Having coffee in a meeting is the norm pretty much worldwide, and it’s always good etiquette to offer attendees a beverage. Coffee seems to be the go to drink due to its benefits of helping to keep you focussed and alert (see our post about the benefits of coffee here). Have you ever thought about how the temperature of your drink could change the outcome of the meeting?
Research has shown that holding a hot beverage can have unexpected effects on how accommodating we can be to other attendees of the meeting. Can the temperature of a drink really determine our thoughts and behaviour towards others?
Warmer hands, warmer personality
A study by Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado and John A. Bargh of Yale in 2008, was used to test how holding a hot coffee or an iced coffee can affect people’s opinions of a stranger’s personality. Not knowing this was part of the experiment, each participant was asked to hold a coffee whilst an assistant wrote down their name in the elevator, half of them held a hot coffee and the other half iced.
All the participants were asked to rate the personality of this stranger they just met in the elevator. Were they a caring, generous and generally good natured person? The conclusion was that a higher percentage of those who held the warm coffee considered the person to have a warm personality.
Does warmth encourage a more generous nature?
In another study by the same researchers, participants were asked to review a therapeutic pad, then advise whether they would recommend it to their friends. Half had a hot pad and half had a cold pad. As a thank you for taking part in the market research, all participants could choose from a refreshment for themselves or a gift certificate for a friend.
The results shown only 25% of the cold pad holders opted for the gift for a friend, compared to 50% of the hot pad holders. This led the researchers to conclude that holding something warm can have a direct effect on a person’s generosity
Author and Tel Aviv University professor Thalma Lobel, says this is part of a concept know as embodied cognition.
"On the basis of these concrete concepts we learn more abstract concepts. When we touch something warm, without our being aware of that process, it activates the concept of a warm personality."
This research all points to the same outcome, that holding a warm coffee encourages more caring and generous behaviour. This is all well and good to help win people over and build a good rapport, but if you are in a negotiation and need to stand strong you may need to swap this around to work in your favour. Perhaps a hot coffee first to warm to each other, then an iced-latte when it’s time to talk business.