“Because I said so!” Mom (or Dad)

You may not be aware of how your mom and dad conditioned you to simply comply with other people’s requests but I’m here to tell you they did. Unknowingly, all mom and dad did was use a single word, the same word their parents probably used on them, and you were set up to be more compliant. What word am I talking about? “Because!”

While “because” makes you “fall in line,” it can actually help you get to the front of the line. A behavioral scientist named Ellen Langer conducted a study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) generously allowed the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked unsuspecting people, “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing she was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, told the experimenter she could get in front of them.

Of course if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the question is this – was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to say “Yes”? Back at it one more time the experimenter asked, “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You’d think people might have denied that request saying, or at least thinking, “We’re all in line to make copies so wait your turn like everybody else!” After all, her was reason irrelevant…and still, 93% of the people let her go ahead! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

The social psychologists think we don’t pay attention the reason given because we are so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention what comes next. Again, think about your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. I’ll bet quite often you heard (and might say to your kids), “Because I said so!”

So how does this understanding impact you? Two ways come to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you would not have done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me (she’s a teenager now and doesn’t seem to ask as much any more) what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her some day. Once during a conversation I shared the copier study and told her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Some time ago, long after that conversation, Abigail and I were w
atching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line. Smart producers were using consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new Idol CD. As Ryan would talk about the CD he would try to make his way into the line but each time people motioned him farther back. Eventually he was at the very end of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurts out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and replied, “What?” She said, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

Wow! I have no clue why some stories stick with kids and other stories don’t but I was sure glad that one stuck because it’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.” You know how I know, because the science tells me so…and you can believe that reason!

To let me know what you thought of this week’s posting click on the comments link below and share your thoughts.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

The World’s Most Cited Living Social Psychologist

In several past blogs I’ve mentioned the name Dr. Robert Cialdini. I thought it would be helpful to let you know more about him for several reasons. First, Dr. Cialdini’s work is the basis for most of what I have shared and will continue to share in this blog.

Obviously having a doctorate gives him lots of credibility but I thought you should know more because he’s the Tiger Woods of his field. He is billed as the world’s most frequently cited living social psychologist.

I met Dr. Cialdini in the summer of 2004 when he was a guest speaker at State Auto. His presentations to our agents on the ethical use of influence were some of the best received ever. Later that year I attended his two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop. His work in the area of ethical influence became the basis for much of the sales training I have conducted since that time.

In January 2008 I had the privilege of spending a week with Dr. Cialdini, Dr. Gregory Neidert and other members of the Influence at Work staff when I earned my CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer) designation. That week-long training, which concluded with a rather rigorous test (he is a professor after all!), allowed me to earn my CMCT designation. Currently there are only about two dozen active CMCTs world-wide. That certification allows me to conduct Dr. Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion workshop, which I’ve been doing the past year and a half with State Auto managers and supervisors.

So what’s the big deal about Dr. Cialdini compared to other social psychologists? As I alluded to earlier, he’s recognized as the undisputed leader in his field. If you happened to have read the Time Magazine article “How Obama is Using the Science of Change” you might recall the opening paragraph mentioning “a world-famous team of scientists, psychologists and economists.” The first person quoted in the next paragraph was Dr. Cialdini, the most famous of the world-famous team!
His book Influence: Science and Practice, now on its 5th edition, has sold more than million copies. And, the book recently received an incredible endorsement when it was named the best marketing book of all time in a book entitled The 100 Best Business Books of All-Time. Wow!
Dr. Cialdini recently co-authored Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive along with Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin. Yes focuses on real world, every day things you can do to be more persuasive. I highly recommend the book.
What I love about teaching ethical influence is its versatility. By that I mean, when you learn about persuasion and adjust your communication style accordingly it will help you be more successful in your career, you’ll negotiate better deals when you’re the customer, and it can even help you be a better spouse or parent. Bottom line, it can help you be more effective and successful in all your relationships.
If you have any doubt about the impact of social psychology and influence then consider this recent example. My daughter Abigail and I were at the Polaris Mall on Saturday and we noticed what looked like a book signing in front of Waldenbooks. We slowed down long enough to see the name of the book which was The Christian Athlete. I told Abigail I didn’t recognize the man behind the counter, who I assumed was the author. A man at the end of the line heard me said, “I’m not sure what it is but it must be good because there’s a line.”
That man’s comment tracks right along with one of Dr. Cialdini’s six principles of influence – consensus. I’ve mentioned consensus (also referred to as “social proof“) before – it’s the psychological principle which tells us people look to others for clues on how they should act. For the man at the end of the line, the simple fact that many people were in line meant something good awaited him so he joined the crowd. If you take a look at last week’s posting, “Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends,” you’ll see how consensus can help, or hurt, your efforts when it comes to promoting a product or gathering.


Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends

As a kid I remember my mom saying things come in threes. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity to that but it always seemed like famous people died in sets of three. Right or wrong, superstition or coincidence, what my mom said stuck with me. So, when I recently noticed three similar things occurring in a relatively short period of time I thought I should write about it in this week’s blog.

What I’m going to share might just help your next event be a little more successful, and a little better attended, because of the power of persuasion.

A good friend asked me to review an invitation she was getting ready to send for an upcoming webinar. Part of the invitation read as follows:

“Registration limited to only 20 organizational teams, and 4 teams have already signed up.”

Mentioning the limited seating was good use of the principle of scarcity because people are motivated to act when things they want appear to be limited, rare or dwindling. The fact that only 20 teams would get to participate should motivate people to sign up rather quickly so they won’t miss out on what could be a great learning opportunity.

