Ever wondered how your emotions are affected by your location?

Ever noticed how ‘thinking’ yourself happy can actually make you feel happier?

And is itpossible that an understanding of these things have a practical application at work?

Here, red10 ‘s Andy Stanley explains how the use of ‘Place’ as a tool of Pre-suasion can increase your chances of successfully influencing outcomes.

Why is Place important in pre-suasion?

Places provide cues that affect the way we think.  When we are surrounded by reminders of work, we are more likely to be influenced to think in a work-based way and when we are surrounded by reminders of free-time activities, these will influence us to think in a more informal way.  Therefore, it makes sense that, when attempting to influencing others, we should consider the place where that influencing takes place.

There is a geography of influence

In, ‘Pre-suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade’, Robert Cialdini describes how he completely rewrote the introduction to the book, when he realised that it was far too academic for a generalist audience. His learning was that the environment of his office in the university had caused him to construct sentences that were primarily aimed at fellow lecturers and professors. His solution was to move into a leased apartment, where the view was of pedestrians on their way to work or to shop. Now he was surrounded by newspapers, magazines and television shows, instead of scientific publications and textbooks. The result was dramatic. Instead of:

‘My academic subdiscipline, experimental social psychology, has as a principal domain the study of the social influence process’

He constructed:

‘I can admit it freely now: all my life I’ve been a patsy.’

Cialdini explains that the working space has a profound effect on our thought processes and if we want to align with the interests and communication styles of our target audience, we need to be provided with constant visual reminders of who those people are.  He gives a startling example of a marketing manager who discovered that printing off life-size photographs of clients, before going to a client meeting, and displaying them around the workroom, produced better results from the program design team. Because the team structure the cues of their environment before they begin work, this is a pure act of pre-suasion, with themselves, rather than others, as the target.

These are examples of how we can alter key components of our external self-persuasive geography, but we can also alter key components of our internal self-persuasive geography too.

What’s already in us?

In her book, ‘The myths of happiness’ Dr Sonya Lyubomirsky writes that a pre-suasive refocusing of attention, can change the way we feel about things. For example, she lists these 3 activities as having a marked effect on our feelings of happiness:

  • Count your blessings and gratitudes at the start of every day, and then give yourself concentrated time with them by writing them down.
  • Cultivate optimism by choosing before-hand to look on the bright side of situations, events and future possibilities.
  • Negate the negative by deliberately limiting time spent dwelling on problems or on unhealthy comparisons with others.

Dr Lyubomirsky believes that by doing this we are effectively ‘moving’ ourselves into a ‘happy place’, and whilst we may not, ‘take up full-time residence in our most balmy psychological sites, we can use those attention-shifting activities to visit regularly and break the sieges of winter.’

So what?

Place is important. If you with to pre-suasively influence someone, consider the following points:

  1. Is this the best location for what I am about to attempt?
    Does this place hold any hidden meaning for me or for the individual that I’m trying to influence? If yes, is that meaning positive or negative? If no, could I find a better place, for example a nice coffee bar, a park, a walk that we have taken together. The key is to find a location that is more likely to put the other person’s (or your) mind, into a place where they are more receptive to your message.
  2. What can I do to help the person that I am trying to influence, access their own ‘happy place’?
    You can help by creating environments that are stimulating and enable people to visualise the people, places or outcomes that you desire.

Pre-suasion is not a magic bullet, but it can help to set up the conditions which will ultimately lead to a more receptive response to the message you are trying to deliver. Together with the other pre-suasion principles, it’s a very effective tool to carry in your toolbox.