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3 Psychological Techniques to Use to Ensure They Can’t Say No

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So you ask someone for a favor and they say no. Where do you go from there?

By Bushra Azhar (Persuasion Strategist & Founder, The Persuasion Revolution)

Everything I know about making good requests, I learned from my children. OK …maybe not everything but their requests certainly pack a refusal-proof punch.

Case in point:

My offspring: Mom can we go to the park?

Me: I am kinda busy right now, maybe later.

My Offspring: *all sad and deflated* Can I at least have a candy bar then?

Me: *weighed down by guilt* OK but just one.

Nom I am not claiming that she is doing it on purpose, but there’s a reason this request style works so well. Yes, its backed by research and even has its own name.

The Three Techniques

This is what social psychologists call Door in the Face technique and this is one of the three techniques I am sharing today to help you master the find art of asking and moving past the first No to an eventual yes.

So shall we start?

Door in the Face (DITF)

This technique begins with an initial large request with the expectation that it will be turned down (a metaphorical door slammed in your face). This is followed immediately by a second, more realistic request which in comparison seems quite reasonable.

Initial request: Can I take the next week off?

2nd more reasonable request: Can I take Monday off and work from home on Tuesday?

In a study conducted to test this technique, participants were made an initial outrageous request (be a Big Brother or Sister at a detention center for two hours per week for two years) which no one accepted but when followed by a smaller request (to chaperone a group of kids to the zoo), the compliance rate went up by 50%.

This is how powerful this technique can be.

Foot in the Door (FITD)

This is how it works; you ask for a small favor that typically requires minimal involvement and crank it up to something bigger right after the person accepts your initial request. There have been numerous experiments to test the efficacy of this techniques and it has proven to be extremely effective in getting compliance.

There is another psychological principal at play here known as Cognitive Dissonance, this simply means that because a person complied with initial requests,in their minds they become the kind of person who does this sort of and agrees to later requests so as to maintain this new self-image.

Initial Request: Can you lend me your car jack?

2nd bigger Request:  Can you lend me your car?

See how that works?

Leveraging Automaticity

In his ground-breaking book, Influence, Robert Cialdini explains how easily automatic response patterns can be triggered, even with invalid signals.

In an experiment conducted by social psychologists Langer, Chenoweth, and Blank, experimenters approached people standing in line to use a photocopier with one of these three requests:

  1. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?
  2. May I use the Xerox machine?
  3. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?

This is how the compliance to the request looks like:

  1.   90% compliance
  2.   60% Compliance
  3.   93% compliance

The researchers concluded that when you give someone a reason while making a request, the compliance goes up even if the reason is not very good. This is because the word “because” triggers an automatic reaction in the human brain that signals that the request is justified.

One caveat though, this only really works for smaller requests so don’t expect to get a month long paid vacation approved “because you want to take a month off”.

So there you have it, three research-backed techniques to help you move past the initial No. Let us know, if you used any of these techniques and how these turned out for you.

Have you used any of these techniques successfully?

Bushra Azhar

About the guest blogger: Bushra Azhar is a Persuasion Strategist and Founder of The Persuasion Revolution. If you want to learn how to use psychology of persuasion to sell your ideas, your work or yourself, get your free copy of the Non-Icky Persuasion Toolkit or better yet, join the 30 Day Persuasion Challenge starting June 1st, 2014.