Reason and persuasion: you need a reason, but not necessarily a good one

(a continuation of my notes on Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.)

 

Just tell me that you’ll tell me why?

 

People are more likely to say “yes” to a request if they have been given a reason for the request.

 

Okay, we don’t need a Ph.D. to tell us that, but what is surprising is that often the reason itself isn’t important, what’s important is that there is a reason.

 

For example, in Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini gives an example of a study where people waiting in line at a copier were asked to let someone in ahead of them.

 

When the asker just said, “Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the Xerox machine,” people said yes 60 percent of the time. But when she gave a reason and said “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush,” they said yes 94 percent of the time.

 

No surprise there.

 

But when they change things up, things start to get interesting. In a different test, rather than saying “because I’m in a rush,” the asker said, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies,” people said yes 93 percent of the time.

 

Wow.

 

This shows how important it is to give a reason for our actions, even if it’s not a complete or useful explanation. Saying “because I need to make some copies” doesn’t add any information, of course she wants to make some copies. But it does trigger something in the listener that makes them more likely to say yes.

 

The lesson here is simple. Give people a reason to say yes. Always.

 

I wish this worked that well for fundraising. “Excuse me, I work for ICPJ. Can you make a $5,000 donation because I need to make some copies?”

2 thoughts on “Reason and persuasion: you need a reason, but not necessarily a good one

  1. Pingback: Influence » Blog Archive » Persuasion Psychology Has A Diversity Of Applications

  2. Pingback: Influence » Blog Archive » Why good and honest people need to bring their persuasion skills up to par

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