Imagine you have just a few seconds to convince someone to do what you want. Please think of the most effective tool in your vocabulary. What’s the go-to word that lets you engage, influence or encourage others? I love one in particular, because it’s so easy to use and helps to gets results.
Sales and marketing education offers endless lessons on power words. I’ve already used several. Like “imagine” (puts the audience in control), “you” and “your” (personalizes) and “please” (shows respect). They’re all great, but the word I’m thinking of is in the last sentence of the first paragraph. Not love. Not easy. Not help. Not results.
When communicating, we want our audiences to understand, think, act or believe. Why does “because” work so well? People want reasons to accept what you’re telling them.
Let’s say you’re part of a social marketing campaign to get people to be more active. It’s true enough to say that “Walking 30 minutes a day is good for your health.” But you may get more acceptance by explaining the rationale: “Walk 30 minutes a day because you’ll strengthen your heart, lower your risk of disease, increase your energy and improve your mood.”
It’s logical that relaying the benefits like this solidifies your message. Here’s the thing. Employing the word “because” even in the most routine way can trigger buy-in.
Langer and her team of researchers aimed to see what would happen when someone wanted to cut into a line at a copy machine. This was in 1978, before printers, so the machine was busy. The researchers had people try to break into the line by making one of three requests.
1. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” In this case, 60% of people said okay.
2. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” The compliance rate went way up, to 94%, when a compelling reason was given. The people in the line empathized with the person in a supposed hurry. What was in it for them? Feeling good about doing someone else a favour
3. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” You might assume that this wouldn’t fly. It’s kind of an annoying request. After all, everyone is in line for the same reason. So how many people do you figure complied? 93%!
As Langer discovered, the word “because” is a key connective tissue. It drives action even if the reason itself isn’t that convincing.
Every day in your own communications, you have lots of truly convincing arguments to make. When you pair the “what” with the “so what” amazing outcomes can follow. Just because.
Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at foxmancommunications.com. I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.
July 19, 2017