I attended a conference last week.  That isn’t noteworthy in itself except for the big learning I got from it.


You see I experienced first hand the value of priming.


So what is Priming?


It is a technique that is used heavily in Conversational Intelligence ® that is proven to increase the levels of trust with and between people.  When we prime people we open them up to higher order thinking, sharing what’s on their mind and curious to understand other perspectives.  It is a fantastic technique to use when you have to deal with an unpleasant situation.


The priming that I was subjected to was not intentional; in fact I see it as accidental.  It happened as a result of a meeting the state presidents attended the day before the conference.  We got to know each other and spent an afternoon sharing, suggesting, challenging and understanding.  I left feeling that I belonged to the team.


How often when you attend conferences do you know many people there?  Do you find it hard sometimes to find people who you connect with and share your point of view?  How does this impact what you absorb from the presentations?


As a result of the presidents meeting I had a very positive outlook on the 2 day conference.  We found ourselves touching base regularly during the conference and we talked at length about the topics.  We didn’t have to spend time getting to know each other because we had already established the team.  Instead our time was spent discussing the concepts and contexts and gaining a deeper meaning.  I felt involved, respected and trusted.


Priming, as a technique, is about engaging people’s higher order thinking.  It does this by down regulating their fears and uncertainties about the situation.  Only when this happens can people move into higher brain thinking.  This is because fear and uncertainly release cortisol which would otherwise shut down these parts of the brain.  Priming helps move people out of their default protective behaviour patterns that create distrust and insecurity.


How can this be achieved?


Supposing you need to speak to your team about a new cost cutting requirement sweeping the organisation.  These discussions are never easy and you know that it will result in them becoming upset &/or insecure about their jobs.  Teams become demotivated, their performance drops and bickering increases.


Priming offers a different outcome.


The intention of priming is for you to gain an understanding of what your team members are thinking about the situation, what their top concerns are, and what they need out of the meeting.  Your role in priming is to ask questions, clarify points and to listen without judging.  This works by settling their anxieties, giving them a space to open up and be understood.  We feel better when we have had a chance to share what is on our minds but we can only do this when we feel safe.  Therefore it is critical not to judge, crticise or defend your opinion.  Your goal is to reduce their anxiety and cortisol.  Conversational Intelligence ® is focused on brain activity and learning how to manage your own and that of others.


Now when you have the team meeting, your team will be ready to tackle the issues rather than become inwardly focused and operating out of their primitive brain.  To maintain the energy you continue to ask questions and listen without judgement allowing the team to digest the requirements and talk.  You will find the team more engaged as a result.


The key to all the suggested techniques that I offer is to experiment, fail, reflect, tweak, and experiment again to find a way that works for you.  Unfortunately there are no magic spells or quick fixes to this technique or any others in the Conversational Intelligence ® portfolio.  Practice will make improvement and you will see the benefits from the changes that take place.


If you would like more information on how to use the priming technique, please connect with me.