When I first started drinking coffee, I took it like my dad: Light and sweet.
But things changed as I got older. As I developed a taste for good coffee, I eventually started drinking espresso--and I took it black, no sugar. This was the only way I could tell the difference between different roasts, and develop a full appreciation for good coffee.
Of course, this development didn't happen overnight.
It was an acquired taste.
Interestingly, psychologists have discovered that we acquire many tastes in the same way: gradually, many times without expecting it.
And sometimes, without even realizing it.
The rule of acquired taste is based on principles of emotional intelligence, the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. Let's break down how the rule works, and how it can help you build better habits, a better business, and a better life.
What is the rule of acquired taste?
Familiarity breeds contempt. Yes, that may hold true in certain circumstances. But psychologists have actually proved the opposite.
In the late 1960s, psychologist Robert Zajonc developed a study in which he showed participants a series of images in rapid succession. The images were random and not really linked in any way; they included geometric shapes, paintings, pictures of faces, and Chinese symbols. The images quickly appeared and disappeared, but some images appeared with more frequency with others.
When researchers later asked subjects which images they liked the best, participants repeatedly chose the images they had been shown the most.
As one psychology reference put it:
"What Zajonc seemed to have discovered was that familiarity brings about an attitude change, breeding affection or some form of preference for the familiar stimulus. This increases with exposure: the greater your number of exposures to something, the more affection you will feel toward it."
"To put it simply, 'the more you see it, the more you like it.'"
How to build better habits, a better business, and a better life
Zajonc's findings were important to the field of emotional intelligence because they helped prove that we as humans often make decisions, not based on reason or rationality, but because of how we feel about something, how familiar it is to us.
And that little piece of knowledge can completely change your approach to life.
For example, do you want to develop better habits?
Then spend time with people who have the habits you want. You can do this in person, or by reading about them, watching videos of them, observing and studying them.
At the same time, you must remember:
You can learn bad habits as quickly as good ones. So when you decide who to learn from, choose carefully.
Are you a manager who wants your team to like and respect you?
Make a point to be around. Pay them visits, make them feel you care. It's not about checking up, it's about checking in.
Then, make sure you have an open door policy. And when they come to you, put away your devices and step away from the computer. Show them that they have your full attention.
Do you want to build a popular business?
Create a brand you like, then expose others to it as much as you can. Give your best work away for free. Remember, the more people see it, the more (some) will like it--and spread it.
You don't want to build a brand that people tolerate, or even "like." You want to build a brand that people love.
On the other hand, be careful about those you do business with. Because if you surround yourself with people who have low standards, guess where you're going to end up?
So, when it comes to building habits and learning from others, remember the rule of acquired taste:
The more you see it, the more you like it.
And in the end, whether it's light and sweet, or pure and simple, it's important to know how you got there.
And where you're headed.
(If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for my free emotional intelligence course, and every day for 10 days, you'll get a rule designed to help you make emotions work for you, instead of against you.)