Preconditioning before asking a favor

Preconditioning before asking a favor

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Suppose I want to borrow an item, such as a phone charger from someone.

Instead of directly asking them, "Could I borrow a charger?"

I first ask this question: "Do you have a charger?"

The act of asking a question of fact (whether they have the item or not) will make them more willing to lend you the item.

Is there a term or explanation for this?

Is this related or similar to the Ben Franklin effect and Anchoring effect?

The effect you ask about could very well be seen as an example of the Ben Franklin effect, also known as the foot-in-the-door phenomenon. In your example, replying to the question "Do you have a charger?" would be interpreted as a small favor which is then followed by the bigger favor of lending the item.


Beaman, A. L., Cole, C. M., Preston, M., Klentz, B., & Steblay, N. M. (1983). Fifteen Years of Foot-in-the Door Research. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9(2), 181-196.
DOI: 10.1177/0146167283092002

A Harvard professor explains why the world is actually becoming a much better place

In his bestseller “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker described the decline of violence in the world. In his new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” Pinker builds a persuasive case that life is getting better across a host of measures. Emma Seppala, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education interviews Pinker below.

Looking at the news, we often think things are getting worse and worse. However, in your book, you make the powerful and deeply researched argument that things are actually getting better. Can you please explain this conundrum?

Pinker: Think about it: If you arrived in a new city and saw that it was raining, would you conclude, “The rain has gotten worse”? How could you tell, unless you knew how much it had rained before that day? Yet people read about a war or terrorist attack this morning and conclude that violence is increasing, which is just as illogical. In fact, rates of war have been roller-coastering downward since 1946, rates of American homicide have plunged since 1992, and rates of disease, starvation, extreme poverty, illiteracy and dictatorship, when they are measured by a constant yardstick, have all decreased — not to zero, but by a lot.

But even if civilization is improving from a birds-eye view over the long-term, things can get still worse for many years in the short-term, right?

Pinker: Progress is not the same as magic. There are always blips and setbacks, and sometimes horrific lurches, like the Spanish flu pandemic, World War II and the post-1960s crime boom. Progress takes place when the setbacks are fewer, less severe or stop altogether. Clearly we have to be mindful of the worst possible setback, namely nuclear war, and of the risk of permanent reversals, such as the worst-case climate change scenarios. … Of course life is bad for those people with the worst possible lives, and that will be true until the rates of war, crime, disease and poverty are exactly zero. The point is that there are far fewer people living in nightmares of war and disease.

Is this optimistic outlook primarily U.S.-centric or does it vary dramatically depending on the part of the world?

Pinker: The progress is not particularly American — indeed, the United States is an outlier among rich Western democracies, with a stagnation in happiness and higher rates of homicide, incarceration, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, child mortality, obesity, educational mediocrity and premature death.

The countries with the highest levels of well-being are in Western Europe and the [British] Commonwealth, and the countries with the most dramatic improvements in well-being are in the developing world, which are slashing their rates of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy. And while inequality is increasing in the United States, it’s decreasing in the world as a whole, because poor countries are getting richer faster than rich countries are getting richer.

You argue the reason for this positive trend is certain ideas and values are driving this improvement. What do you think are the most important ideas and values we should pass on to our children to continue to uplift human civilization?

Pinker: The main idea is a belief in progress — not a faith that it will happen by itself, but a realization that when people strove to improve the human condition in the past, they gradually succeeded. They came up with democracy, and vaccines, and hybrid crops, and the rule of law, and a free press, and much else. And they did it because they held certain values. They valued reason: the conviction that logic and evidence are better than authority, charisma, gut feelings or mysticism. They valued science: the idea that we can understand the world by proposing explanations and testing them against reality. And they valued humanism: the idea that the well-being of men, women and children is more important than the glory of the tribe, race or nation.

Although you argue against extreme political and religious views, many of the humanistic values you extol have for centuries been promoted by spiritual and philosophical traditions. Are you arguing for a secular society?

Pinker: Yes, I believe in the First Amendment prohibition of an established religion, and any other attempt to make collective decisions based on parochial dogmas rather than universally agreed-upon reasons. But many religions themselves have evolved to incorporate the lessons of the Enlightenment, and have de-emphasized supernatural beliefs and Iron Age morality in favor of our best understanding of reality and the ideal of universal human flourishing.

