Visualization: The battle between I will vs. Will I

I was flipping back through To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink again and one of the things that I noticed was a section on visualization that I thought was really interesting. I’ve talked about visualization in the past several times. I’ve talked about it in the context of meetings, negotiations, and just generally as a means of envisioning your idea of success; thereby putting yourself into a better state of mind to succeed. There’s obviously nothing earth shattering about that idea. Everyone from Tony Robbins to athletic coaches talk about the use of visualization as a tool, along with countless other people who preach the benefits of visualization. What I thought was interesting is some of the most recent research they spoke about in To Sell is Human.

One particular experiment he mentions talks about the difference between saying to yourself that you can do something, making a declarative statement such as, “I can make this sale,” “I can win this negotiation,” or “I can convince this person to do x,” vs. asking yourself an interrogative question saying something like, “Can I make this sale?” “Can I win this negotiation?” ect. In this experiment, people were broken down into two different groups and made to solve puzzles. Both groups were treated equally until the final minute before they were unleashed on the puzzles. In that final minute, one group was asked to tell themselves they will solve the puzzles and the other group was told to ask themselves if they could solve the puzzles. Interestingly, the group that was told to ask whether they could solve the puzzles routinely outperformed the other group by almost 50%. (Pink, 2012)

The logic that’s been used to explain it in the book, is the declarative group of I will do somethings, gets you a bump over the control group that didn’t say anything to themselves, didn’t visualize, didn’t do any mental preparation going into an activity because they maybe had a little more confidence; but the group that asked if they could do something were forced to think through the things that might enable them to succeed. So by saying, “Will I convince this person?” you start thinking what have I done before like this, how have I been successful like this before, what are the things I need to do to prepare myself, and it begins to build more confidence and actually give you access to the resources and strategies to aptly finish the task successfully. By asking the question you give yourself clues as to how you’ll accomplish something and ensures that you take any of the steps that have previously made you successful before. So I just thought it was really interesting to look at what a difference, just in how you frame things in your visualizations, small changes such as can vs. will can make. I really appreciated the logic in that experiment and it’s definitely something that I will literally carry directly from the book into my own life. This experiment is something that I think really adds to visualization techniques value as they pertain to how you’re going to go forward in a meeting and in just about anything else you’re going to do. I’d be curious to know if there are other people out there who regularly use visualization before meetings, before going into a negotiation, before you talk to your teams ect. If you do visualize, how do you approach it? Are you a declarative I will person or are you an interrogative person who asks if they can?

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Surprising – If I am reading this right – that the people who questioned their ability to get it done vs. saying with confidence that they would were superior. There’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. I definitely fall on the side of being declarative.

Peter Sperry

It seems logical the groups that questions themselves will do better over time. Their natural flow is “Can we do this?” (verbalized/visualized) “HOW can we do this?” (unspoken/unvisulalized). Conciously asking the first question leads the subconcious to the second question. Groups which start wit a positive affiremation tend to subconciously avoid the HOW question because it raises doubt and appears disloyal to their affirmation. Over a long series of projects, teams which answer the HOW question early will outperform teams that simply affirm their self confidence.

BTW, the truly successful groups do not start with themselves. Instead they first ask “Can this be done at all?” Followed by “HOW” followed by “Can we implement the HOW?” if not, “who do we hire?” if yes “Let’s get started.”