However, mentioning only four teams had signed up was working against my friend because it was not a motivator to sign up. In fact, it was a demotivator because it goes counter to another principle of influence known as consensus.
Consensus is the name for the psychological principle that tells us people look to others when deciding what actions to take, especially when they’re not quite sure what to do. With kids we call it “peer pressure” but that same psychological pressure is at work on us as adults, too. If we see many people, or people similar to ourselves, doing something, we tend believe it’s probably the right thing to do and quite often we go along with the crowd. If you don’t believe that then ask yourself why you stood up last time there was a standing ovation for some event that really, you didn’t particularly care for.
Consensus can help motivate people to action but it can also work in reverse. If we don’t see many people doing something then we might not be inclined to do it either. For example, talking about what a shame it is that so many people don’t vote only legitimizes not voting in the minds of many people. As far as my friend’s invitation, although four registered teams before the official invitation went out was a good thing, my advice was to change the wording, or remove it altogether, because people receiving the invitation might see that as a lack of participation and decide not to sign up.
At the beginning of this week’s posting I said three things came to my attention so here are the other two. These were also invitations to public events but they differed slightly from the previous example. When I went to sign up for these events there was a section at the bottom of each registration page with a list of attendees. Because I went to the registration sites as soon as I got the email invitations I noticed there were no attendees listed on either Web page. Falling back on my understanding of consensus I knew that was not going to motivate anyone to sign up and could actually be a deterrent.
As I’ve been writing this I just saw another invitation, this for a networking event, and 53 were signed up to attend and another 21 were interested. Those numbers will most likely entice others to join the crowd.
Consider this for just a moment; what would you think if you went to register for some event you thought was going to be a big deal but only saw a couple of people on the guest list? You might not feel the event will be worth your time. So here’s my suggestion; if you use Web sites that allow you to show people who’ve registered, don’t show the list until some critical mass is achieved. Otherwise it will probably work against you. Doing this might just make your next event the one everybody wants to attend!
I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cruising along with Influence, Part 2

When I made my last posting I mentioned my wife, Jane, and I were leaving for a cruise. We enjoyed a five-day, four-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas in the Western Caribbean. We had a great time and, on top of that, I got my idea for this week’s Influence PEOPLE posting!

When I teach the two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop one of the six principles of influence I talk about is the principle of consensus. Consensus tells us people generally look to others to determine how they should act in different situations. We tend to take our cues from large groups of people or people we see as similar to ourselves. If you’re a parent with teens you might call this “peer pressure.” No matter how you label it, the reality is we’re heavily influenced by the actions of others, particularly when we’re not quite sure what to do.

A study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of different messaging in an effort to get hotel guests to reuse their towels rather than have them washed and get new ones each day when staying for more than one night. Door hangers were used to try to accomplish this. One door hanger used a message with only an environmental appeal, “Help Save the Environment,” followed by some information on the importance of the environment. We live in a time when going green is important so this message was somewhat effective; towel reuse went up 37.2%.

A second message was tested, one that engaged the principle of consensus. The wording at the top of the second door hanger read, “Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping Save the Environment.” Beneath the heading it went on to mention 75% of guests had participated in the new towel reuse program. When this message was used towel reuse rate increased to 44.0%.

The hotel was committed to doing something to motivate its guests to help save the environment so the cost of the door hangers was a constant. The real consideration was how to best make the appeal and get the desired behavior. As you saw with the experiment, tapping into what others were doing was the better form of motivation because it resulted in an 18.3% increase over the environmental only appeal. Now that you know this, which message would you use if you were in charge of soliciting the help of others to go green?

So what does this have to do with the cruise Jane and I were just on? Royal Caribbean participates in a program known as “Save the Waves.” Because of the towel reuse study, Royal Caribbean’s “Save the Waves” placard hanging in the bathroom caught my eye. Here’s how it read,

Protect Our Oceans At Royal Caribbean, reducing waste and conserving resources such as water and electricity is a large part of the company’s Save the Waves program. You can help us reduce waste generated by laundering and conserve water by using your towel more than once. Simply place the towel on the rack to indicate: “I’ll use again.” Place the towel on the floor to indicate: “Please exchange.”

I give Royal Caribbean an “A” for effort — helping the environment is a good thing — but only a “C” for execution. With almost 40 ships in its fleet and a capacity of 79,000 passengers at any one time, approximately four million passengers cruise with Royal Caribbean each year. Increasing towel reuse and decreasing electricity usage for 5%, 10%, perhaps even 20% more passengers can have a huge overall impact on the ocean and the Royal Caribbean’s expenses.Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t work for a hotel or cruise line so what’s this have to do with me?” Each of us has countless opportunities to influence people every day and too often we don’t leverage the science of influence which means we’re not as successful as we could be. If a huge corporation like Royal Caribbean, which has a lot at stake with helping preserve the environment and reducing expenses, can miss a golden opportunity, who are we to think we’re not missing them too, especially when we have so much less on the line?

As I noted last week, this is the type of real world application I’ll be sharing with you as we continue this persuasion journey together. I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.


Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Principle of Consensus

The Principle of Consensus tells us, when people are unsure how to act in certain situations, they tend to look to others to see how they should respond. It makes me think about the old saying, “There’s safety in numbers.”

For example, when making a major purchase on something we don’t know lots about, we just feel better when we know there have been many other satisfied customers. After all, what are the chances all those people were all wrong?

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know this principle is true because you’re constantly warning against “peer pressure” when it’s related to bad choices. During their teens, kids look to other kids for their cues on how to talk, dress and act.

Even though they may see themselves as different, to adults most teenagers look and act alike. The reality is, teens may be different than their parents but they’re just the same as their friends.

How can understanding the consensus principle help you? Two ways. First, just share with people whose behavior you’re trying to influence how lots of other people are already doing what you’re asking them to do.

The second way would be to share with them what people like them are doing. We are very motivated to want to move with the crowd because we’ve been taught there’s safety in numbers.