A Powerful Word

Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer (www.ellenlanger.com) conducted an experiment that involved cutting in line to use a copy machine. Three questions were used with interesting results:

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?

60% said OK.

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?

94% said OK.

Now those results by themselves are to be expected but what if I didn’t bother giving a reason at all? Does it matter what we say after “because”? Are we, generally speaking, programmed to assume there is a reason after the word “because”? My Mom must have known this intuitively.

“Why can’t I have the candy?”

“Because I said so.”

I would just like to say for the benefit of five year olds everywhere “THAT’S NOT A REASON!” And no I don’t have childhood issues. Because I said so, that’s why.

So what was the last question?

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?

93% said OK.

Now personally I don’t believe a study like this is enough so I have experimented with the word “because” on my own and feel that my findings corraborate the study above – “because” is a powerul word.

Networking uses?

Good: I would like to sit down with you to discuss the possibility of us becoming power partners?

Better: I would like to sit down with you to discuss the possibility of us becoming power partners because (you and I share a similar dedication to customer service, you and I share similar customers and might be able to help each other, you and I have a similar fascination with worms, etc.)

Throw a because in there and your chances of success increase regardless of the goal of your networking question. Do a little experimenting of your own – try it with because and without. I think you will be interested with the results.

About Mark Hiatt

Over 10 years ago I began to learn the leads group and relationship networking world and I fell in love with it. Today I create leads groups, put on networking seminars and write books on the power of networking. Business is meant to be fun, uplifting and satisfying. Anything less is unacceptable. Networking is the way, the means and the path.
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47 Responses to A Powerful Word

  1. Interesting concept Mark. I like it.

    Thanks for that insight,

    Michael

  2. Nelson says:

    I like the use of words to move people. You have rung my bell and I appreciate you for doing so. Thanks and bring some more of this to our banquet table Mark.

  3. Howie Perks says:

    Hey Mark,

    Great new twist on the word “because”. We all know there is power in our words and when you break it down to studies like that it becomes even more apparent!

    I believe the word “because” seems to always follow with something more personal. Maybe that is why it creates a better response.

    Thanks for posting this study. I look forward to reading more of your articles “because” I believe we have the same type of mindset and can learn from one another ;)

    In Success,
    Howie perks

  4. Ahh… the powerful because word :-) It doesn’t really matter what comes after it, people still believe the reason, or at least they take it on board.

    Kevin Hogan talks about it coming from when we were younger and our parents would say because…

    Why? Just because…

    It’s stayed with us and is a powerful influencing word from The Psychology of Influence.

    Thanks Mark,

    Gavin

  5. Deb Augur says:

    Hi Mark,

    It’s true! I’ve tested this myself and have been amazed at the difference it makes. What’s really funny is what follows the “because” doesn’t even really have to say anything… like the example “because I have to make some copies,” which of course everyone in line also has to make copies. LOL. Cracks me up. But, actually adding “value” to the because (as you did in your examples) it becomes even more powerful.

    I recently read “Predictably Irrational” (Dan Ariely) and while I don’t remember the “because” test being in there, a lot of studies like this were reported. The most memorable was the “free” test, which is told a lot online so I won’t go into it here. I just brought it up BECAUSE this “because” test also falls in the predictably irrational realm!

    Nice post!

  6. Very interesting. I agree with you, because, is not an answer. I always hated that lame answer. I’ll have to listen more closely to people now when they throw this word around.

  7. Glyna Humm says:

    Hi Mark – Interesting concept – I will have to give it a try. What circumstances have you been in that gave you the best results using “because”? Just curious:) Thanks

  8. Mark Hiatt says:

    Great question Glyna – since this is a networking blog I’ll give a networking example. When I say, for example, “Wow, from what you tell me it sounds like you could use a great Chiropractor. I know one that has received some good testimonials regarding helping people in your situation” – I get decent results. But if I say, “Wow, sounds like you could use a chiropractor. I would like mine to give you a call because he has received testimonials regarding . . .” – I get great results. Who knows, maybe it’s not the word but the way you have to phrase a sentence when using the word – either way it seems to work better.

  9. Maggie Lancy says:

    Interesting concept.

    Thanks for the insight Mark.

  10. Hi Mark,

    WOW! I love this stuff! It is so cool that people study these issues and make these Findings! I have a proposal to work on tomorrow and I will absolutely use BECAUSE!

