It can be any random thing, like work matters, what errands you have to run, etc. Then squeeze your thumb and finger together the same as before. You should feel the relaxed, pleasing state return. Because we are using a tactile anchor it might help to gently pulse the anchor if you want to maintain the experience. In this case, that would be squeeze gently, release, squeeze again, release, and repeat.

There are several factors that can improve the quality and intensity of the anchor. You should have a strong base experience to work from. The more inputs you can apply to the anchor, the easier it will be to set. Apply the anchor before the experience peaks. You need to be really precise in how you trigger the anchor, timing is essential. The application of anchors works best as a form of "positive reinforcement".

Any parent, pet-owner, comedian, or good project manager will tell you these techniques work. They use them every day, just maybe not so deliberately. If you find them hard to master, don't give up, just take more time to practice.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Almost Ready...

He who hesitates...waits...and waits...and waits.
Hesitation is a normal part of life. We all hesitate, each of us to differing degrees. Hesitation is the primary obstacle to learning new things, pursuing our desires, and influencing change.

In the book Change (Watzlawick, Weakland, Fisch) there is a story about a student who was struggling to complete a thesis. Watzlawick directed the student to go into three stores in the next week and make absurd requests. The student followed through and experienced a shift in his attitude. A short time later he finished his thesis.

Testing this theory seemed straight-forward, so I gave it shot. I went into a fast-food restaurant and waited in line. My heart rate sped up and so did my breathing. My body was responding to my mind telling me I was in danger, even though there was nothing to fear. When it was my turn I looked the lady right in the eye and asked for a slice of pepperoni pizza. She stared back and asked "What?". After I repeated myself she let me know they didn't sell that. I said thanks and walked out.

So this was a simple thing to do and more than a little silly. But the more I tried this, the easier it became. Which by itself isn't that interesting. But the change to my attitude was significant. The more I allow myself to do things that are unusual or out of the ordinary, the easier it is for me to step up and tackle the mundane things too.

If you want to try this, you will see that it works. If you do this, keep in mind that you should be very polite, non-threatening, and maybe come off a little confused. The typical response you get is amusement.

The reason this technique becomes significant is because it changes how we interpret responses. As humans we become conditioned to avoid mistakes. We are taught that mistakes are bad or dangerous. On the contrary, mistakes are an outrageously important tool for learning and growing. When you can get over your fear of the feedback from unusual behavior, you open the way for efficient learning and truly powerful communication. If you are going to be influencing others, you need a willingness to make mistakes. It's learning from the mistakes that makes it possible to find the right kind of influence you are looking for.

You will see a similar effect around how people handle money. I think I'll cover that one next.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Is your vision HD?

A couple of years ago I ran into a trainer who worked with dolphins. As we talked about his work, he mentioned that you have to be very careful when working with them not to reinforce the wrong behaviors. The reason is because they are incredible perceptive and notice everything. Often they would notice a pattern that he wouldn't even be aware was in place. When the dolphins would detect a pattern that reinforced something he wasn't aware of, they would use it to their own advantage. The key to their perceptiveness is peripheral vision.

Focal vision is the central element in your visual landscape. It is primarily what you use to distinguish details or read. Your focal vision is very much a conscious activity. On the other hand, peripheral vision is wide, fuzzy, and happens subconsciously. Your peripheral vision is excellent for detecting movement and establishing a frame of reference.

You can use your peripheral vision in many situations to obtain excellent information about other people. It is the primary way to easily absorb specifics such as breathing patterns, gestures, and eye movements. These are all key things you would want to be mindful of as you try to build rapport.

In Practice
It's pretty easy to practice using your peripheral vision. When you are in any low-risk situation, use your peripheral vision to see what else you notice during the conversation. When you are working with groups of people, you can notice what’s going on for all the people you are not looking at directly. You can practice reading the signals, gestures, and expressions being made by the people who think you can’t see them. You can learn a lot while practicing this at times when you are not the primary speaker.