Welcome to Bob Faw’s Energize Performance blog. Bob’s passion is to guide positive transformation. Through his personal and professional life experiences Bob developed a keen interest in pragmatic and science based approaches. He has been a longtime advocate of focusing on solutions and learning while having fun, concepts that are increasingly supported by recent neuroscience studies about enhanced brain functioning and performance. This blog is to gather and share his guidance and share best practices, inspirational examples, and creative ideas of others about positive transformation at work, in personal life, and in the world.
It’s completely normal to be anxious about presenting. In fact, in many surveys, public speaking is the #1 fear in America. (In one survey, death was #8!)
When it comes to conquering the fear of presenting, people will try just about anything. There’s an old technique of which you’ve probably heard: imagine the audience naked to help distract yourself from the fear. This strategy is not really that effective, and it can be quite distracting depending on how good your imagination is. I want to share some more powerful priming tools.
When I first started speaking publicly, I would use my anxiety (of which there was plenty) to energize me. But as I started learning more about brain science, I realized that I could actually energize myself with passion instead of nervousness, especially because it is far more helpful for feeling calm and confident.
Here are two techniques I use to prime myself whenever I speak:
Select Your Inner Movie
Before a presentation, our subconscious mind can start to fill us with feelings of failure, humiliation and rejection—all worst-case scenarios. To counteract this natural reaction, it’s important to play a different “inner movie” proactively before those feelings even start.
Allowing your subconscious to take the lead can cause you to stumble over your words or even freeze up once you get on stage. Instead, I prime myself by playing an inner movie in my mind during which I experienced success. I pick one that is as close as possible to what I’m about to do, and I do this before I even get on stage. As I’m playing this movie in my mind, I choose the most gratifying part of the memory—whether it was feedback I received afterward, a thank you from the organizer, or even audience applause or laughter during a pivotal part.
I play this part of the memory as vividly as I can in my mind—imagining the faces, the sounds, and the wonderful feelings that occurred. The reason this works is that the subconscious mind (the caveman) can’t tell the difference between what we’re actually seeing in the world and the movie that is playing in our minds, so it begins to calm down. And as a result of this powerful positive movie, the artist part of the brain starts to get more passionate about the presentation.
If you don’t have a positive speaking memory to draw upon, you can use the same technique with a positive memory of another time that you felt confident or had a rewarding experience, and it will be almost as good.
Focus Positively on the Audience and the Topic
The other technique I use, in the same vein of priming yourself before the subconscious mind takes over, is positively priming myself toward both the audience and the topic.
I start by thinking about what I like most about the people I’m speaking to—whether it’s an organization that helps children, an eager group of students, or a gathering of stellar managers. Then I focus on the part of my topic that I’m most passionate about.
Before the presentation, I think about each one in turn, going back and forth between the two—my passion for the topic and my admiration for the audience. And when I step up to speak, the first sentence that comes out of my mouth has both passion and confidence, which is a great start to any presentation.
And One “Don’t”
Many times, a less-seasoned presenter will start out with a negative remark such as, “I hate to follow that first speaker …” or “I’m kind of nervous to be here …” Statements like this negatively prime the audience to expect less of you. Even if they are true, they give the audience reason to believe that you won’t be a good presenter, and they distract from your message. Remember that people are generally there because they want to hear what you have to say and to learn what you have to tell them! They want you to succeed.
Try these techniques the next time you need to talk to a group—large or small—and see how effective it can be to prime your brain to make yourself both calm and passionate before a speech. If you calm your caveman you can energize your audience!
If you have any positive priming techniques for speaking, I would love to hear about them. Or if you have an opportunity to use these techniques, let me know how they work for you. Just comment below or connect with me on social media.
Here’s an interesting fact: Many of us do better being positive at work than at home.
There is some actual brain science to support this—The Thinker (the frontal lobe of the brain) reins in The Caveman (the survival part of the brain that reacts to threats) when he wants to make inappropriate comments. The brain actually gets tired of using willpower all day at work; it’s exhausting not telling the boss he’s stupid, or your coworkers that they’re lazy. Because of this fatigue, we are more likely to say things we regret when we get home.
The good news is that there are tools that can help, priming you to be better parent, spouse, and/or sibling. You can actually train yourself to be stronger, to love more deeply and to be more resistant to negativity at home.
Priming On the Way Home
Sometimes I have the urge to whine about little things at home—items that are left out or parts of the house aren’t clean to my taste. I have never once found this to be well received by my wife. Imagine that!
