Self

Using This Word Gets People To Do What You Want

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There are a number of little tricks you can use to increase the likelihood of someone doing what you want them to do. But according to psychology, using the word ‘because’ is one of the easiest ways to practically double the probability of people complying with your request.

A TikTok video currently making the rounds on people’s ‘for you’ page explains the “hypnotic power” of the word ‘because.’

   

   

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The power of using the word ‘because’ was first recognized in the 1970s by psychologist Ellen Langer, who was at the time studying how the mind processes information.

Langer surmised that our behavior shapes our thoughts, contrary to the prevailing belief at the time that thoughts determined behavior.

To test her theory, researchers set up an experiment that involved people asking to cut the line for a copy machine. Each person made a request either without giving a reason why they should be able to cut the line (“I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”) or with a reason (I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”).

Langer found that while those who made the request without giving a reason had a 60% success rate of cutting the line, those who made the request while giving a reason were over 90% successful.

The Psychology of ‘Because’

Many scientific studies have come to the same conclusion: humans can’t handle uncertainty.

The internal processes that implore us to know explanations for everything start early in life, as evidenced by the number of times toddlers seemingly never stop asking ‘why’ even though you’ve already explained why 15 times.

Understanding the reason why something is happening gives people a sense of control.

That perceived control is an instinctual “psychological and biological necessity.”

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The key word here is ‘perceived,’ as the truth is, many times we don’t have control over our environment at all, and things will still happen the way they are going to happen whether we recognize why or not.

This perceived control is evident in Langer’s study.

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While open-ended questions such as, “May I use the Xerox machine?” leave people wondering, giving a reason as to why the machine is needed, even when the reason was rather absurd (for example, “May I use the Xerox machine because I want to make copies?”), closes that uncertainty loop.

What Langer theorized, then, is that people aren’t actually processing the full request. Instead, the brain reacts to the familiar framework of the request: this is what is needed and why.

The brain computes that a request is being made and with a reason. If there is a reason, the brain on autopilot assumes it’s a good one, and your body reacts accordingly.

So take note: the next time you’re in need of a favor, be sure to explain why, — even if your “because” isn’t all that compelling.

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Micki Spollen is an editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.

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