Because of the Because

A study at Harvard, asked subjects to cut into a line of strangers waiting to make photocopies. When they asked simply if they could use the photocopier (saying “Excuse me. May I use the machine?” for instance), subjects were successful 60% of the time. However, when a reason beginning with the word “because” was added (“May I use the photocopier because I’m in a rush”), the request gained instant credibility, and compliance skyrocketed to 94%.

What’s more amazing, it didn’t seem to matter what the given reason was (“May I use the photocopier, because I need to make copies”), compliance remained at about the same level, 93%.

This is a lesson in persuasion that all of us can apply.  Giving people the benefit of an explanation makes us more influential.  I highly advise against giving a dumb or non-sensical reason (“I need to make copies, because I need to make copies”).  I imagine that would help your cause today, but hurt your credibility long term.  But giving people the courtesy of a reasonable and relevant “because” will make all the difference.