The word you are looking for is: “because“.
It works because people respond positively when they are provided with the reason behind the request – even if that reason is not particularly rational.
In 1978, Ellen Langer, a Psychology Professor at Harvard University, did a study where researchers were asked to cut in to a line of people waiting to use a photo-copy machine.
The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests when jumping in:
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Can I use the photo-copy machine?
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Can I use the photo-copy machine, because I have to make copies?”
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. Can I use the photo-copy machine, because I’m in a rush?”
Do you think the wording influenced whether people let them cut in to the queue?
Here are the results:
- Option one, where no reason was given, 60% of the people in the queue agreed to the request.
- Where a reason was given that made limited sense (in this case, because I have to make copies, 93% agreed.
- When the reason was a little more compelling (I’m in a rush), 94% agreed.
Using the word “because” and giving a reason led increased levels of agreement. This was true even when the reason was not very compelling (“because I have to make copies”).
Researchers believe that our brains (in some instances) have learnt to respond to certain things “automatically, and without too much logical thought.” These are short-cuts learnt from previous experience. It is the same phenomenon that allows us after some practice (e.g. driving a car) to perform the actions without having to think about it.
Hearing the word “because” followed by a reason (no matter how lame the reason is), causes us to comply with the request.
What does this mean to you?
If you want to get someone to do something for you (such as buy a product or service), always tell your listeners / readers why they need to do what you’re asking them to do.
Here are some examples:
- “You need to register for the Persuasive Selling workshop now, because the sooner you understand how to influence behaviour, the sooner you can start closing more sales.”
- Act now because this offer expires in two weeks, after which we can no longer accept orders”.
Test this for yourself. Explain the reason for your call to action in future e-mails and meetings and you will be amazed by the difference it makes. Try it – because it really works.
TimRef: Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of “Placebic” Information in Interpersonal Interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.