“Because”... I love the word. It’s as though “because” has magical powers.
Have you read the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini? (Or, have you seen this animated video?) If you have, you may remember the six weapons of influence he’s well known for: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Liking, Authority, Social Proof and, Commitment and Consistency. But, do you remember the story about the copy machine and the word “because?”
The Power of Because
Cialdini discusses a Harvard study where a person asks to cut in line to use a copy machine.
The control group asked, “Can I use the copier?” 63% let them cut in line and go first.
The second group asked, “Can I use the copier because I’m in a hurry?” 94% let them go first. This went from from the control of 63% to 94% by simply adding, “because I’m in a hurry.”
To confirm the increase wasn’t from the reason, “I’m in a hurry,” they gave a neutral reason to test against.
The third group asked, “Can I use the copier because I need to make copies?” 93% of this group, with the neutral reason, allowed them go first.
Everyone in line was waiting to make copies. The reason “because I need to make copies” should be a less compelling a reason to allow someone to cut in line than “because I’m in a hurry.” Shouldn’t it?
If you’re standing in line and waiting to make copies, would you let someone go in front of you who asked, “Can I use the copier because I need to make copies?” Reading it here it may look silly. However, in reality it makes complete sense.
What they deduced is: it isn’t the reason why that mattered as much as the word “because.”
Why is this?
The Language Of Beliefs
As children we grow up searching for answers to how the world works. If you have kids, you’ll remember being bombarded by the question, “Why?” (or maybe you remember asking “Why?” as a child.)
- Daddy, why is the sky blue?
- Mommy, why doesn’t our car fly?
- Why do we have to go to the store?
- Why am I sleepy?
- Why do you have to work today?
- Why do we poop?
You ask “why?” questions because you’re searching for pieces of logic to glue reality together. The word because is the “cause and effect glue” that helps create a reality we can communicate.
Cause and Effect is one of the persuasive language patterns you can use to communicate more effectively. Most people don’t use them with any intention. Instead, cause/effect language randomly flies out of your mouth expressing your internal beliefs and thoughts about the world. They’re how you speak your justification behind why you do things or think about something.
- You do X, because of Y.
- The sky is blue because of how the sunlight scatters when it hits the atmosphere.
- You poop because you eat food.
- Your report is late because you didn’t have all the data in time.
- Your sleepy because (fill in the blank here with whatever reason you want).
- You have to work today because (fill in the blank here with another reason you want).
It’s that simple.
As you go about your day today, listen to how many times people say the word “because” and what they say after it. What you’ll hear is their reason (aka belief).
You can also ask people “Why?” and they’ll give you their “because.” Then, after you hear their “because,” step back and think about what the person said. Ask yourself:
- Does it make sense?
- How are the ideas they link really related?
- Is it any more real than, “because of the trees?” If you think it is, ask yourself, what makes it better (or more logical) than because of the trees? (If you think it is “more real” that’s only because of your beliefs)
What you really need to notice is how you rarely ever question someone’s reasons. You often accept these as a valid reasons simply because of the word “because.” And, why don’t you question what they say? Because it’s not polite to question another person’s beliefs. You don’t stop a person and say, “Wait! That doesn’t make sense. You believe X because of Y? That’s silly.”
How To Use This Language Pattern Powerfully
Next time you’re talking with a customer say, “This is a great widget. I know you’ll love this widget in your home because you’re a smart person.”
Or how about, “I can tell you’re feeling good about buying this widget today because I know how important it is to you.”
If you have an employee you need to do something he normally may not do, tell him “Please take care of this because it needs to be completed quickly and accurately.”
Or another example, “Take care of this because I like what you’re doing for us here at the company.”
Take a moment and think of a few ‘silly’ reasons you can throw out and notice how people react. Then, go wild and use the word “because” whenever you want to drive a point home.
Or, you can have fun and just do it because it will make you more persuasive or... because you’re a smart person.
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