What’s the number one way to get people to do what you want? Acknowledge that they don’t have to.
It’s called the “But You Are Free Technique,” and in a review of 42 psychology studies of 22,000 people, it was found to double the odds that a person would go along with what your plan.
Most interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter at all how you phrase your request. “You are free” worked well, but so did, “don’t feel obliged.” The big factor seemed to be asking face-to-face: the effect was reduced over email.
“The BYAF technique, as with any good method of persuasion, is about helping other people come to the decision you want through their own free will. If they have other options, like simply walking away, and start to feel corralled, then you can wave them goodbye,” writes Jeremy Dean at Psyblog. “On the other hand, respecting people’s autonomy has the happy side-effect of making them more open to persuasion. You can look good and be more likely to get what you want. Nice.”
Makes sense to me. Who isn’t more inclined to consider other people’s requests when they don’t feel pressured?
Of course, there is a limit to how often you can use this trick. As Lifehacker’s Melanie Pinola writes, if you use it all the time, you run the risk of “looking like someone with passive-aggressive issues (‘Hey, honey, can you take out the garbage? But you are free not to.’)”
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