Endings matter. They really do! But before I tell you why this is true, let’s start with a warm-up.
Suppose for a moment that…you’re going out for dinner. It’s busy at restaurant X and you have to wait 40 minutes before being seated. The waitress seems stressed and messes up your order. At the table next to you there’s a baby constantly crying and the air conditioning is blowing so hard that you’re shivering all the way through dinner. The chocolate cake you have for desert is however the most delicious one you’ve EVER had. And the best part is that the not-so-friendly waitress offers it to you free of charge, as a way to make up for bad service.
According to the ‘Peak End Theory’ you’ll remember and judge this event PRIMARILY based on how you felt at its Peak (or: most intense moment) and its End.
Event = eating dinner at Restaurant X
Peak = 40 minute wait
End = delicious desert and great service
When a friend asks you about your evening out, you might say something like:
“It was good! If you ever go to Restaurant X you HAVE to try the chocolate cake, it’s the BEST! Be prepared to wait though, it’s a very busy restaurant. But you know what? They offered the desert for free, which I think is great costumer service”.
The peak–end rule is a psychological heuristic in which people judge an event largely based on how they felt at its peak (the most intense moments) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the event. The effect occurs regardless of whether the experience is pleasant or unpleasant.
5 Simple Questions
I personally apply this knowledge in my work by ending my meetings and sessions on a good note. It doesn’t matter if I’m wrapping up an individual coaching session, a presentation, a team meeting, or a workshop; I always end the meeting by asking (at least) one of the following five questions:
What are your taking away?
What did you get out of this?
What was most valuable to you?
What did you appreciate most?
What will you do differently?
These 5 simple questions invite people to reflect on the best and most impactful parts of their experience. This adds a positive gloss and stimulates continued learning and growth after the meeting.
Application in Work and Life
There are many other ways in which ‘The Peak End Theory’ is applicable in daily life.
How might you apply the ‘Peak End Theory’ in the following situations?
- You want to leave a good impression after a job interview.
- You want to retain the talented employees on your team.
- You want to impress or satisfy a new client.
- You want to repair a damaged relationship or friendship.
- You want to enhance learning effects after a training you facilitated.
- Or you just want to just to spice up the weekly team meeting that has become so boring and ineffective lately.
In what situations might you apply ‘The Peak End Theory’ in your life?
Just play around with it and see how it serves you. Don’t forget to share your ideas and experiences! You might inspire others to take control over their wellbeing and success!
Want to learn more about why and how endings really matter?