How can we best capitalize on the positive cycle we are in to ensure things keep improving for our society and the human race?

Pinker: First, we should stop seeing every unsolved problem as the symptom of a sick society, as if we had the right to a perfectly affluent and harmonious world, and any shortcoming the work of evil saboteurs. Until the messiah comes, problems are inevitable they come with living in an indifferent universe­. We should appreciate the precious institutions like liberal democracy, science, markets, the rule of law and international organizations, that have made life so much safer, healthier and more peaceful than it was in the past. We should seek to apply reason and open-minded hypothesis testing to solving the problems that remain, rather than appealing to the dogmas of our political tribes, or undermining the institutions in the hope that nothing could be worse than the flawed status quo. We know many things that are worse: Nazi Germany, Maoist China, current-day Venezuela, to take a few examples.

How has your understanding of the improvement of the human lot impacted you, your behavior, choices and ideas?

Pinker: It’s made me far more engaged — in politics, in charity, in advocating for positive change. Before learning how life had improved, I was more fatalistic: resigned to violent conflict, pessimistic about poverty, jaded about both government and civil-society activism. I now see hopes for human improvement as not just uplifting but practicable.

How to Ask for What You Really Want

Communicating your needs with your partner can clear up misunderstandings and help avoid hurt feelings.

Communicating your needs with your partner can clear up misunderstandings and help avoid hurt feelings.

Communicating your needs with your partner can clear up misunderstandings and help avoid hurt feelings.

You’ve probably done this before.

You come home from a long day at work, and nothing sounds better to you than a nice back scratch. You snuggle up to your partner so that their hands are placed perfectly on your back. You roll your shoulders in a motion that universally signals, “scratch my back.” But they don’t get the hint.

Slightly frustrated, but not yet defeated, you position yourself behind them and start scratching their back. As soon as you’re finished, they turn to you and say, “Gee, thanks, honey. That was sure sweet of you.”

And then, nothing. They don’t return the favor.

You feel hurt and resentful. They broke the #1 rule every logical person should know! If someone scratches your back, you must scratch theirs!

Back scratching isn’t the only area where you see this kind of nonverbal agreement that one would think shouldn’t have to be spoken and everyone should just know.

  • If you buy your partner flowers and chocolate, they’ll want to have sex with you, right?
  • If you spend the evening making a delicious dinner for your partner, they’re bound to help you with the dishes, right?

Is this starting to sound a bit ridiculous? Your spouse can’t read your mind.

You have to ask for what you need

Why is it so hard to ask for what you want? Like, with spoken and specific words—not just unspoken signals or secret codes?

One evening, I was babysitting my sister’s adorable two-year-old girl. It was time for her to go to bed, and I was helping her to put on her jammies.

“No problem! Purple jammies it is!”

After we read of few of her favorites, which she had no hesitation pointing out to me, I placed her in her crib to go to sleep. She immediately grabbed my arm and said, “Ang-uh-winn sing song?” in her adorable voice.

As I started singing her a lullaby, she said, “Scratch my back?” I started scratching her back while singing her a song, and it wasn’t too long before she fell asleep.

That little girl, at two years old, let me know exactly what she wanted from me in order to go to sleep peacefully. She set me up for success by expressing her needs in a clear and positive way so that I could fulfill them.

But what happens when we get older?

Sadly, the older my niece gets, people won’t be so kind or willing when she asks them what she wants. She might ask someone to scratch her back and they’ll tell her, “No.”

In fact, people might start telling her that asking for what she wants is selfish or rude. There may come a time when she thinks to herself, “It’s best if I just keep quiet.”

There was a time in your life when this happened to you, too. You asked for something you wanted and got rejected. You learned how bad it can hurt when someone willfully dismisses your request, especially if it’s important to you. You learned that it can be scary to ask for what you want, and that makes you vulnerable to let someone in on your hopes and desires.

No wonder it’s hard to ask for what you want! The second a request leaves your mouth, it’s up to the other person to decide whether or not to grant that request. It’s out of your control. And who likes to feel out of control?

