How Your Imagination Can Help Improve Your Well-Being and Even Assist in Negotiations
It all comes down to the power of positive thinking.
Entrepreneurs use their imaginations to find innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems, but according to some recent studies, that quality can also be a big help when it comes to negotiation and improving your general well-being.
Researchers from Harvard found that if you imagine a future event will have a good outcome, you’re more likely to reflect on it positively after it occurs.
The psychologists gave a group of 27 people a series of 12 situations. For each one, they asked them to imagine the event going well or going badly, and had them describe what happened for three minutes. After a 15-minute break, the participants were asked to imagine that it was a year later, and they read stories about the events which contained positive, negative and neutral details.
They found that the study participants incorrectly cited more positive details about the scenario as being the true sequence of what happened than they did the negative details. Ultimately, they were more likely to identify positive details as "true" if they had imagined that the event went well. Meanwhile, imagining things going badly didn’t influence the memory of the situation.
"These results suggest that adopting an optimistic outlook can actually transfer to a rosier reflection once those upcoming experiences become part of the personal past," explained study author Aleea Devitt in a summary of the findings.
One business scenario that particularly requires the power of positive thinking is negotiation.
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Another study recently looked at what potential job candidates can do to put themselves into a more favorable position if they don’t have any leverage in their back pocket, like, for example, a competing offer.
Researchers from the European School of Management and Technology and the European Institute of Business Administration asked 306 participants to try to sell a used CD to a fictional buyer.
They were split into three groups: one was told that a another buyer offered $8, the second group didn’t have an alternative offer and the third was asked to imagine that they had secured a strong alternative.
“Negotiators who mentally simulated an alternative made more ambitious first offers than those with no alternative,” the researchers wrote in a summary of the findings for Harvard Business Review. “Although strong alternatives are important for a successful negotiation, we often need to negotiate without the luxury of having them. Our findings suggest that you can partially compensate for this lack of power by mentally simulating a realistic but ambitious alternative.”
If you go in with the confidence of someone who does have leverage in their back pocket, you can make a less than ideal situation work for you. And if you take the tack of the Harvard study, even if it doesn’t go the way you hope, envisioning a positive outcome can help give a boost later on when the situation comes your way again.
Is this something you would try? Let us know in the comments.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.