“Priming’ is an old concept. It means you can influence events by exposing people to subtle messages, colours, perhaps emotions and other prompts that will remind them of something or will force associations in their minds. Translation: positive things around you will help you to see other positive things and vice versa. Ingratiation is also old. If you say nice things to your boss days before performance assessment, you’ll get a better result. No kidding. Data available. And then you have reciprocity. Give something (small) away as a gift, as a way to influence something positive back to you, works. Anthropologists knew that.
Manipulation? As much as life itself. These influencing mechanisms are well known. Better seeing this in terms of influencing.
A very practical translation. Always make the point of knowing what is in the minds of people attending your meeting. It is usually not a nuclear threat of market collapse, it is more prosaic and directly related to previous events, even hours, before the meeting itself. What previous meeting are they coming from? What did the CEO broadcast yesterday? Are the results of an employee engagement survey just released? Is ‘accountability’ consuming most of the airtime since yesterday’s Town Hall meeting? All these elements have a high chance of influencing the frame of your meeting even if it’s a very concrete and operational one. Don’t think for a second people will switch off and focus. We never do. Our mind doesn’t, we can pretend otherwise.
Look at the potential mood frames, prompts, priming mechanism that may be around. Just asking yourself the question is healthy.
My recommendation is not to run a meeting without knowing about the previous 24 hours of other meetings or events. In our behavioural work in Viral Change ™ for example, this is a crucial thing. What may be important in people’s minds, that we will need to translate into behaviours, may be totally influenced by very prosaic things happening around you ‘now’. Not very strategic. You’d better know.
A picture of the last hours or days is a picture of the frame for your meeting today. If you don’t know, you may see things that seem related to you, your meeting, but that are in fact miles away.