Imagine walking into a busy mall when someone approaches you with an open hand. “Would you have some coins to take the bus, please?” he asks. But in this case, the person is not a panhandler. The beggar is a PhD.
As part of a French study, researchers wanted to know if they could influence how much money people handed to a total stranger using just a few specially encoded words. They discovered a technique so simple and effective it doubled the amount people gave.
The turn of phrase has been shown to not only increase how much bus fare people give, but was also effective in boosting charitable donations and participation in voluntary surveys. In fact, a recent meta-analysis of 42 studies involving over 22,000 participants concluded that these few words, placed at the end of a request, are a highly-effective way to gain compliance, doubling the likelihood of people saying “yes.”
What were the magic words the researchers discovered? The phrase, “but you are free to accept or refuse.”
The “but you are free” technique demonstrates how we are more likely to be persuaded when our ability to choose is reaffirmed. The effect was observed not only during face-to-face interactions, but also over email. Though the research did not directly look at how products and services might use the technique, the study provides several practical insights for how companies can influence customer behavior.
If you’re like most people, you have a New Year’s resolution in place and you may have even stuck to it so far this year. Good for you! Realistically though, you’re going to fail. How long have you said you really should get in shape, or lamented the need for more quality time with family and friends? The fact is, despite the most earnest commitment, resolutions just don’t work.
We make well-intentioned goals, with the false belief that we just lack commitment and motivation; that all we need is a good kick in the ass to get us going. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, so please stop being so hard on yourself. There are better ways to achieve your full potential, with minimal headache.
First, realize that the key to success at pretty much everything comes down to creating productive habits. A habit is defined as a behavior that happens almost involuntarily. I define a“productive habit” as a behavior that gets you what you want in life automatically, without you really trying.
But productive habits don’t just appear out of thin air. They are created by assembling a chain of individual behaviors, like a string of pearls. These individual behaviors, over time,change our daily actions and in turn, our lives. Productive habits move us to our full potential, morph us into the people we want to become, and ultimately give us the life we want.