We’re constantly trying to get people to comply with our requests, and most times we succeed out of shear persistence on our part and pure exhaustion experienced by the receiver of our expressed desires and demands. There’s a simpler, more strategic way to go about getting our needs met.
The next time you’d like a colleague or client (or a friend or family member) to say “yes” to you, try these three persuasive phrases:
1. WILL YOU: Starting your request with the words “will you” triggers a compliance response because our brains don’t like open loops. People usually begin requests with phrases like “When you get a minute,” “If you have a moment,” “I’d appreciate it if you,” “I need,” “Bring me,” “Please complete,” etc. etc. None of these approaches are psychologically persuasive and are therefore often ignored, placed on hold, resented and rejected. “Will you (send the email, meet me at 8, finish the assignment, interview the candidate, hire my firm…)” nearly always prompts a response such as “yes I will,” “no, not at this time” or a counteroffer: “I can meet, but at 5 instead of 8.” Getting a response gets you closer to finessing your follow-up “will you” request if the answer is not an immediate “yes.” It’s no coincidence that we begin one of the most important questions: “Will you marry me?” with those two magically persuasive words.
2. YES, AND: Masterful communicators often make those they’re trying to persuade think that they came up with the idea in the first place. Emotionally intelligent communicators know that individuals want to be heard and feel connected to people and projects. Either way, saying “yes, and” to someone’s ideas let’s them know we’re about build onto their statement and that we listened to how they expressed it. When we say “no, but” to the person we’re trying to persuade, we stand to lose because they’re likely to shut down after being shot down. The persuasive power of “yes, and” allows us to make our own compliance request, which may even completely depart from what we’re adding our thoughts to — and those two words have the capacity to open the other person’s mind and our dialogue with them.
3. BECAUSE: As smart people, we’ve been conditioned to seek explanations and receive reasons for going along with a course of action. Otherwise, we’re just following someone’s request blindly without understanding. Like the former persuasive phrases, the word “because” is a powerful trigger that lets us know there’s a reason, and our brains oftentimes assume it will be a rational and logical one. Robert Cialdini’s famous book on persuasion, Influence: Science and Practice, describes an experiment in which a person asks to cut in line to make photocopies. The first time he merely asks if he can cut in line, and of course, the answer he gets is “no.” The second time, he asks if he can cut in line because he’s in a hurry, and as expected, many more people allow him to get in front of them. The third, and most interesting time this experiment is conducted, the person asks if he can cut in line because he has to make photocopies. While this is a nonsensical reason, since everyone in the line has to make photocopies, most people still let the guy cut in front of them only hearing the word “because” and assuming there was a rational reason that followed the trigger word. For our own purposes, it’s useful to incorporate the word “because” and to follow it up with a (hopefully logical) reason which will likely result in a higher compliance rate.
Successful professionals are persuasive communicators and the influential triggers WILL YOU, YES, AND, & BECAUSE are important short-cuts to gaining compliance.
Lee Broekman is a communication coach and trainer. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying professional development presentations, programs and CLEs to your firm or organization.