Instead, you keep your mouth shut. If your partner doesn’t pick up on your subtle clues, at least you don’t have to admit that it was something you wanted in the first place. Instead, you’re just secretly angry at them while they wonder what they did wrong.

Though it softens the blow of the rejection when you don’t speak up about what you need, it also doesn’t leave you any less resentful over not getting what you want. P lus, it practically guarantees that you WON’T get what you want.

What would be a better alternative to secret cues, signals, and non-verbal agreements that leave us disappointed and set our partners up for failure?

Use your words, and use them well

Nate and I have a motto in our marriage that came from Terry Real’s book, “ The New Rules of Marriage .”

“You have no right to complain about not getting what you never asked for.”

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for. The next time you get angry about your partner not doing something, I want you to ask yourself, “Did I verbally ask them to do this?”

Now, there are many ways to ask for something that you want, and let’s just say that some ways work better than others. Let’s use an example such as doing the dishes by yourself while your partner watches TV.

“I’m always cooking your dinner and you never help me with the dishes. You always just sit there in front of the TV while I do it? Why don’t you help me for a change?”

Woof. Using words like “always” or “never” is a surefire way of putting your spouse on the defense. This example of asking isn’t really asking at all. It’s criticizing your partner, and heavily so. This puts all the attention on how they’re the bad guy, instead of choosing to be vulnerable and respectfully expressing what you really want.

I can see this turning into a never-ending argument of, “Oh yeah? Well, you always do this, and you never do that,” going back and forth until the dishes get moldy and you forget about them entirely.

“Maybe, you know, you could help me with the dishes, if you want.”

Or, “If you have time, if it’s convenient for you, maybe you could try and help me with the dishes?”

Or even more classic, “Do you want to help me with the dishes, or would you rather just watch TV?”

These are all different ways of saying the same thing. In this situation, you are not expressing what you want. Instead, you are implying with your request that it is actually your partner who wants it, that it’s actually their idea. It takes the pressure off of you, and it puts the blame on them for not fulfilling a promise they never made.

This reminds me of a time we were helping with a social gathering at a neighbor’s house. Nate was in charge of putting out the snacks. He had left them in their original plastic container and just set them on the table.

The host of the party came to the snack table, turned to Nate, and in that passive-aggressive sing-song voice we all know said, “Do you want to put these treats on a separate platter?”

Nate replied, “No, I think they are fine in the plastic.”

She looked at him like he had just slapped her in the face. He quickly realized his error and said, “I mean, yeah, of course, I want to put them on a separate platter. There’s nothing more in this world that I want than to have these treats on a platter!”

The answer to the question she asked him was, indeed, “No.”

No, he didn’t want to put them on a separate platter. He didn’t see the need to do so.

But, that wasn’t the question she was really asking, was it?

Can you see how it would have been so much easier if she had just said, “Hey, I’d love it if you put these on a separate platter so that it looks nicer for the guests.” Nate would have known exactly what she wanted and would have happily fulfilled her request.

“Can you please help me with the dishes?”

This example is better than the first two, and it’s a good place to start. Saying “please” is wonderful, respectful, and it makes it much easier for your spouse to want to help.

However, the request falls a little, well, flat. It doesn’t get across how much it would mean to you to receive that help you are asking for.

I can see getting a response like, “Sure honey, just let me finish this game first” or “How about we just do them in the morning?”

There’s still too much room for failure with this example. You’ll need to communicate why you need the help, or how it’s important to you to receive help from your partner.

“Honey, I’d love some help with the dishes. I worked hard on making dinner tonight and I’d appreciate it if you helped clean up. Can we do the dishes together? It would really make me feel loved.”

This hits the nail on the head. First, you make your desire known—you’d really love some help with the dishes.

Second, you tell them why you’d like to help with the dishes, because you worked really hard on dinner!

You give your partner clear expectations on when you’d like it done right now.

And lastly, you tell them what it would do for you if they granted your request. It would help you feel loved.

How to set your partner (and you) up for success

Can you see why this would make it much easier for your spouse to say yes to your request? You’re giving them everything they need to give you what you need. You’re setting them up for success!

Mastering the skill of asking for what you want effectively, efficiently, and respectfully is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your partner.

For more tools to strengthen communication between you and your partner, subscribe to our blog below.

