“Because I said so!” Mom or Dad

Excerpted with permission from “Influence People – Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical” by Brian Ahearn

Note from Bob:  When you think of influential people who do you think of?  Celebrities? The very wealthy? The very smart?  The very successful?  Do you include yourself?  Might you be thinking that influence is something you are not likely to ever possess?  I just finished reading the most fascinating book, “Influence People” by Brian Ahearn and absolutely loved it!  You are likely asking asking, “Why?”  Because Brian shares scores of practical – easy to do ways, that all of us can do, to increase our influence. Today’s “Excerpt” shares just one of the many ways! It is not as much about who you are as it about how you do it.  As important as what you ask, is how you ask!   

Will you click HERE to buy “Influence People” by Brian Ahearn today, because you don’t want to miss out on knowing the multitude of simple ways you can increase your influence? 

“Because I said so!” Mom or Dad

You may not be aware of how your mom and dad conditioned you to regularly comply with other people’s requests but they did. Unknowingly, they used a single word, the same word their parents probably used with them. They set you up to be more compliant. What special 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! Ellen Langer, a behavioral scientist, 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?” 60% generously allowed the person to go in front of them. In the 2nd iteration, the person approached the copier line and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I am in a rush.” Hearing because 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 the increase in compliance due to being in a rush or could it have been something else?

In the 3rd iteration the experimenter asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You’d think people might have denied that request since all were in line to make copies, After all, the reason was irrelevant…and still, 93% of the people let her go ahead! There was virtually no difference in response between the seemingly valid – in a rush – and the bogus reason. In both cases when compliance increased, the special word because was used.

Social psychologists theorize we don’t pay attention to the reason given after because; that we’re so conditioned by the word we hardly pay attention to what comes next. Did your parents say “Because I said so!” when you questioned them about why you had to do something? Have you used it yourself?

How does understanding the impact of because affect you? Two important ways. First, it helps you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something otherwise you may just find yourself doing something you wished you hadn’t.

The second way you can use because is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was little she used to ask me what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and concepts I felt would help her someday. One day when we were talking I told her about the copier study. I said, “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.” Long after that conversation Abigail and I were watching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest, the show’s host, was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line of people. Smart producers were using the principle of consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new Idol CD. As Seacrest talked 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 blurted 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 glad that one stuck because that small aspect of persuasion is 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.

Brian Ahearn


Brian Ahearn is one of only a dozen Cialdini certified trainers in the world. An author of three books on ethical influence, Brian’s goal is to help you achieve more success and happiness.  You can connect with Brian @ InfluencePeople.biz


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