The best way to combat this “whining” behavior is to prevent it from happening. On the way home, I play my own inner movie about what I most love about my family, and I tell myself to look for what’s good in the house before I even walk in. When I do this I’m more likely to skip the whining and move directly to wining and having a good time with my wife that evening.
There are many different ways to implement this during your commute. A great trigger is choosing a geographical marker that you pass on your way home, and at this point you stop thinking about work and begin prepping yourself to go home and enjoy the evening. Turn on music that energizes you, and start thinking about what you love about your family, or something specific that you are looking forward to that evening.
Just like doing exercise, if you spend just a few minutes each day thinking about what you love about your family, you will actually build your love for them, and they will be able to feel it.
It’s important not to taint your positive thoughts with the “yeah buts.” For example, “Yeah I love my kids, but they never do their homework. Yeah I love my husband, but he doesn’t help out around the house enough.” Try imagining that this may be the last time you will see your family. After all, life is fragile and sadly it’s possible to lose our loved ones at any moment. What important things would you want to make sure to tell them? How would you want to treat them so they know how much you care about them?
It is critical for that few minutes to only think positively. In turn, this will help the whole family dynamic to be more positive, optimistic and healthy.
The Daily Highlight
My wife and I have used this technique personally for the last seven years, and it has transformed our relationship. The Daily Highlight activity is essentially creating a family habit that the first topic of conversation when you get home is each person’s highlight of the day. The Daily Highlight is the first thing you’ll talk about before you have dinner, start homework or chores, and/or complain about work, all of which can set a negative tone for the evening. The Daily Highlight sets a positive tone that enables communication to be better, relationships to strengthen, and helps people be more open to each other’s needs.
During the Daily Highlight, each person listens and celebrates the others’ highlights. Not only do you get to share in a positive moment, but by listening you will find that you become more aware of your family members’ strengths, passions and values. You may even be surprised by the highlights that come up.
The first day or two it might feel a little awkward if you’re not used to it, but the more awkward it feels, the more I think you should do it.
Hundreds of people have used this activity and afterward told me great stories about children who had struggled with self-confidence and who are now gaining confidence. I’ve also heard examples of the Daily Highlight practice helping strengthen and repair family relationships. A member of my team even does this with her 3-year-old and her 4-year-old, who love sharing their favorite moments from the day. It’s a positivity tool that you can use at nearly any age.
When our family lives are happy, it’s easier to be more successful at everything in life!
Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to bring a little positivity home tonight. I would love to hear how you use these tools and other priming tools with your family, so please comment below or connect with me on social media and share!
Positively priming others means using your words and tone of voice to influence them towards a mutually beneficial goal. As long as you’re helping them, it’s positive priming.
I recently read some exciting research: a study of Harvard men showed that those with loving mothers made on average $70,000 more per year than their counterparts (25 years after Harvard). Isn’t that interesting? It used to be widely accepted that fathers were the most significant influence in men’s careers, and they probably still are important, but this study is fascinating. What researchers discovered is that if you give your children emotional support and continuous love, helping them build strengths, build confidence and achieve success, you are priming them for the rest of their lives
In my book, Energize, I talk about an Israeli army officer training situation where leaders primed the trainers by telling them which of the students were average performers, high performers, and of unknown competence. The students had been randomly placed in these categories, but the officers didn’t know that. At the end of the training, the students who had been identified as high performers ended up being the top of the class.
It’s called the chameleon effect: people adjust their behavior to fit expectations. You can prime people with your words, tone of voice, mannerisms, and actions. What you tell yourself about the people that you work with (or that you live with) affects the opportunities you give them and the way you treat them, thereby priming them either negatively or positively.
I bet you’ve had the experience where your boss came into the office with a grumpy look, and you got worried about your standing with him or her. That expression primed you. It could have just been indigestion or bad traffic, but it still affected you.
What kind of effect do you want to have on those around you?
Here is the single most effective way to make yourself better at positive priming: Before you meet with someone, think about what you like about them and that will literally change your biochemistry, as well as positively affect your interaction with him or her.
Another great tool is positive reframes. These are particularly helpful when you have to deliver a negative message or you need to motivate people. Start by thinking about what you need done, then consider what’s in it for that person, and frame it in a positive way. For example, if your kids don’t want to go to bed the temptation is to yell at them. Rarely do they look at you and say, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll go to bed now.” A positive reframe in this situation could be saying, “Tomorrow is going to be a very exciting day and I want to make sure you’re rested, so let’s go read a book and get some good sleep.” It’s amazing what a difference it makes.
