90 Second Rule of Relationships

The other day my inbox got hit with a press release on behalf of Jim Fannin. Jim is a life coach, specifically for celebrities, which I found to be pretty cool. Jim, don’t celebrities need a psycho-therapist, not a life coach? The press release had a very short, but powerful synopsis of Jim Fannin’s project, the “90 Second Rule”:

If you’ve been away from someone you care about or love for at least two hours, the first 90-seconds that you see them has more impact on the relationship than spending hours with them later.

Pavlov’s Dogs

Damnit, he got me! It makes perfect sense (and resonates with me) if you look at it from a psychological perspective. Remember hearing about Pavlov and his salivating dogs? I studied psychology all throughout university, so I heard this story one too many times. Dr. Ivan Pavlov won the 1904 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for this experiment.

We all know that dogs naturally salivate when you bring them food, if you don’t know, just try it. Ivan Pavlov inserted a special device that measured how much saliva a dog produced when food was brought to it. This was the control of the experiment.

Next, Dr. Pavlov added another factor. He synchronized a bell *dong*, with bringing the dog food. Surely the saliva level was the same. He continued to condition the dog repeatedly for some time by always giving the food and the *dong* together.

After doing this conditioning for enough time, Dr. Pavlov was able to force the dog to salivate by merely ringing the bell. Measuring the levels of saliva, they were significantly like the control, when the dog used to salivate over food. Pretty wild stuff right?

The scary part is that this could easily happen to us. And it does. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way, and the worst part is that we don’t always have the self-awareness to know that it’s happening to us. Not just wish salivating, but with EVERYTHING.

We’re Like Dogs Too

We’re like dogs too, in the sense that we can be conditioned for just about anything. Imagine everyday at school, in first period, the teacher walks in, yells at you, and smacks you in the back of the head with a ruler. What will your opinion be of this teacher? More interestingly, what will happen to your blood pressure and anxiety level as soon as she first walks through the door. This is not a good type of reinforcement.

Imagine at the start of your work day, your boss comes up to you and gives you a hearty greeting. Your boss praises you, and tells you not to hesitate to approach her, because it’s your bosses job to serve you, and you’re all working towards a mutual mission. Pretty good reinforcement eh?

90 Second Rule

What’s up with the whole “first 90 seconds” thing, what’s the significance in that? This is my take on it: At “first” our brain experiences a sense of novelty (a new experience), at which point we’re much more mentally stimulated, excited, and aware. After this, our brain gets used to the other person being there, and they’ve already had an opportunity to set an impression on us and set the tone to go in a certain direction.

The other reason is that when someone is gone, you miss them, and this is the opportunity to enjoy being reunited. When someone’s been by your side for 10 hours, you’re not really “missing them,” are you?

The 90 Second Rule video, created by Jim Fannin, is really simple, that’s what I like about it. Sure it stereotypes men as the bread winner, but surely we can look past that, in order to see a perfect illustration of the 90 second rule principles. Enjoy.

YouTube Preview Image

Dear readers, which relationships in your life do you think would most benefit from using the 90 second rule?

Posted by in Relationships, Videos | May 20, 2009 | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Print | 17 comments

  • Lauren

    I find this to be so fascinating, mainly because I never thought of how important that time was before. I could most use the 90 second rule with my boyfriend. He is the person I see the most of since we live together. I am typically on my laptop working or checking my blogs when he gets home, so I definitely need to put him first (if not for that first 90 seconds)

  • http://www.expressyourselftosuccess.com Laurie | Express Yourself to Success

    Great post.
    While greeting people has always been important to me, I never thought of it as specifically as the 90-second rule. These few seconds are precious and they have a big impact on the hours and days ahead.

    Thanks for sharing this information!

  • http://www.questforbalance.com Lisis

    Hey, Alex! I have to tell you I was a little skeptical about how important those initial moments could possibly be… until I watched the video. I recognized too many familiar scenes: the blackberry, the bills, the kids… I’m glad you included it.

    Well, my hubby’s getting back from a 3 day trip to Idaho today. I guess I’d best start preparing for my 90 seconds of fame. 😉

  • http://www.alexshalman.com Alex Shalman

    @Lisis Nice! Hopefully he has more than 90 seconds of fame for you after being gone for 3 days =)

  • http://www.questforbalance.com Lisis

    Well, Alex… I’ll have to wait till after my son’s bedtime to find out about that, and get back to you. On second thought… probably won’t brief you on that.


  • http://cupalatte.blogspot.com Kim

    Ahhh, thanks for this article. I’ve been a terrible greeter when I come home. More times than not, I’m grouchy, tired, and impatient from sitting in traffic.

  • http://www.insourcedjobs.com/ Anthony

    Nice vid. Great insights. I’ll be applying that rule from now on.

  • Anna

    this is so true.. i’m gonna work extra hard at making those 90seconds a positive experience everytime i encounter ANYONE

  • http://www.alexshalman.com Alex Shalman

    @Anna… that just sounded really creepy. I can just see you getting super hyper and attacking people for 90 seconds at a time. Haha, JK. I hope dental school is going well, and you’re enjoying rotations!

  • Adam

    This has a been a great eye-opener so thanks for the heads-up!

  • Anna

    LOL i will attack them with positive energy .. and I’ve also developed my own 90second goodbye rule.. which states that whenever you leave someone you leave them on good terms just as when you greet them hello.

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  • shamim

    failure is the pillar of success! shit!
    i’ve tried and failed. at 6 o’clock in the evenin i get struck to boredom! no girlfriend no life. i think my life sucks….

  • http://www.coupleoncouples.com Graeme

    God the first two minutes of that video is the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen! Haha, the idea is great though, thanks Alex.