Note from Vic: Out of the blue I got en email from a fella named Ludvig Sunström asking if he can make a guest post on Bold and Determined.
I gave my usual answer, a polite no, but then he did something unexpected. He sent me FOUR! articles and asked me to critique his writing.
He got me to do him one small favor – critique his writing (and we made one little tweak and his writing instantly went from good but blah to wow).
Ludvig wanted to be published on Bold and Determined and now he is. The name of this piece is “The Shockingly Easy Way to Get People to do What You Want“.
Does his advice work? And can you use his “bright idea” to get people to do what you want?
You be the judge.
[OPEN INBOX: EMPTY]
Dammit! Why is no one getting back to me?
What am I doing wrong here?
I used to wonder why people didn’t get back to me after we’d had – from my point of view – an interesting conversation.
I used to wonder why the other person wasn’t as interested in the interaction as I was.
Why was it that I was more interested in the other person than he or she was interested in me?
I’ll tell you why.
The reason why these people didn’t care about me was because I’d brutally failed to get any kind of investment from them.
Fortunately I don’t have that problem anymore.
Right now you’re probably wondering:
What do you mean by investment – and what can I do to get it?
For me to tell you about that I first need to explain to you about the Benjamin Franklin Effect.
The Benjamin Franklin Effect
The Benjamin Franklin Effect states that once a person has done you a favor they will be more likely to do you another favor.
This stands in contrast to the popular belief that if you do someone a favor they will feel inclined to return it.
The reason it’s called the Benjamin Franklin Effect is because Franklin used the strategy to turn a hostile legislator into a friend by asking to borrow a book from him. In other words, Franklin got his enemy to do him a favor.
You can use the Benjamin Franklin effect to do two things:
- Investment. If you can get another person to invest in you somehow they will afterwards post-rationalize their decision to do a thing for you, even if they initially didn’t want to.
- Establish behavior. If you can get someone to do a thing for you once you dramatically boost the chances of them doing it for you again by establishing a pattern of behavior.
I’ll go into these two aspects and break it down into actionable advice that you can put to use in your life by getting people to do what you want more easily.
When I say invest it can be anything from time, emotions, money or even material objects.
The important thing is that you must get the other person to put at least one of these things into the interaction or the relationship.
Why must you do this?
Because when you get someone to invest in you, they will start to care about you. They will like you a lot more if they have formed a personal interest in you – and this happens when you get them to focus on you for a prolonged period of time.
Let me give you an example.
Do you like Bold and Determined more or less compared to when you first started reading the site?
You like it more.
You like Bold and Determined more now because you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in understanding the material, the philosophy, and the peer group of the site.
We’re always Investing in Something
We’re always investing in something whether we know of it or not – and this is continually sending feedback to our brains.
The more we invest in something the more we care about it as a result of getting increasingly committed. This is because the brain is wired to think in terms of sunk cost related to energy spent on a thing.
Now tell me:
What kind of feedback do you think you’re sending your brain if you waste time or invest emotionally in TV series?
This is how You Use the Benjamin Franklin Effect to Gain Investment from People
It’s crucial that you start thinking in terms of investment when it comes to situations such as social events or business conferences –places where you meet lots of people that you won’t remember.
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is a very useful trick for getting them to remember you.
Here’s what you need to do to get investment from people:
Get them to do you small favors as quickly as possible after meeting them.
- Ask to borrow a pen, a book, or a movie – any material object.
- Ask for their advice or expertise on something they’re interested in and they will want to tell you all about it. Remember, the longer you keep them talking and the more time they invest in you the more likely it is that they will like and remember you.
- Give them a reason to chat with you or get back to you about something, then get their contact information or give them yours. When I say a reason I mean literally anything. Find something that you both have in common or find a thing that they are interested in and use it as leverage. This is a good way to gain emotional investment.
After you’ve done any of these things let them know that they’ve done a nice thing by doing you a favor.
