Since you were young, you've probably been taught to say the magic word. But what if the word you thought was "magic" all these years really isn't so special?
That's the idea behind a
by Tim David called "Magic Words: The Science and Secrets Behind Seven Words That Motivate, Engage and Influence." Although a former magician, David uses psychological research to determine the words that are the most likely to convince.
It turns out reason is almost everything: One is more likely to persuade others by giving them a reason as to why they want to or need to do the certain thing. The alternative magic word "because" was discovered by Harvard University researcher Ellen Langer in 1971 to be the most effective at trying to get someone else to let you cut ahead in line.
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In that study, Langer tried to cut ahead in the photocopier line by using three very similar – but inherently distinguishable – questions. The first example: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?" resulted in 60 percent of the people letting her move in front of them.
Notice how Langer did not give a reason as to why she needed to make photocopies. But check out what happens when she used the word, "because."
But in Langer's second attempt she found that giving a reason as to why she needed to use the Xerox machine was much more effective: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine
I'm in a rush?" In this instance, she found that 94 percent of people would let her go ahead – up 34 percent from her previous attempt.
In her third and final try, Langer opted to state the more obvious, which resulted in a nearly stagnant percentage of people as her second go-around: "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine
I have to make some copies?"
In his book, David makes the point that using such a simple tactic usually only works when a person isn't requesting much. The more important the request, the greater likelihood there is that one extra word won't cut it.
However, you know the old phrase, "It's the little things in life that make all the difference." Apparently, those little things come much more easily with one little word.