Here are a few ways to start the process of Priming Others:
- Determine who would you like to positively prime in your life and why.
- Identify what is good about this person and how can you help them be more successful in that area.
- Pick a few days this next week to positively prime them during your interactions.
I hope these ideas have been helpful or insightful. Now get out there and spread a little positivity! And I’d love to hear from you: Tell me how you positively prime others by commenting below or connecting with me on social media.
One of the amazing things that research is uncovering is how incredibly suggestible people are. In the book, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Rom Brafman and Ori Brafman coin the term, “chameleon effect.” It describes our tendency as human beings to adapt our behaviors to others’ expectations—especially those who have power over us. We particularly tend to adapt to bosses’ and teachers’ expectations. Their expectations powerfully influence our inner movies, and therefore our motivation and performance. Also, powerful influences like these become part of our inner autobiographies over the long haul as we eventually believe that they must be right. We, of course, are also having a chameleon effect on others all the time as well.
Here’s how it works: We form certain expectations of people or events, and we communicate those expectations with various cues, including word choice, tone of voice, speaking volume, facial expressions, body language and the amount of attention we pay to something. People tend to adjust their behaviors to match these cues. This is especially true for those who depend on us. They may even adjust their self-concepts!
Dov Eden, a management professor at Tel Aviv University, decided to put this to the test. He chose to use one of the most rigorous real-world environments for his research: an Israeli Army officer-training program. He set out to test what impact the chameleon effect (what he called the “self-fulfilling prophesy” dynamic) has on a leader’s ability to increase performance. He defines self-fulfilling prophesy as “the process through which the expectation that an event will occur increases its likelihood of occurrence. Expecting something to happen, we act in ways that make it more likely to occur. (Note the misnomer; the prophecy does not fulfill itself. Rather, it is the prophet who, due to his expectations, acts unwittingly to bring about the expected event. This makes it appear to be self-fulfilling.)”
Professor Eden wisely guessed that “the leadership expectation effect” would activate a positive self-fulfilling prophesy in the officers in training. In this case, the leaders were four experienced training officers. He randomly designated each trainee as having high, regular, or unknown scores in “command potential.” However, the training officers were told that the scores were accurate. They were also told that the scores generally have a 95 percent impact on the trainee’s final course grade. Professor Eden’s researchers did nothing else, except to tell the trainers to memorize the names and scores for each trainee.
The results were staggering. Those who had been randomly given the “high” scores benefited in attitude and performance. Their test scores averaged 22 percent higher than the “regular” scoring trainees. They expressed more favorable feedback on the training and in the desire for more training. The trainers had subconsciously ignited the highly-rated trainees’ passion and performance through an unconscious belief that the trainees were superior. In Eden’s own words:
Raising manager expectations improves leadership, which, in turn, promotes subordinate performance. The prophecy is not mysteriously self-fulfilling. Rather, manager expectations work their “magic” on subordinates by inducing managers to provide better leadership to subordinates of whom they expect good performance. “Knowing” that in-group workers are most competent, the manager treats them as such and unwittingly fulfills his prophecy. At the same time, regarding out-group personnel as inferior, the manager expects little of them, (mis)leads them accordingly, and depresses their performance.
Self-Awareness Activity: The Chameleon Effect In Your Life
List a few examples of when someone said or did something that had a chameleon effect on you. Include examples that were helpful and some that were not. Write down what you think the effects of their chameleon effects on you were.
Since the chameleon effect is happening all the time, we might as well use it to the advantage of ourselves and others. Learn more about how to create a motivational chameleon effect by influencing the dynamic trio, the Artist, Caveman, and Thinker. Or see this video about how to “Get Your A.C.T. Together”
Welcome to the second post in our Positive Priming series. Last month, we defined positive priming and talked about some of its benefits. This month we’re going to be talking about the powerful effects of priming yourself.
Do you want to have more resilience in the face of stress? Do you want to be the can-do person in your organization? Do you want to be a person who bounces back from challenges quickly? Do you want to be a positive role model for colleagues and family? Or do you simply want to be happier? Positive priming can be a very helpful tool in accomplishing all of these goals.
The fact is, if you want to be a highly influential person, positive priming is the key. Learning how to energize yourself before an important or stressful event has far-reaching effects, and can eventually help you to influence and prime others. (Priming others is the topic for next month’s post.)
More and more research is showing that your thoughts affect your mood, your relationships, your wealth, and your health. In fact, everything you experience affects how you will react to the next situation. These occurrences build on the DNA you already have and continue to form who you are.
