How To Convince People To Let You Cut In Line

How To Convince People To Let You Cut In Line

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]


  • I am right in saying that this is incredibly old – as in years and years? I’m sure it is, not that it makes it any less relevant I suppose.

  • Train arriving in 10 minutes. Massive queue for tickets. Old Lady behind me in line is getting agitated. She over hears me say that I need to buy a weekly ticket.

    OLD Lady: Did you say you need to buy a weekly ticket?
    Me: Yes
    OL: May I get in front of you so that I can get down the stairs to the train. I take longer to get down stairs these days.
    Me: Weekly tickets takes less time to buy than your pensioner ticket love. I need to get this train as much as you do. Hang in there.

    If only she had have said “Because” maybe I would have let her go in front of me….but then again.

    • Dont you love the fact that pensioners get discounted everthing ( and so they should ) BUT they should then realise that they shouldnt take prime time for things like early morning or after work doctor appointments. I mean what the hell are they rushing for ???

  • I watched and wept as my friend went from almost the back all the way to the front of the moshpit at the recent Coldplay concert last year being like “excuse me, sorry, my dad’s there, I just need to get through” it probably helps that most people consider him adorable.

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