Angilyn Bagley is a Registered Nurse by day and a writer by night. She is a co-owner of The First 7 Years with her husband and a Trained Gottman Seven Principles Leader. Angilyn is passionate about learning the tools and skills necessary to have an extraordinary marriage and wants to help others do the same.

7) Break the "Touch Barrier"

Here’s a good subconscious psychological tip that can work amazingly well in many situations. Touch her shoulder, ask her for something and grab it out of her hand, or make up some game that requires touch and play it with her, like rock paper scissors.

Come up with a cool handshake if you have to. The idea is to make her know that you’re willing to touch her in a nonsexual way because you feel comfortable around her and to get her reaction.

If she seems disgusted or scared, don’t touch her any more.

If You've Ever Been Breadcrumbed, Psychology Experts Can Explain Why

Of all the annoying dating habits folks have developed over the years, breadcrumbing is possibly one of the most painful and confusing. If someone is breadcrumbing you, they'll likely pop up at odd intervals to say hi and express their interest, only to disappear again shortly thereafter. It's like ghosting, but it's long and drawn out. And it just keeps happening.

In short, "breadcrumbing is a way of stringing a person along using text and social media," Elisa Robyn, Ph.D., a relationship expert with a background in psychology, tells Bustle. "You might have had a few dates, or even been a bit serious, and then you wonder if you have been ghosted."

But rather than straight-up disappearing, you might receive a random text message, a like on your Instagram photo, or perhaps a few phone calls here and there, Robyn says. It'll seem like they're making just enough of an effort to keep you in their life, without ever truly committing or taking things to the next level.

"The notes are fun and perhaps a bit sexy, and then they stop again," she says. "You might schedule a few dates, but for some reason, they are always canceled and followed by a short text. You feel like you are following a trail of breadcrumbs, that someone is leading you on." And you may very well be right.

So why does it happen? On one end of the spectrum, this breadcrumber may be attempting to let you down softly, Robyn says. Instead of being honest, or ghosting you, they choose to send sporadic texts, essentially letting the relationship die a slow and painful death. For them, it isn't going anywhere and they know it, but they don't ever do you the favor of saying so.

That said, they very well could be interested, but aren't quite sure what to do or say next, hence all the confusing texts. "They are still 'testing the waters' in the relationship and want some space to do this," Dr. Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT, an author and licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. In this situation, you may have chatted about starting a relationship, but they are taking their sweet time, and stringing you on in the process.

Unfortunately, breadcrumbing can also be a sign someone is still in a relationship, and are texting you just for fun. "Often breadcrumbers are in a relationship they find unsatisfying and hope to enliven their life," Robyn says, usually by sending flirty texts. They may take comfort in knowing you're there, should they ever decide to call their current relationship quits.

When that's the case, these messages might even be a way for them to feel better about themselves. For example, if they get rejected by their partner or have an argument, they might reach out to you as a way to boost their ego, Caroline Madden, Ph.D., an author and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. They know you'll text back and distract them, but it will never really be more than that.

There's no denying breadcrumbing can be incredibly unfair, so the more you can do to detect it early and cut things off before it gets to you, the better. While it can be tricky to spot, it can help to "watch for a pattern of canceled dates followed by several text messages and then silence," Robyn says. "There will be just enough communication to keep you confused."

If you notice these signs, "there are two options," she says. "The first is to address this head-on and ask the person if they want to have a relationship with you or not." Depending on how they respond, you can decide if you're willing to wait and see where things go, or make a clean break and officially move on.

"Your second option is to block them on all your accounts and leave this unsatisfactory situation behind you," Robyn says. If it isn't working out, or you don't like how this person is making you feel, call it off. Don't text back. Block them on social media. Do whatever you need to do to move on, and protect yourself. Because nobody needs to be strung along.

The obstacles to asking

One of the activities I developed (along with entrepreneur and social capital expert Cheryl Baker) is the Reciprocity Ring, a facilitated group process where people ask for something they need, and help other people in the group. Through the Reciprocity Ring, I’ve seen people get help to save $50,000 on laboratory testing, find their biological parents, and connect with a surgeon for specialized, life-saving surgery.

