Welcome to this issue of "Dr. T's Timely Tips" by Dr. Tony Alessandra. Please send your feedback to info@alessandra.com!

Always give a reason

Here is a little psychological trick that can make all the difference when you are trying to get someone to do what you want: Just say "because."

In his blockbuster book, The Art of Influence, Robert Cialdini describes an experiment he conducted where a student with a stack of papers approaches a line of other students all waiting to use the copy machine and asks them if they would not mind letting him cut in line.

In one variation of the experiment, the student approaches the people waiting in line and says, "Excuse me, I've got five pages. May I jump in and use the machine?"

In another variation, the student does the same exact thing, except this time he says, "May I jump in and use the machine, because I'm in a rush..."

Seems like such a subtle difference, doesn't it? However, the differences between results were anything but subtle.

* Only 60% of the students waiting in line agreed to let the student cut in front of them in the first variation of the experiment.

* A whopping 94% of the students, however, let the student cut ahead of them in the second variation.

What Cialdini's experiment sought to prove is something psychologists call a "trigger effect." Certain actions, certain gestures, certain words - for whatever reason - have a profound persuasive effect on us. Often, we do not even know we are responding to the trigger. As soon as it registers, we react. Cialdini calls this a "click & whirr" response, and compares it to the way some animals react instinctively to the markings of predators in the wild.

In this particular experiment, though, the trigger being tested was the word "because." Think about it: Because is a word we use all the time to justify our actions or reasons to other people. What the Cialdini experiment succeeded in revealing, however, is that the reasons we give are really not as important as the word itself.

Cialdini repeated the second variation of the experiment with the student using different reasons for cutting in line. Some of them were simply ridiculous, such as "Because I need to make copies." In all cases, the people waiting in line responded with the same degree of compliance.

Why? Because of "because."

What can we learn from this experiment? Consider all the times you ask people - your co-workers, your boss, your kids - to do something without explaining why you need it done. Or, consider all the times you ask someone to do something and take their "NO" as the final end all, be-all, instead of coming back with a really good answer.

In both cases, you are wasting an opportunity to use one of nature's powerful forces to your advantage. Approach them next time using the word "because" and you might find people more willing to say "Yes."

Here's to more personal insight,


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