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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Science-Backed Secret to Getting People to Do What You Want

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Did you know you’re a pretty powerful human? OK, maybe you don’t have super strength or the ability to read minds (but wouldn’t that be awesome?), but you do have one great superpower: influence.

Yup, and I’m not just talking to big-shot CEOs or TED Talk alum here. Whatever your level or skill set, you can persuade people to do what you want them to.

Want to know how? Here it goes: Just ask them to do it.

I know. Mind blown.

Before you laugh, there are actually studies to prove this. According to 2013 research done at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, we’re misleading ourselves when it comes to asking for favors. While we think most of our requests will be denied, most people are naturally inclined to say yes.

Take this one study, for example:

[P]articipants in one of their studies thought that to get three people to agree to lend their cellphones for brief calls they would have to ask about 10 people, whereas they needed to ask only six.

Even more shocking is that when someone says no the first time, they’re actually more likely to say yes the second time. The reason being exactly what you’d expect: Socially, it’s hard to say no to someone, and it’s harder to say no twice. Nobody wants to be that person.

The result of this phenomenon, as the article describes, is that we not only ask for help less than we should, but we also tend to only ask for help from the same people—or, more specifically, the people who usually say yes the first time around, and thus the people we feel most comfortable around.

So, the solution is clear: When you need something, just ask. And, if that person says no, don’t ignore them as an option the next time around.

I’m not calling this a superpower just because you have the ability to get people to do what you want, but because it opens up so many doors for you. Most people want to be seen as helpful—but can’t be unless you ask.

So by directly asking, you’re not only getting stuff done faster (and possibly better than if you had done it yourself), but you’re also making it easier to collaborate with people you normally wouldn’t.

This is what I like to call a win-win. Now what you waiting for? Get out there and ask for a favor.

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