When I first led people through the Reciprocity Ring, I would always remind them to be generous. But, actually, that was never the problem people were incredibly generous with their help. Instead, many people struggled with making a request for what they needed.

In my experience, people in the workplace wait to ask until they’re stuck and completely desperate. Why? Here are some of the reasons why we don’t ask, based on my experiences over many years working with executives, professionals, and business students, as well as relevant research.

1. We are too self-reliant. Being confident in your ability to get things done alone is motivating, but it’s possible to go too far. Often, we can be much more effective, efficient, and creative by reaching out and asking for input and resources from other people.

2. We don’t want to appear weak, ignorant, or incompetent. We see asking for help as a sign of weakness, but we need to question that belief. Research suggests that as long as you make a thoughtful request, people will think you are more competent, not less.

3. We lack psychological safety. Psychological safety means that a workplace is safe for what Amy Edmonson calls “interpersonal risk taking.” People feel safe to speak up, admit mistakes, and ask for help. It’s simply a lot easier to ask if you aren’t afraid of being ridiculed or criticized for doing so.

4. We assume no one can help us. Many people have told me they don’t ask for what they need because they assume no one can help them.

More on Helping at Work

What is your asking-giving style? Our scientifically validated Asking-Giving Assessment, which takes less than three minutes, can tell you how you tend to ask for and offer help.

5. We don’t feel we’ve earned the privilege of making a request. Asking is a privilege earned by helping others, we assume. But if everyone waited to give help before they received it, nothing would happen. Requests drive the giving-receiving cycle. In the short term, you might ask more than you give. The long-term goal is to be both a giver and a requestor in equal measure.

6. We don’t want to appear selfish. As long as you are helping others as well as asking for what you need, you won’t be. If you struggle with asking, look for opportunities to help. And remember: Asking for what you need is a strength, not a weakness.

Compliance Strategies: Common Persuasion Techniques

Persuasion can be a difficult task. Convincing a person, or a group of people, to comply with a request, or to agree with you on a particular viewpoint, can be a formidable challenge. Yet, why are some people able to persuade better than others? Salespeople, for example, earn a living from confidence in their ability to convince people that they need to buy a particular product or service.

Psychologists have identified a number of techniques which are often used by people to persuade others to agree with them. Below, we look at some of these compliance strategies and how they are most commonly used.

Foot-in-the-Door Technique

The foot-in-the-door technique involves making a smaller request, which a person is likely to agree to, before making your larger request. The rationale behind this technique is that a &lsquofoot-in-the-door&rsquo - a &lsquoyes&rsquo to the first request - can be secured and the person will then be more inclined to agree to the latter favor.

This technique is commonly used in sales. For example, a utility company salesman will ask a passer-by:

&ldquoExcuse me, would you mind telling me who provides your electricity?&rdquo

The person feels as they are doing the salesman a favor (&ldquowould you mind&rdquo) by answering what sounds more like a survey question than a sales pitch. The salesman then engages in further conversation, leading to their ultimate request:

&ldquoWhy not switch to our service, it&rsquos better than your current provider?&rdquo

Having agreed to the first question, the person may be more likely to agree to switch to the salesman&rsquos company than if he had asked them to sign up as his initial question.

Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of the foot-in-the-door technique. Famously, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser made telephone calls to a group of women, asking them to answer questions about their use of soap products. This small request was followed by a larger request that they allow a group of men to visit their home and take an inventory of the products that they owned. A second group were not asked the initial soap-related questions but the second request was made outright. The researchers found that the &lsquofoot-in-the-door&rsquo group, who had been asked the initial survey questions, were more likely to agree to the home visit than those who were asked the latter question outright (Freedman and Fraser, 1966).

According to self-perception theory, the foot-in-the-door technique plays on our tendency to decide future behavior based on our perception of our own actions and beliefs. When we agree to the small initial request, we feel that we have behaved altruistically, &lsquohelping out&rsquo the person asking the favor. The second request is then made, and we feel the need to behave in a consistently charitable fashion, agreeing to the larger demand.

Door-in-the-Face Technique

The door-in-the-face technique is another sequential request method but operates in reverse. It involves making an initial, unreasonable request that the respondent is likely to refuse outright. The intended request is subsequently made.

