Optimism and positivity are ingrained in KW’s DNA, so it makes perfect sense they would select the NYT bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential, Shawn Achor, to serve as the keynote speaker for their first in-person Family Reunion in two years. It’s also no surprise the room was packed to the gills with everyone from KW executives to real estate professionals from all over the world. But, unbeknownst to the in-person and virtual attendees, this session would require more than passive observation.
For an hour and a half, Achor commanded the audience’s attention with an immaculate arrangement of personal anecdotes, compelling research, and happiness-enhancing experiments. To experience the first two items on that list, attendees are encouraged to watch the recording of the full keynote on the Family Reunion online platform, which you can access after the event until April 25, 2022. To experience the experiments, keep scrolling.
Experiment One: Activating Your Mirror Neurons
Shortly after introducing himself, Achor asked the thousands of audience members for a little favor. He wanted them to partake in “the largest positive psychology experiments we’ve ever done.” It began with each attendee partnering with someone near them, but with a catch. “I’m legally required to tell you that you cannot partner up with someone you’re married to for this experiment, or that you wish you were married to,” Achor announced, half-jokingly.
With everyone partnered up, Achor assigned them the roles of partner #1 and partner #2 based on their proximity to the stage. He noted he was using location as a determinant because when he did this experiment with a group of Wall Street executives, they argued for over five minutes about who gets to be #1.
Once the roles were assigned, Achor instructed all the #1s to be physically and emotionally neutral for seven seconds while the #2s smiled genuinely and warmly into their eyes. Try as they might, the majority of the #1s in the room couldn’t remain neutral. Some broke down instantaneously, while others took several seconds, but practically everyone ended up smiling in the end. To demonstrate the power of mirror neurons even further, Achor asked the partners to switch roles and try it again. Sure enough, even with the advantage of knowing the experiment’s purpose, the #2s couldn’t resist smiling back at their partners.
Achor used this experiment to demonstrate just how contagious emotions can be. To give a real-world example, he explained the Ritz-Carlton 10/5 Rule, where employees are trained to smile at every guest who comes within 10 feet of them and introduce themselves to any guest who comes within 5. Because of this, Ritz-Carlton has become the gold standard of customer service in the hotel industry, and it’s largely thanks to activating mirror neurons in a positive way.
Experiment Two: Be Grateful While You Brush
For multiple reasons, the audience could not participate in the second experiment live, but you can bet the majority of them tried it while getting ready for bed that evening. It combines the simple and repetitive act of teeth brushing with the introspective and intentional act of self-reflection. It’s also so convenient, even NASA astronauts do it.
To try it, you simply spend the 60ish seconds it takes to brush your teeth before bed thinking about three things you are grateful for in the past 24 hours. That last part is important. According to Achor, research suggests that pairing things you are grateful for in your distant past with dental hygiene makes conjuring up those memories as mechanical as brushing your molars. When you condition yourself to seek gratitude on a daily basis, you start constantly scanning for reasons to be grateful every moment of your waking life.
Achor says this is especially effective with people exhibiting low to moderate levels of pessimism, who are constantly scanning their environment for dangers. When you replace those dangers with gratitude as you brush your teeth, you significantly reduce your anxiety and risk of cavities.
Experiment Three: 21 Days of Social Connectedness
Although Achor didn’t explicitly encourage audience members to attempt this final experiment during the keynote, the clacking of laptop and smartphone keyboards suggests many attendees couldn’t resist. The prompt is simple: for 21 days, spend two minutes writing a thank-you text or email to one person you know. The trick, however, is you have to write a new person every day.
Achor predicts that by day eight, most people will have to think a little harder about who to reach out to next. That’s the point. As humans, we sometimes get lost in ourselves and our inner circles, but the truth is, our networks are larger than we realize. Achor remembered his 21-day experiment taking him so far out into his sphere, he found himself messaging an English teacher he hadn’t spoken to for decades to thank them for sparking his love of writing.
“Loneliness is not the absence of people,” Achor explained. “It’s the absence of feeling like you have a meaningful impact upon them, or they have [a meaningful impact] on you.” According to Achor, social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness. When real estate professionals establish meaningful connections with their clients, it lays the foundation for better relationships, businesses, and communities. That is the real happiness advantage.