Operations: Why the Word ‘Because’ Is So Powerful

because

As operators, you have to ask people to do things every single day. You need your equipment to be fixed in a timely manner, you need a presentation from your marketing team on social media ROI, you need your HR department to fill an open position … the list goes on, and on, and on. But all of these things require you to ask for the help of other people. At the end of the day, there’s no way you could get all of these things done yourself.

It turns out, the likelihood of getting people to do the things you ask can increase by using one simple word in your request: “Because.”

In a study conducted in 1978, Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, conducted an experiment that revealed the power of the word “because.”

Langer had participants request to cut in front of a line of people waiting to use a copy machine. She had participants try three differently-worded requests, to see which was the most successful.

  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

The results were as follows:

  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?” (60% compliance)
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” (93% compliance)
  • “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” (94% compliance)

As you can see, the requests that gave a reason (because) for their request had a much higher success rate.

This is simple psychology, but it really can make a big difference in helping you get the things accomplished that you need done on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. So the next time you need to ask for something (maybe even something that you normally get push back on), give a compelling reason why, and see what happens.

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