    I do have to admit that when I invite someone to an event or to hang out or whatever, and that person just says, “Sorry, I can’t make it.” I feel very unsettled. It is really none of my business and I know that. Nevertheless, I feel much better when the person says, “Sorry, I can’t make it because it’s my sister’s birthday.”

    So there you have my contribution to the study! LOL! Really interesting and useful info, Mark!

    Mentor Mama

  11. I hadn’t thought of this before…the word “because” having such an influence on people. It may just have to be something I experiment with myself. Thanks for sharing…I do appreciate it.

  12. Mark,
    It’s funny that you reference this experiment on the power of the word “because” by Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer. I was just reading Tony Jeary’s Life is a Series of Presentations and he writes about the same experiment. Of course this means we’ll have to use this word “because” to our advantage and the examples of its use you gave would be very powerful.
    Thanks for the suggestion to experiment with it in prospecting. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m looking forward to testing it out.
    Your post was very well written “because” you gave great value!
    Thanks for sharing!
    (Dave) and Dawn

  13. Hi Mark,

    A timely reminder so thanks very much. Language is so powerful when we use it appropriately. I look forward to networking with you going forward. Just cos. :)

    Regards,

    Andrew

  14. Lesly says:

    Mark, great post. People living their lives everyday usually don’t realize how important the words they use are. This is a great tip, and an alarm to read all those studies that explore the use of words. I shall include the word -because- because you said so. No, kidding, because it seems to yield Thank you! results!

  15. Very interesting post Mark.

    Now I do tend to tell people who try to cut in front of me for anything that my time is just as valuable as theirs, so unless the “because” involves money coming my way, or you are cute, chances are you are going back to the line :)

    Point well taken though, explain “why” is so important.

    Peter

  16. Hi Mark,

    Very interesting way to look at this. I think by being upfront, just as you suggest, there is nothing wrong with being straight forward at all.

    Sure, it’s a matter of preference. But…

    Besides, if this is the type of person you are, that’s great because you’re speaking to who you are. That says a lot about your integrity.

    Great point and glad you brought it up.
    Jerome Ratliff

  17. PearlyPQ says:

    Hi Mark,

    Glad to know you through TSA. Great post with powerful word. Thanks for telling us the reason for using the word “because” and “without” – I personally feel much more acceptable with others opinion when they put a reason for me to understand the “why” – So these two powerful word already create an understanding with one another. Thanks so much for your post, Mark. Glad I read this !

    Cheers
    Pearly

  18. Hi Mark, WOW! Really…I enjoyed reading your post and, being curious, will definitely do a little experiment of my own (with adding “because”) to a statement. Thanks for sharing :-) Christine

  19. Ted Hunsaker says:

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for the great post on How powerful the word because can be.

    Ted

  20. Beth Allen says:

    Hi Mark ~ Very interesting results of that study! I think if someone was in a rush I’d let them go, but just to make copies? Umm, hello, that’s what I’d be in line for too!

    I agree that “because” is powerful ~ it lets people know the reason WHY….which makes our decision making process that much easier. Not to mention our natural curiosity as humans! And my 3 year old says thank you, by the way! ;)

  21. Mark,
    “Because” does take the sharp edge off of either an excuse or for doing something outside of the norm. Fascinating that just one word can make such a difference in acceptance or rejection. If a person cut in front of me just to make copies, I would say something. If they asked politely if I would mind, followed by a because that was valid, that would be acceptable.

  22. It is pretty cool how just changing the words you say can make a dramatic impact on your results. A great book on this is What You Say Is What You Get by George R. Walther

    This is a MUST READ if you really want to learn how to communicate to get better results.

    Regards,
    Mike

  23. Great question Glyna – since this is a networking blog I’ll give a networking example. When I say, for example, “Wow, from what you tell me it sounds like you could use a great Chiropractor. I know one that has received some good testimonials regarding helping people in your situation” – I get decent results. But if I say, “Wow, sounds like you could use a chiropractor. I would like mine to give you a call because he has received testimonials regarding . . .” – I get great results. Who knows, maybe it’s not the word but the way you have to phrase a sentence when using the word – either way it seems to work better.
    +1

  24. Denise says:

    Hi Mark,

    I have heard of that experiment before but have to admit, the ‘because I have to make some copies?’ just wouldn’t work, not with me anyway!

