Did You ASK Nicely?

When I was a kid, asking nicely was a cardinal rule. And of course, the magic word “please” had to be included in the request, with the whole transaction followed by “thank you.” As it turns out, getting what you want is really a matter of asking. Using manners and the magic words “please” and “thank you” are prerequisites.

Research shows that humans are predisposed to carrying out an activity if they’re asked to and if the request is socially desirable. As cited in the book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive*, social scientist, Anthony Greenwald, discovered that voters were more likely to turn out and actually vote if they were asked whether or not they were planning to vote in the election on the following day. Despite society’s less-than-admirable voter turnout on any given election (Why it’s not always well over 90%, I can’t say….), the act of voting is seen as a socially desirable trait.  Humans are more likely to actually act on what they say they’re going to do when the action is deemed socially desirable.

Politicians take note: You’ll get a better response if you finish your conversation with a voter by asking IF they’ll vote rather than “I’d appreciate your vote, thank you.” or “Please vote for me,” manners notwithstanding.  Once someone agrees to vote (socially desirable), he’s more likely to follow through and do it.

The next step in the process is that once folks state publically that they’re going to do something, they feel compelled to do it so that their behavior aligns with their commitment. In a similar study, a restaurant reduced its percentage of no-shows (folks who booked a table, but never called to cancel) by adding a single word when taking a reservation. Instead of closing the conversation with “Please call if you have to cancel,” the restaurant staff asked, “WILL you please call if you have to cancel?” Simply by asking rather than stating, the no-show rate dropped from thirty percent to ten percent.

The next time you’re faced with persuading someone, figure out how you can ask in order to elicit the response you want. The key, of course, is “socially desirable”… and don’t forget your manners!

Or you can feel free to contact me for help with persuasive copy for your next project. Together we can get your prospects and customers saying, “Yes!”

*by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini

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