We all know that the first few seconds are critical in making good first impressions.
But research shows that both the most emotional and the last experiences matter most for long-term memories, stories, and impressions.
This is explained by Peak-End theory, made famous by the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.
To help understand this, Kahneman breaks the Self into 2 parts: the Experiencing Self and the Remembering Self.
The Remembering Self is the part of us that is full of stories, whereas the Experience Self is one that has done the event.
Kahneman emphasises that it is the peaks of emotions, the highs and lows as well as the feelings at the very end of an event that create the lasting impression.
This is shown in the following diagram:
Maybe you can relate this to any roller coaster ride you have been on. If you are like me, a roller coaster ride normally starts a little slow – with your Experience Self anticipating excitement, fear and dread (high emotions) from the moment you sit down and get automatically locked in to place.
Your Experience Self knows that there will be hills to climb only to be met by gut-wrenching slopes on descent, over what might seem like an eternity. (When will this end?) More often than not it is that last crazy roll or water feature that is the wow… But it is your Remembering Self that recalls time and again some of the twists and turns and especially how the ride finished up.
I have been on many rides, but normally it's the last few seconds that I remember most. Case in point: Splash Mountain, Wet and Wild… I am sure it's the same with you.
Peak-End theory can be applied in a number of contexts:
Everyday we experience Peak-End theory in play.
1. A customer experience: the during the sale, end of sale and post sale experiences. Word of mouth and stories on the experiences are what fuel dinner table discussions.
2. A dining experience: how does the waiting staff treat the diner; what's the food like; how are complaints handled; how is the bill presented; what were the end-of-the-dinner mints like – why is it that we recall the mints that accompanied the bill the most?
3. An employee being laid off: how is the message communicated; the experience of breaking the news; the communication process; the dignity factor; the support afforded to the exiting employee.
It's no wonder that when there are poor last experiences, it motivates an ex-employee to post adverse comments online.
It has been often said that you only get one chance to make a first impression. The same can be said about last impressions.
Regardless of whatever the event is, a leader thinks through how the event will be experienced – including the highs and the lows – but pay especially deep attention to the last/end experience, the one that supports the Remembering Self.
Those that end an event with a positive hand off are bound to be remembered far more positively – creating e stories and memories of your interactions even when the middle might have been anything but that.
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About the author:
Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/
He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.
Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.