The primly-dressed lady was purple in the face, screaming salty swear words that would make a builder blush.
Why? One of the school dads had parked his bloated 4×4 across her driveway. Again.
The lady was freaking out at the man, late for work and at the end of her tether. I couldn’t blame her.
Sweary Lady had asked nicely on so many occasions Don’t-Give-A-Damn-Dad to ‘refrain’ from blocking her driveway. She’d put out polite signs. She’d spoken to the school. But nothing had worked.
So here she was, having a public meltdown at 8.12am in the middle of a quiet residential street with horrified parents cupping hands over their little darling’s ears. Poor woman.
Sweary Lady didn’t look in the mood for advice, but I desperately wanted to tell her my secret that might just have turned her fortunes around.
The 2-Syllable Secret Weapon
Sweary Lady clearly didn’t know the surprising power of the simple word ‘because’. And can be YOUR secret weapon when it comes to getting people to do what you want.
This was proved by an experiment from the 70s. Researchers had people ask to break in on a queue of people waiting to use a busy photocopier on a university campus.
They had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line:
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
The results were fascinating:
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” [60% of people said yes]
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”[93% of people said yes]
“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% of people said yes]
Using the word “because” and giving a reason resulted in far more people complying. This was true even when the reason was totally lame (“because I have to make copies”).
So what does this all mean?
The researchers believe that we’re frequently on autopilot when it comes to our behaviour i.e. when we hear the word ‘because’ we’re hardwired to comply, however rubbish the reason. This is especially true when the stakes are low.
So if Sweary Lady were to change her sign from ‘Please refrain from blocking my driveway’ to ‘Please don’t block my driveway because it makes me late for work’, Don’t-Give-A-Damn-Dad might well have a change of heart.
How could you use the word ‘because’ in your communications?
Need to get clients to process dull paperwork? Give them a reason why (‘because it means we won’t have to keep pestering you for information all the time’).
Want to regain trust and retain business after a screw up? Tell clients why a mistake happened (‘because there was a power outage from the electricity provider’)
Want to get invoices paid? Tell them why prompt payment is so important to you (‘because it means we can pay our suppliers faster and get your project finished quicker’)
So go and give it a try. Because it could make all the difference to your business.