The Power of Surprise - Deepstash
The Power of Surprise

The Power of Surprise

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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Surprise is a big deal to our brains. It makes us stop, notice, and learn.
  • Surprise comments from others work below our conscious radar, helping us reshape our self-perception and reexamine long-held patterns of thinking.
  • Most of our formative moments—the moments that cause a revolution in our thinking—are the result of surprise.
  • We can use surprise comments strategically to enrich others’ lives and to shift our perspective on ourselves.


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Defining Surprise

Defining Surprise

Surprise is the error signal our brains produce when something unexpected or mis-expected happens. It was an essential adaptation for our ancestors because it forced them to freeze and focus on threats and opportunities. Those who could not experience surprise could not react or learn quickly enough to survive.

On a neural level, surprise is a dopamine trigger, producing the neurotransmitter that drives attention and motivation


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A Powerful Ingredient In Life Experiences

A Powerful Ingredient In Life Experiences

  • Surprise is a key ingredient in our formative moments. Formative events are the experiences that have shaped who we believe we are. They form our self-concept.
  • All of us are influenced by the combination of our past experiences, and the majority of our experiences are part of a slow, gradual evolution in self-perception. 
  • Formative events are like a sudden revolution, resulting in a sudden shift in how we perceive ourselves.


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How to Trigger a Shift in People’s Self-Perception

How to Trigger a Shift in People’s Self-Perception

  • Spot a self-criticism you’d like to help someone revise. For example, perhaps your student sees herself as a slow learner, your employee believes he lacks creativity, or your spouse beats themself up for being overly cautious.
  • Next, identify the strength that is the opposite side of the same coin. For example, maybe the student who thinks she learns slowly is also very thorough. The employee who thinks he lacks creativity is highly logical. And the flipside of your spouse’s concern is their attention to detail.


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Delivering The Message: Be Quick And Sharp

Delivering The Message: Be Quick And Sharp

Share your sincere perception of the individual’s strength. Make your message quick and to the point, as though you’re stating an empirical fact. The more you dwell on the topic or dress it up as flowery praise, the less surprising it will be, and the less power it will have to change someone’s mind. 


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The Bottom Line

Surprise has the power to help others change how they see themselves. But, crucially, it also gives us the power to change how we see ourselves.

Armed with these new surprise skills, you can now see yourself as an agent of surprise—unlocking people’s confidence and self-esteem wherever you go.


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