You need to reward their good behavior and make them feel good about themselves.
People love being thought of as helpful.
Why Does it Work?
Why does it even work in the first place?
That’s an important question to ask.
It works because people do less thinking than they think they do. Most of their decisions are governed by heuristics – mental shortcuts used by their brains to save time and energy.
The thinking part of their brain – the neocortex, is manipulated by the emotional part of their brain – the amygdala. In normal language that means that logic occurs after emotional desires and that they post-rationalize their behavior by coming up with logical explanations after they’ve done a thing.
(Watch this video if you want to know more about post rationalization)
Even if a person is unknowingly tricked into spending time or energy on something, that person will unconsciously post-rationalize it by thinking:
If I did that, then I must have wanted to do it. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it… Yeah, that’s what happened. I must really like this thing!
So – just like the curious case of Benjamin Franklin – even if a person doesn’t initially like you, by doing you a favor of some sort, this person will like you more afterwards as a result of post-rationalization.
The person unconsciously thinks:
I only do favors for people I care about, so there’s no way I would’ve done this guy a favor unless I liked him…
2. Established Behavior
The other way that you can use the Benjamin Franklin Effect is to establish behaviors between you and another person.
Remember, if you can get someone to do a thing once they’ll be a lot more likely to do it again.
Once you establish a certain pattern of behavior it becomes increasingly hard to break the more you do it.
This is also true for social dynamics.
Think of it this way:
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is a lot more effective when you use it on people that you don’t hang around too much, because with these people you have already established a strong social dynamic.
Get it Right from the Get-go
First impressions matter – a lot.
The reason for this is because once we’ve formed an opinion it’s challenging and energy-demanding to change it.
Therefore it’s really important that you deliberately manage the first encounter.
You can and should use the Benjamin Franklin Effect to make a stronger first impression.
I want you to try it out and see for yourself the next time you meet a new person by deliberately getting that person to do something for you.
It doesn’t really matter what they do for you as long as it’s something.
If you repeat this process the first few times you hang out with the other person you’ll quickly establish that as a part of the social dynamic. You could literally get people to keep doing things for you more or less on automation.
By deliberately giving people small orders from the get-go you will quickly establish a very dominant social position.
So get it right from the get-go.
How to Use the Benjamin Franklin Effect to Establish Behavior
Here’s when and how you should use it:
- When you meet a new person you should establish a certain pattern of behavior as soon as possible by getting them to do small things in the direction of your goal with the interaction.
- You don’t necessarily have to get the other person to do things for you, it can also be that you want to establish your own behavior in a certain way and be perceived differently than usual, for example when moving to a new town. In either case, you must implement this behavior from the get-go.
- You can establish patterns of behavior linked to specific environments as well, for example in your house, in the bar, in the gym, at work, in school, etc.
How to Use the Benjamin Franklin Effect Correctly
The Benjamin Franklin Effect is massively useful – but only when used correctly.
This is not a strategy that you can use ten times in a row; you can’t ask people for favors ten times in a row and expect them to comply– that’s just going to make you seem like a greedy value-leech.
At some point you will have to return the favor or people will think that you’re a manipulative person who’s just using them!
The correct way to use the Benjamin Franklin effect is by using it sparingly.
This is only supposed to be a small trick in your toolbox of charisma and persuasion that you use to get the initial attention of the other person, but as soon as you’ve done that you still need to provide value and be cool.
Look at it this way:
The Benjamin Franklin effect is an efficient way of turning the spotlight onto you so that the other person can see you more clearly; but once the other person sees you clearly you better be a badass and contribute some value.
Do you have any methods of your own for getting people to do what you want?
About the author: Ludvig Sunström runs the practical self-development blog Start Gaining Momentum and has written the book Breaking out of Homeostasis. Apart from success and self-development, he is passionate about learning, reading, philosophizing, eating healthy and hitting the gym. You can get in contact with him on Twitter and Google+.