If someone asks you for a small favour, you’re far more likely to do it if they explain why. However, it’s not the reason that matters. You may think it is, but you can just as easily convince people to let you go ahead of them in line with a stupid excuse. All you need to say is the word “because”.
Psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study on the effects of persuasive language, finding that one simple word made all the difference. To figure this out, Langer asked three different variations of a single request to people using a photocopier.
First, she said: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% allowed her to go ahead of them. When Langer was more specific and asked: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” the rate of compliance shot up to 94%. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
What may is the third request: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” The rate of compliance stayed about the same, at 93%, even though the excuse was completely ridiculous. Everyone in line needed to make copies, but Langer was able to cut the line by simply providing an excuse in the first place. It was the presence of the word “because” that made it easier for her to skip the wait.
It seems that next time you want to skip the line, all you have to do is ask and provide a reason. What that reason is, however, may not matter at all.
One Word Persuasion [Cognizance]