How the Word “Because” Increases Your Influence


“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine?”

“Excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

In a famous study by Ellen Langer and others appearing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, sixty percent of the persons in line complied with the first request.  Ninety-four percent complied with the second request.  Why?  The second request contained the magic word “because” which triggered giving the reason.

Best-selling author, Nancy Duarte, says that most do a good job of explaining what they want.  But they are pretty inept at explaining the “why.”

For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday?”  The “what” is clear (environmental audit) and the “how” is apparent (attached spreadsheet).  But the “why” is missing.

When asked about the missing “why”, the manager said, “The reason is obvious.  Failure to document could result in consequences.  The other party may or may not have been aware of the manager’s assumption.

Increase your persuasion by ensuring that the word “because” is part of the request.  For example, “Could you complete this environmental audit, using the attached spreadsheet, by Friday because we need the documentation to prove compliance to the auditors?”

 

2 thoughts on “How the Word “Because” Increases Your Influence

  1. Great study! – Does the (a) type of rationale and (b) length of explanation affect compliance?

    “Would you complete this audit because it is expected of you” be an effective “because”?

    Would a “because” that explains in fine-grained detail the reason dor completing an audit ne effective?

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    • Excellent point.

      I recall overhearing a parent’s conversation with a young child;

      Parent: Quit playing that video game and do your homework!
      Child: Why?
      Parent: Because I said so.

      The parent’s use of the word “because” in this case probably does not accomplish the intended goal of increasing influence. Your point, if I understand correctly, is the use of the word “because” should introduce a logical reason for performing the act. I agree completely.

      Like

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