    Hmmm, I think i’ll start trying this one too. Thanks. :)

    Denise

  25. Mark
    Love it. I am going to experiment, I have never used the ‘because I said so’ as a parent or teacher it just didn’t make sense to me, but I think you could be right it may not matter too much what comes after the ‘because’ but I think a positive sensible reason would be best.
    belinda

  26. Hi Mark,

    Fascinating post! I’ve read about that study on the use of the work because before and if I remember correctly, there is even more power in it if you use the work YOU, as in “Because it will benefit you.” People always want to know what is in it for them. An example using the photocopy line might be, “Can I use the Xerox machine BECAUSE, if I don’t get these copies to admin, YOU might not get your paycheck on time.”

    Thanks for the reminder on the power of because.

    Wendy

  27. kiaran says:

    Hi Mark it really is interesting isn’t it how the power and framing of a question can elicit such different behaviors – i believe this story is told in the book Influence -by Caldini an amazing book I first read back in the early 90′s

    Cheers Kiaran

  28. Bill Cowan says:

    Now I can;t wait to use the word “because” in my next discussions with my new prospects. Absolutely gonna give it a try. Thanks

  29. Tim Colletti says:

    I like the study that you posted here. We all have a tendency to want to explain things that we do, so the word “because” becomes that powerful word to do that.

    ~ Tim

  30. Beth Hewitt says:

    Hey Mark,

    I have never heard this concept before, but it makes a lot of sense. Adding because to the conversation gives weight and added meaning to why you are networking with the person in the first place.

    It is always nice to follow because with geuine positive praise that adds value to what you are discussing and gives appreciation to the relationship you are building.

    Thank you for making think about this,

    Beth :)

  31. Mark,

    I can definitely see the “because” being more effective. It shows that you are taking time to elaborate on you statement or idea. If you elaborate and are more descriptive it show that you have a greater level of understanding and that you actually care enough to explain it to the other party. Listeners will respect and respond to that.

  32. Yasser Khan says:

    I think the word because evokes expectations of hearing reasons, explanations and facts and figures in those who hear it. In a way, it offers personalization. And it’s pretty subconscious, since it happens to be such a common word in our daily vocabulary that we feel something’s missing when you do give reasons but without the word because. Attempt an experiment with that in mind and see what I mean.

  33. sun says:

    It is pretty cool how just changing the words you say can make a dramatic impact on your results. A great book on this is What You Say Is What You Get…:)

  34. bleach says:

    I think you could be right it may not matter too much what comes after the ‘because’ but I think a positive sensible reason would be best. :P

  35. Wifi says:

    Lol. What’s really funny is what follows the because doesn’t even really have to say anything… like the example because I have to make some copies, which of course everyone in line also has to make copies. hahaha just had fun.

  36. hellojohanne5 says:

    I love the insight, thanks for sharing it.

  37. naruto0506 says:

    If you elaborate and are more descriptive it show that you have a greater level of understanding and that you actually care enough to explain it to the other party.

  38. rain0506 says:

    You had definitely a powerful word! Thanks for sharing this blog, good job!

  39. Heather Anderson says:

    Great words, I’m happy that you made this kind of article for the parents to ponder in their minds.

  40. avatar0506 says:

    I think the word because evokes expectations of hearing reasons, explanations and facts and figures in those who hear it. | :P

  41. Windy says:

    Great! It’s kinda funny that you reference this experiment on the power of the word because by Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer. I was just reading Tony Jeary’s Life is a Series of Presentations and he writes about the same experiment. Thanks for stopping by!

  42. lyndaby says:

    Thanks for sharing Ellen Langer with me, I have to tell my son about this since he is a psychology major and needs a lot of references.Any ways great info about the word “because”.

  43. diamond56 says:

    It’s pretty subconscious, since it happens to be such a common word in our daily vocabulary that we feel something’s missing when you do give reasons but without the word because.

  44. Len says:

    I think you could be right it may not matter too much what comes after the ‘because’ but I think a positive sensible reason would be best.

  45. light3m3 says:

    I enthusiastically feel that the facts and strategies provided is relevant to everyone . Best wishes .
    Roofers Davie FL

  46. ducati56 says:

    What’s really funny is what follows the because doesn’t even really have to say anything… like the example because I have to make some copies, which of course everyone in line also has to make copies. hahaha just had fun. | :P

  47. Sachiko Tanksley says:

    I knew that one can make money on ebay but i didnt know how. This article provides answer to all my queries. It was really great to read this one. Thanks for sharing it here.

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