Posts Tagged ‘Persuasion’
In a recent article on how to ask for help, I discussed the ways in which we can elicit others’ support successfully – but I’ve recently run across a piece of research I had filed away, that I’d like to add to that discussion.
In the previous article I discussed how the field of social psychology suggests we shape our arguments when trying to elicit support. I still think this is helpful information, of course, but the following research kind of turns that notion on its head:
In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini talks about Ellen Langer’s research that shows that people are more likely to comply with requests simply because they’re followed by the word “because.”
The study had someone cut to the front of a photocopier line and ask if she could make her copies first. 60% of the people at the front of the line granted the request when no reason was given (which is pretty nice, I think) – but 94% of the people granted the request when it was followed by “because I’m in a rush.”
So this is solid advice and it makes sense so far, but the really cool thing is that a logical reason wasn’t even necessary: 93% still granted the request when the reason was “because I have to make some copies.”
Pretty cool, eh?
So the additional take-home point here is: if you don’t have the time to “sell” someone on a request, just give ‘em any old reason to do so – just make sure you use the word “because”!
Good leaders in any capacity, whether managers at work or parents at home, need help from others. And they need to know how to ask for help in a way that they’ll get it. They need the right people to take on the right tasks – the tasks for which they don’t possess the right amount of knowledge, skill, or time to do themselves; or the tasks that others should be doing for their own learning and growth.
So how do we get others to help?
People usually want to help because of who it is that’s requesting the help: if you’re an authoritative, person-centered type of leader, then getting people behind you probably isn’t a difficult task most of the time. But sometimes it’s not enough. You can also rely on the basic but time-tested behavioural principles of reward and punishment – but sometimes, despite our best efforts, the external consequences we apply still aren’t quite worth the effort of completing the task.
Thankfully the field of social psychology offers some additional tools in its principles of persuasion and helping behaviour:
When asking for help its important initially to be viewed as credible and likeable. This is definitely something to pay close attention to – but it will also only take you so far unless there are better reasons for continuing to help. Similarly, you’ll also need to go beyond the important but limited behavioural principles of reward and punishment; you’ll need to enable a wider perspective of cost versus benefit by presenting a strong argument for why the person should help.
Your argument should be long enough to include all the necessary details of, and reasons for, your request (make no assumptions and leave no room for misinterpretation), but short enough to keep the other’s attention and interest. The points in your argument need to be consistent, realistic, and personally relevant for the other person. They should evoke positive emotions, and appeal to his or her sense of moral reasoning and empathy. Finally, you should encourage the other person to think critically about your argument (and debate you on it if appropriate).
The other factors to keep in mind when planning your request are the timing of the delivery (it’s helpful if there’s a concurrent or precipitating event that makes the action more important, meaningful, or urgent); the mood your audience is in; their unique personality traits; and whether they would perceive the action as being socially acceptable through the eyes of their peers.
The next time you have a request that you know will take a little more work to gain compliance, try writing out a solid argument. Make a checklist of all the points raised above, and try to include as many of them as you can. Try to anticipate the objections that might arise to your request and argument, and develop answers to these using the same principles. Practice your argument well, and try to deliver your request at the most appropriate time and place.