Consider the experiences you have on a regular basis: What TV do you watch? What books do you read? Who do you hang out with? Other people’s habits rub off on you—for good or for bad. You’ve probably noticed that negative people can bring you down. Why? Because they are priming you to be negative. Humans are incredibly suggestible, so we need to purposely prime ourselves as much as we can to live the way we really want.
Play an Energizing “Inner Movie”
My favorite self-priming tip is playing past successes in your inner movie. When approaching a challenge think about a past success. Play the memories in your mind of the good feedback you received, and what you did best to receive that feedback. The more you use this inner movie, the more powerful it gets.
When I am about to get up and speak on stage I play an inner movie of a speech I gave that I really enjoyed, especially the best moment or two and the praise people gave me afterwards. Then I think of what I most like about my current topic and the group I’m about to speak with. These ways of priming myself boost my confidence, energize me about the speech itself, and enable me to be authentically passionate and build rapport.
Build Your Positive Priming Muscle
Another self-priming tip is to energize yourself every day (at least once). This can be when you first wake up, on the way home, or whenever you feel you most need to be energized. Think back to an accomplishment that has been the most energizing for you. Practice doing this every single day for a month. It works like exercise: building your positive priming muscles. In fact, after doing it everyday for a month there is a part of your brain called the basal ganglia that will kick in. It takes over habits for you and will start to actually run positive priming for you without your having to think about it as often. You still have to nurture it occasionally, but habits like this make it easier and easier to achieve success.
Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Another idea is to recognize areas of your life where you routinely negatively prime yourself (put yourself down, minimize your ability, view a situation pessimistically, etc.) and brainstorm how could you instead positively prime yourself consistently in that situation.
For example, I have some serious physical issues with my shoulders and there’s some potential I may never dance again. This fact brings me down when I think about it. But a while ago, I saw a video of a man with cerebral palsy who creates art with a typewriter. People asked him, “How do you do that? I couldn’t do that, and even though I have increased ability, I still don’t try things like that.” To which this wise man replied, “What can you do?” Wow! This blew me away. So I took question of “What can you do?” and created a sign that I posted over my desk. I see it every day, and I get renewed energy from it when I feel like I can’t do something. It shifts me out of that “I-can’t-do-it” mindset.
What do you do to positively prime yourself? Comment below or connect with me on social media to share some of your ideas and what works for you. I would love to hear about your experiences with priming.
If you’d like to learn more about priming yourself, check out the following links.
Welcome to the first article in the Positive Priming Series. I’m extremely passionate about the tool of priming because I’ve seen its effects repeatedly–with both myself and my clients–and it’s a concept that I use often. This will be the first in a series of articles designed to help you learn the power of priming, as well as some helpful tools for priming yourself and others.
So what exactly is priming?
Priming is a term used by scientists to talk about the fact that every decision we make is unconsciously influenced by what we have previously experienced. I use “positive priming” similarly to the way positive psychologists use “kindness priming.”
Multiple studies have been done during which researchers primed participants with positive or negative words or images and then tested their tendency for optimism. For example, during one study, half the participants watched negative news and the other half watched light-hearted cat videos. It’s probably not surprising that the group that watched the negative news had more negative responses to the questions they were asked afterward. Believe it or not, cat videos can make you more optimistic. Now you can tell your boss that you need to watch them at work to improve performance.
Think about the last time you read or watched some really awful news. Or the last time you received a scathing review at work. Did that exposure affect your mood afterward?
There has even been research done with sports teams showing that those who have won are more likely to win the next game, and when a team has lost they are more likely to lose. So when talk about “losing streaks,” there really is such a thing.
It’s remarkable how deeply certain stimulation can affect how we act.
I use positive priming in my teaching and speaking all the time. When I’m addressing a group, my ultimate goal is to move hearts and minds to action. So I try to open with a story or a statement that will prime them for success.
I often start with this quick experiment (feel free to try it yourself right now): “I want you to take a moment think about a time or event in your life when you felt very smart or accomplished. Think deeply about what you liked about that moment and what you had learned to get there. Reflect on those positive feelings and how satisfying it felt to learn something new.”
What you’ve just done is prime yourself positively around learning, so now you are more ready to absorb new information, and chances are that you’ll do it better because of the positivity you’ve created around it.
In our next post, we’ll talk about in more detail about how to use these techniques to prime yourself, and the power that can have. The fact is, if you want to be a highly influential person, positive priming starts from within, so learning how to energize yourself using positive priming is a valuable tool for being a great influencer.
If you have any questions about priming, or feedback on this post, I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, check out the following videos if you’d like to learn more.