What’s the worst thing somebody could do to you if you were standing in line? Cut in front of you.
A professor at Harvard, by the name of Ellen Langer wondered what she could do or say to people who were standing in line, that would let them let her cut in line.
There was a copy machine on campus that always had a line in front of it, so she took her research assistants – rude students – and approached the line.
The first group approached the line, and they said, “Excuse me. May I cut in line, because I am in a terrible hurry?” Ninety-four percent of the time, those people were allowed to cut.
The next group approached the line, and they said, “Excuse me. May I cut in line?” That’s all they had. Only 60 percent of those people were allowed to cut in.
And then a third group approached the line. They said, “Excuse me. May I cut in line, because I have got to make some copies?” “Well, of course you do, Sherlock. This is the line for the copy machine.” Ninety-three percent of the time, those people were allowed to cut.
The findings of Ellen’s research? How do you get someone to acquiesce to your request? Give them a reason, and it doesn’t even have to be a good one.
But, see, you have good reasons. You’ve got great reasons why people should take you up on your offer, why people should go your way, take your suggestions.
What we’ve learned from Ellen Langer’s research is we need to give justification.
Oh, and by the way, there was one word in this experiment that was found to be more compelling than anything else in this particular experiment, and that word was the word “because.”
There you have it. So take from Ellen Langer’s research. How do you get someone to acquiesce to your request? Give them a reason.