Words are powerful. The words we use can often determine success or failure, no matter what field you are in. With the right word, we can lift others up to new heights. In the English language, there is one word that has been proven to greatly increase our success: “Because.”
Yes, using those seven letters joined together in that order greatly increase our chances of getting what we want.
The Power of the Word “Because”
In 1978, Ellen Langer, a research Psychologist at Harvard, conducted a series of experiments to determine the power of the word “because.” A researcher would attempt to break into the front of a line at the copier to make five copies. They made the request in three carefully constructed ways.
When the researcher said, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copier?”, 60% of the people allowed the researcher to break in the line.
When the researcher added “because” to the request, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copier because I am in a rush?” an astonishing 94% allowed cutting into the line!
The biggest surprise came with the third carefully worded request: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the copier because I have to make copies?” The reason used is not compelling, valid, or relevant. Even so, this request resulted in a 93% compliance rate. Hold the phone! What’s going on here?
Why Did This Work?
Just adding the word “because” followed by a reason significantly increased the chances of the request being followed. Why did this happen? The researchers theorized that when humans hear a reason for a request, we go on auto-pilot behavior and comply. As humans, we want to know the “why.”
So That’s All I Need to Know?
Before you start thinking that this is the golden ticket to get people to do what you want, pay attention to the second series of the experiment. The researcher increased the number of pages to be needing to be copied from 5 to 20. The requests made were identical except for the increased number of copies. Here are the results from this series:
- “Excuse me, I have 20 pages. May I use the copier?” – 24% compliance
- “Excuse me, I have 20 pages. May I use the copier because I’m in a rush?” – 42% compliance
- “Excuse me, I have 20 pages. May I use the copier because I have to make copies?” – 24% compliance
When the stakes are higher, the reason must be compelling AND significant to gain compliance. It appears that we want to know the reason and the impact we will make.
What’s the Impact of this Knowledge?
When we make a request of someone, we will be more likely to gain buy-in when we provide a reason. Further, we need to make the reason real.
“Because” could make recruiting easier.
For example, say you are working to fill a job that requires a pre-interview assessment. Which would get a better response?
- “I’m sending you a link to the online assessment. Please complete this as soon as possible.”
- “I’m sending the assessment link now. Please complete the assessment because I need those results to fight to get you the interview.”
The next time you are in a conversation with a candidate, consider the request that you are making. If “because” and a significant reason are not in the sentence, revise it immediately.
Try it. It works!