This method of persuasion is sometimes used in sales negotiations. For example, a car salesman may offer to buy a car as a &lsquotrade-in&rsquo for a new car, and offer the customer a fraction of its true worth. The customer will refuse the offer, as the salesman intended, and he will then return with the offer that he thinks is reasonable. Even though the second offer is lower than the customer would like, they accept it, as it seems to be acceptable when compared to the measly amount proposed in the first offer.

One explanation for the influence of the door-in-the-face technique is the way in which it plays on our sense of guilt. When we decline a person&rsquos initial request, we are left with a sense of guilt for not having &lsquohelped&rsquo them out. When a second, more reasonable request is made, it is sufficiently reasonable for us to fulfill, and we view it as an opportunity to reduce the guilt that we experience (O'Keefe and Figgé, 1999).

Another explanation for the success of the technique is that a person&rsquos refusal to comply with the first request leads to a concern that their reputation has been tarnished. They may feel as though they will be seen as uncharitable or uncooperative. Again, when the second question is proposed, it is viewed as an opportunity, but this time, to fulfill one&rsquos need for positive self-presentation (Pendleton and Batson, 1979).


The low-ball technique involves making a request and gaining agreement from a person, then changing the terms of the deal at the last minute.

This arguably unethical method of gaining agreement from a person is found in sales negotiation scenarios. A car salesman may tell a prospective customer that the price of a particular car is $10,000. The customer agrees to buy the car, thinking that they have received a good deal. However, just before they sign the papers to complete the purchase, the salesman tells them that the price was incorrect, and he can only sell the car at $12,000. The customer has spent a long time in the office and does not want to start their car search again. Therefore, they agree to buy the car at the higher price.

The low-ball technique differs from the foot-in-the-door technique in that a small request is initially made in both instances, but the low-ball method aims only to obtain initial agreement so that this can be applied to the eventual, less favorable request.

As with the door-in-the-face technique, low-balling relies on our need to maintain the reputation that we believe we hold amongst our peers. Declining a more expensive price, having agreed to the lower price, would result in the salesman concluding that we were undependable, and so we feel obliged to agree to the second offer (Burger and Caputo, 2015).

Norm of Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a social norm which we both adhere to and expect others to respect. We tend to expect that altruistic gestures be repaid, either with a simple show of gratitude, such as a &lsquothank you&rsquo, or in some other form of appreciation, such as helping out when we next need assistance. People also sometimes seek to reciprocate anti-social behavior, seeking justice or revenge for an act committed against them.

The sense of moral obligation that we feel to reciprocate prosocial behavior - known as internal reciprocity - can be a powerful driving force behind our actions. Similarly, a desire to make a good impression by being seen by colleagues to be making a fair contribution leads to a sense of obligation towards repaying positive gestures - often referred to as social reciprocity.

Marketers often take advantage of the norm of reciprocity when persuading us to agree to a particular action, such as buying a product. In fundraisers, charities post small, free gifts such as bookmarks and calendars to potential donors, whilst requesting a donation. The recipients appreciate the effort made to send the gift and feel obliged to reward the favor by making a donation.

Similarly, some bed mattress companies offer free home trials of their products before the customer is asked to pay anything. By the end of the free trial, a person may feel that they have personally gained from the free trial and should repay the generosity of the company by purchasing the mattress.


Ingratiation as a compliance strategy involves presenting yourself in a positive way to people you wish to persuade. First identified by social psychologist Edward E. Jones in his 1964 work, Ingratiation: A social psychological analysis, ingratiation covers a number of approaches to gain the favor of another party, many of which we use without even realising (Jones, 1964).

People tend to like people who like them, and complimenting or recognising the positive characteristics of a person is one way of showing that you value a person. Overlooking a person&rsquos weaknesses and emphasising the areas in which they are proficient can help to boost a person&rsquos self-image. For instance, if a colleague completes a project incorrectly, thank them for their effort and note that you value the amount of time they have spent working on it.

Another form of ingratiation requires demonstrating that you yourself are likable. Prosocial behavior, exhibited through confident body language, such as making eye contact whilst holding a conversation, smiling and remaining positive, can help to show that you are someone people can warm to. Confidence should be tempered with modesty so as to avoid giving an impression of over-confidence or arrogance, which can provide a less favorable impression to strangers.

