A group of water-skiers waiting their turn at the Water-Sports Carnival at Kairaki

Can’t wait for their turn! Odds are that these water-skiers anticipating their turn will have a more fun ride than those who went first.

Who doesn’t love/hate a good build up?  Understanding the science behind anticipation can make your parties exceptionally exciting, your dinners unbelievably delicious, and your kisses utterly irresistible. Think of it more as presentation than manipulation as you tactfully play with your subjects’ emotions. This months book, The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot provides us with inside information on how to use anticipation.  Here’s what you should know:

Child and Dog Wait for Santa Claus by Fireplace, Rocky Mount, NC, 1955

Just like waiting for Santa to come on Christmas, waiting is half the fun!

Build up is fun! Think about a time when you planned a trip in advance.  Daydreams, excitement, countdowns, and happiness fill days or months leading up to the vacation.  Weekly girls’ night or even traditional Monday night spaghetti dinners give you something to look forward to.

Not only do you have a fun date marked on your calendar, you also experience happiness while waiting for your prize.  According to Sharot, the areas of the brain activated both while imagining something pleasurable and experiencing something pleasurable are the same.  Though the two are not substitutable, the amount of joy we get from them is sometimes very comparable. Sharot gives a few pointers on how to get the most pleasure out of anticipation.

  1. Make it great. When a reward is expected to be very great, we get the most joy waiting for it.
  2. Paint a picture. “The more vividly we are able to imagine an event, the greater pleasure from anticipating it.”
  3. Make it a certainty. “How probable you think the event is influences how joyful anticipating it will be.”
  4. Ramp it up. As the event draws nearer, the anticipation and joy should go up.
358 Tyndall Field WWII

Best drink ever at best party ever!!! With the right prep, it’s everything they imagined it would be.

People will enjoy something decidedly more when they’ve had time to imagine how great it is.  Don’t worry about over-hyping.  As long as you don’t lie about what’s happening or what’s there, you’re fine.  In fact, the more you sell a reward, the better it’s perceived upon arrival.  People get so much joy from anticipating the reward, they already are biased about how good it is.  So, for instance, once someone has thought about how fun water skiing is for months, and then watched others water skiing before their turn arrives, when they get the chance to water ski, they will perceive it as more fun than they would have if they immediately went water skiing on a whim.  By imagining how fun it is and all the things that make it fun, someone heightens the fun experienced.  It is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

How you do it. Though a lot of how you hype your prize is up to personal style, there are some tricks anyone can use to make the most of the anticipation period.

  1. Enhance your excitement. Express your excitement for the event. Include why and how much. I can’t wait for the concert! I’ve wanted to see them live for 10 years. We are so lucky to have tickets!!
  2. Descriptors + superlatives + details. This part is easy. Just throw in everything you know and put awesome, great, amazing, fun, hilarious, etc. in as much as possible.  The band is amazing and the show is unbelievable! They move the entire show and half of it they’re in the audience.  I heard they have surprise guests coming too.
  3. Pictures worth a thousand words. Send pictures that will elicit thoughts of upcoming event. Send pics of arena, guitars, microphones, tickets, band, music notes, etc.
  4. Set a date and time. This. is. happening. Nail down a date and time so the countdown can begin asap. We have tickets!February 28 8pm Hollywood Bowl Row 31 seat 15 and 16!!
  5. Friendly reminders.  Take advantage of growing anticipation and text reminders or update Facebook invites. You can add more details of event, note meeting places, update schedule, or suggest what to wear/bring.  3 more days! Bring your Flip camera… we’re gonna need to document!

Building anticipation is a fun and powerful tool.  Be aware that it is great when used for rewards that aren’t always available and that’s value won’t depreciate with a longer waiting period…like a puppy. Don’t make someone wait a year for your puppy. It’s not as cute then.

Use it all you want when appropriate though. Rethink those surprises and consider how much greater your present may be if you add in the value of anticipation. At least consider giving a date and description of your great reward.

Most of all have fun and share all those great expectations, because joy through excitement-filled waiting periods is what anticipation is all about.