- Michael Thompson
When researching how to raise more money for a children’s hospital, behavioral scientists uncovered a phrase that can help all of us be more persuasive.
To make an impact, being self-motivated is essential. However, no matter how much grit you possess, you’ll never reach your full potential if you’re unable to motivate others to take action.
Eager to find out which phrases effectively persuaded others, behavioral psychologist, Dr. Nicolas Guéguen from the University of Southern Brittany, ran a series of tests to uncover how we can best influence the people around us.
For his research, Nicolas approached 640 people on the street in France and asked them in a number of different ways to make a donation for a children’s hospital.
When he asked people directly to support the charity by saying, “*You are probably interested in organizations for children with health problems. I wonder if you could help us by making a donation,*” 25 percent of the people Nicolas approached complied.
However, when he inserted the words — “You will probably refuse” — before continuing on to ask for a donation, the compliance rate jumped to 39 percent.
Not only that, but the amount of money people gave to the charity also rose from €2.44 to €2.50. This may not seem like a lot, but if you add up all times you could have made a few percentage points more over the span of your life, this equates to a lot of additional ice cream cones.
According to behavioral scientists, this uptick in people’s willingness to help out makes sense and supports the theory common in psychologist circles known as reactance — which states most people have an adverse reaction when a restriction is imposed upon them.
Take a moment and think about how you feel when you are put into a corner and pressured to make a decision. It makes you uncomfortable, right? You get a little squeamish and think to yourself that the person in front of you is trying to sell you something.
That’s why the words, “You will probably refuse,” are so effective: they give people an out. The words make people feel like they are acting out of their own free will and that they’re the ones who are in control of their decision.
Not only that, if you’re anything like me or my kids, variations of the words “You will probably refuse,” piques your curiosity. These words motivate us to want to find out why someone thinks something isn’t for us.
Examples of people doing something they are told they can’t or won’t do are littered throughout history. People are told they can’t read books like, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Great Gatsby” or “The Catcher in The Rye,” and as a result, these are some of the most purchased books of all time. The same goes for people’s responses when they are told they can’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes.
As human beings, we all like different things. One of the ties that bind us together, however, is we hate it when we are told we can’t or won’t do something. If people want anything, it’s the freedom to choose what they can and cannot do.
The next time you are trying to be more persuasive, give the phrase “You’ll probably refuse” a shot.
Instead of asking your kids to clean their room, move the framing of your request around some by saying, “You‘ll probably refuse, but it’d be great if you helped your mom and dad out some today by picking up your toys,” and see what happens.
Or the next time you need a co-worker to do something for you, try saying “You’ll probably say no to this, but I could really use your help putting this pitch together,” and take note of how they respond.
On a personal note, one of the persuasive phrases I used the most during my decade in mortgage sales was, “This probably isn’t for you, but do you know someone who is interested in saving money in their mortgage.” It worked like a charm. If you’re like most people, you’ll immediately think about why you aren’t the type of person who could benefit from that.
The world is full of good ideas. In order to get your ideas to fly, however, you need to be able to persuade others to support your cause.
By using phrases like, “You will probably refuse,” “This may not be for you,” “You can walk away at any time,” you may find that by giving people the freedom to choose, they choose to hang around and hear you out.