That&rsquos Not All

The &lsquoThat&rsquos Not All&hellip&rsquo technique is used by marketers to persuade potential customers who are undecided as to whether they should buy a product.

The technique involves making a request, and then emphasizing an additional argument before asking a person to comply with the request. For example, a TV infomercial advertising a CD might spend ten minutes promoting the music on the CD, then just before the call-to-action is made, surprise the viewer with:

&ldquoBut that&rsquos not all! When you buy this CD, we will send you a second, bonus CD, with track from another artist.&rdquo

Even though the added benefit is not one that the person would pay for separately, when it is added to the original offer, it makes for a more persuasive argument.

Asking for a Favor: The Three Keys

From small favors (“Could you cover for me on the conference call tomorrow?”) to the more onerous (“Can you please introduce me to your contact at Nike?”), we are all in the habit of asking one another for help. Keith Ferrazzi’s bestselling Never Eat Alone highlighted our personal interconnectivity at home and at work. It’s human nature: we rely on our network of friends, family and colleagues to help us in life. No one can go it alone.

Being deliberate about how to ask for what you need or want can make a huge difference in your outcome. When you are asking for a favor, here are the three key steps to keep in mind:

  1. Set the Stage: “I have a favor to ask you”
  2. Give a Reason
  3. Provide an Escape Clause

Set the Stage

The phrase “I have a favor to ask you” is a small but powerful thing it suggests an informal contract of sorts — if you help me now, I’ll get you back you later. Taking time to acknowledge that your request is indeed a favor and not just a given implies a two-way relationship that acknowledges some level of give and take, as opposed to just making the other person feel like they’re being taken for a ride.

It also gives the other person a moment (however brief) to switch gears and go into receiving mode to prepare to respond. Whether your friend or colleague’s initial reaction is “uh-oh” or “happy to help,” being transparent and stating your motive before asking for the actual favor is helpful.

  • Anthony, can you please cover for me at the client dinner tonight, I’m not going to be able to break away from the office?
  • Anthony, I have a favor to ask you… by any chance could you cover for me at the client dinner tonight? I’m not going to be able to break away from the office.

While in the first scenario Anthony may be caught off guard, in the second scenario he gets a brief heads-up and extra second or two to prepare his response. Equally important, the first request runs the risk of sounding like a command. In the second phrase, it’s clear that you value Anthony’s time and effort and imply that you’ll be open to returning the favor at some point.

Give a Reason

In Robert Cialdini’s iconic book Influence, he showed that if you ask someone to do you a favor, you have better luck when providing a reason people react positively to the word “because.” Even if the reason makes no sense or is unrelated to the request, people like to know why they’re being asked to do something. Presumably, your reason does make sense and is directly related to your request — so go ahead and share it.

One can imagine having even less success with the request above by simply stating “Anthony, can you cover for me at the client dinner tonight?” Your odds of Anthony complying just because he’s a swell guy are probably pretty low.

Provide an Escape Clause

People are inherently good and they like doing things to help. Giving is said to be more fulfilling than receiving. So keep in mind that your goal is twofold–to get what you ask for and to do it in a way that enables the other person to feel good about helping out. The best way to do this is to always give the other person the opportunity to easily and graciously decline. No one feels good about doing a favor that is “put” to them. A favor you don’t really have the option of opting out of is not so much a favor as a command.

Quickly after making your request, be sure to add the following:

  • If you can’t help out, I completely understand, but I thought I’d ask.
  • I completely understand if you can’t make it I know it’s a busy week for everyone.
  • I’d love an introduction to Katherine, but if you don’t feel comfortable passing along her information for any reason that’s okay. I don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation for you.

People won’t always come through for you and you’re not expected to keep track — you shouldn’t simply decline someone’s request because they didn’t pull through for you last time. You can, however, do your best to ask people in a way that shows gratitude and that maximizes your chances of getting what you really need or want. Presumably, you will pay it forward at some point along the way.

And the closer:

21. Don’t be afraid of hearing “no.” We’re in a culture that’s afraid to say no, and conversely—we’re afraid to ask other people for what we want because we’re also afraid to hear the word “no.”

