How many times have you asked for something and walked away empty-handed without achieving your goal? Why do you think this happened? The key to success is very often in the way we formulate our “appeals”. Learn how to ask to (and most likely) be heard.
Words have great power. They lift your spirits or clip your wings. They build or burn proverbial bridges. The effectiveness of our actions, for example, the success of our efforts to get a promotion or a raise, also depends to a large extent on the way we speak. The expressions we use every day can also determine success in other, more mundane matters, for example when you ask a friend for a loan or give up your place in the queue to the doctor. Here are some methods that will increase the effectiveness of your “appeals”.
Ask for reasons for refusing to comply with the request
“I would be very grateful if you could help me. I hope that’s not a problem and I’m not forcing you to do anything, but if not, tell me why.” A request formulated in this way, according to experts, may turn out to be effective. Why such a request? Psychologists Michael Patch, Vicki Hoang and Anthony Stahelski draw attention to the fact that the person to whom we address such a request has two solutions to choose from – fulfill it or reject it and reveal the reasons for their decision. It is highly likely that he will reach for the first of the mentioned options. First of all, for fear of a stressful confrontation understood as the need to reveal the motives of the conduct. These theses were confirmed in several experiments.
In one, experts asked students to help interview them about how campus residents spend their free time. They divided them into a study group and a control group. In the first one, the described verbal device was used, and in the second – “ordinary appeal”. It turned out that people who were asked to justify their decision were more willing to help with interviews than young people treated in a “traditional” way (49% vs 34%). The researchers also set up an additional study to rule out the confounding effects of confounding variables on the results obtained. This is about perceiving the person making the request as polite or not very cultured. The conducted experiments confirmed that the greater tendency to comply with other people’s requests is caused by the discomfort associated with the vision of explaining one’s actions and “entangling” in stressful explanations.
Formulate the request in an unusual way
Express your request differently than you might expect. Example? Instead of saying: “borrow a few pennies until the first”, name a more specific, less typical amount (PLN 57.75, PLN 212.56, etc.). Thanks to this, you will intrigue the interlocutor and make him ask questions. As a result, his reaction will be less automatic, and the chance that you will achieve the intended goal is much higher. The validity of the above thesis was tested, among others, in the experiment of collecting donations in the street by a person dressed as a beggar. Passers-by were more likely to give her money when they heard a request for 17 or 37 cents, rather than a quarter or “some change.”
Of course, someone could say that this type of research takes place in quite specific conditions and is not very reliable (some people generally avoid begging people). However, scientists argue that formulating a request in an unusual way also turns out to be effective in various everyday situations. It is worth noting one very important point – this technique also works in the opposite way. May increase the risk of refusal. This applies to people for whom the usual, automatic response to a request is acceptance. Before you use the described method, “feel” your interlocutor well.
Weave the request into the dialogue
The request should be one of the “elements” of a longer conversation. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to be submissive when dealing with friends than with strangers. And interactions based on dialogue “build” closeness relationships. This form of communication turns out to be much more effective (compared to a monologue). Importantly, in this case, the content of the chat does not matter much. You can discuss any topics in it, for example, weather, well-being or interests. What is important, however, is to initiate a dialogue and avoid topics that could turn out to be a potential point of contention. Divergence of opinion reduces the interlocutor’s willingness to comply with the request.
Justify your request
People are more likely to comply with requests when they hear the rationale for a given “appeal.” How does this technique work in practice? Imagine that you are standing in line to see a doctor. The waiting list is very large, so you will spend a lot of time in it. You want to “move” a few places forward and get home faster. Instead of asking: excuse me, can you let me in, be specific. For example, you can say:
“Excuse me, can you let me through because I need to get to the doctor”
“Excuse me, could you let me through, I’m in a hurry to get to work”
In the first case, we are dealing with the so-called apparent justification. You don’t tell anyone the real reason for your request. You’re only saying the obvious (potentially, anyone standing in line at the clinic needs to see a doctor). In the second situation, there is a real justification, i.e. the real reasons for your behavior. Interestingly, both of the above-mentioned messages show similar effectiveness, regardless of the type of justification used. The very appearance of motives increases the tendency of people to act on the request.
Source: D. Doliński, Psychology of social influence, Society of Friends of Ossolineum, Wrocław 2000