There’s one person who says no to you more than anyone else, however. When you don’t ask, you’re already selecting “no” as the outcome. Each time you hold yourself back from asking for what you want, or you walk away, silently, you’ve already given yourself the answer that you’re afraid of.

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Sarah Kathleen Peck is a writer, designer and storyteller. She teaches workshops on developing effective communication skills and believes that getting better at writing improves your personal, professional, and spiritual well-being. She writes a weekly newsletter on life, psychology, and human behavior.


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Conditioning, in physiology, a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response. Early in the 20th century, through the study of reflexes, physiologists in Russia, England, and the United States developed the procedures, observations, and definitions of conditioning. After the 1920s, psychologists turned their research to the nature and prerequisites of conditioning.

Stimulus-response (S-R) theories are central to the principles of conditioning. They are based on the assumption that human behaviour is learned. One of the early contributors to the field, American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike, postulated the Law of Effect, which stated that those behavioral responses (R) that were most closely followed by a satisfactory result were most likely to become established patterns and to reoccur in response to the same stimulus (S). This basic S-R scheme is referred to as unmediated. When an individual organism (O) affects the stimuli in any way—for example, by thinking about a response—the response is considered mediated. The S-O-R theories of behaviour are often drawn to explain social interaction between individuals or groups.

Conditioning is a form of learning in which either (1) a given stimulus (or signal) becomes increasingly effective in evoking a response or (2) a response occurs with increasing regularity in a well-specified and stable environment. The type of reinforcement used will determine the outcome. When two stimuli are presented in an appropriate time and intensity relationship, one of them will eventually induce a response resembling that of the other. The process can be described as one of stimulus substitution. This procedure is called classical (or respondent) conditioning.

In this traditional technique, which is based on the work of the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, a dog is placed in a harness within a sound-shielded room. On each conditioning trial the sound of a bell or a metronome is promptly followed by food powder blown by an air puff into the dog’s mouth. Here the tone of the bell is known as the conditioned (or sometimes conditional) stimulus, abbreviated as CS. The dog’s salivation upon hearing this sound is the conditioned response (CR). The strength of conditioning is measured in terms of the number of drops of saliva the dog secretes during test trials in which food powder is omitted after the bell has rung. The dog’s original response of salivation upon the introduction of food into its mouth is called the unconditioned response (UR) to food, which is the unconditioned stimulus (US).

Instrumental, or operant, conditioning differs from classical conditioning in that reinforcement occurs only after the organism executes a predesignated behavioral act. When no US is used to initiate the specific act to be conditioned, the required behaviour is known as an operant once it occurs with regularity, it is also regarded as a conditioned response (to correspond to its counterpart in classical conditioning). American psychologist B.F. Skinner studied spontaneous (or operant) behaviour through the use of rewards (reinforcement) or punishment. For example, a hungry animal will respond to a situation in a way that is most natural for that animal. If one of these responses leads to the reward of food, it is likely that the specific response which led to the food reward will be repeated and thus learned. The behaviour that was instrumental in obtaining the reward becomes especially important to the animal. The same type of conditioning can also be applied to an action that allows the animal to escape from or avoid painful or noxious stimuli.

There are several types of conditioning schedules. Continuous reinforcement schedules provide a reinforcement for every correct response, while intermittent reinforcement schedules reinforce some responses but not others. There are several variations of the intermittent reinforcement schedule for example, a fixed-ratio schedule provides reinforcement only after a fixed number of correct responses, while a variable-ratio schedule provides reinforcement after a variable number of correct responses. In a slightly different approach, a fixed-interval schedule provides reinforcement for the first correct response after a specific time interval. With a variable-interval schedule, reinforcement is given after a variable amount of time. Conditioning that is based on intermittent reinforcement schedules will create more powerful results relative to fixed conditioning schedules that is, behaviour produced by intermittent reinforcement schedules is much more difficult to unlearn or discard.

Psychologists generally assume that most learning occurs as a result of instrumental conditioning (such as that studied by Skinner) rather than classical conditioning. Central to all forms of behavioral interaction, however, is the concept that conditioning creates a change in an animal’s behaviour and that the change results in learning.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

Watch the video: 5 Rules to Follow as You Find Your Spark by Simon Sinek (May 2022).