Can I ask a small favor, so we can be friends? | The Ben Franklin Effect | I AM TECHNOLOGY blog by Trey Warme, San Diego
The Ben Franklin Effect
Benjamin Franklin discovered something startling when starting out in business:
When you ask someone for a favor, it puts you in a favorable position with that person. Even if that person is a rival.
Franklin had a tense relationship with a man who had much political pull in Philadelphia – political pull that Franklin would need to succeed in the city. Against all logic, Franklin sent a letter to the man, asking him if he could borrow one of the man’s rare books.
The man agreed to lend Franklin the book. And from then on, the man was friendlier toward Franklin.
Franklin took note of the astonishing experience.
He found that once someone had done him a favor, that person was more likely to do him more favors.
How’s that for err.. counter intuitive? Psychologists regard The Benjamin Franklin Effect to be an excellent example of cognitive dissonance. The theory of cognitive dissonance is 1) contradictions are uncomfortable, 2) because they’re uncomfortable, they motivate change.
According to a UNC Berkley, Practical Psychology page on Persuasion, “The ‘Ben Franklin Effect’ is a great example of cognitive dissonance theory at work. Ben’s political opponent originally had antagonistic views toward Ben. However, Ben then very politely asked him for a small favor. For whatever reason — perhaps the refinement of Ben’s letter, or the smallness of Ben’s favor — the opponent obliged. After obliging, the opponent feels cognitive dissonance. Ben is his enemy, and yet, he just did his enemy a favor. He just contradicted himself. Logical contradictions are discomforting. How can he get rid of this contradiction? There are two ways:
- take back book (change behavior so it aligns with original attitudes about Ben)
- decide Ben is actually a good guy (change attitudes about Ben so they align with new behavior)
And what we have discovered is that it is very easy to change one’s attitude to relieve dissonance, but very difficult to change one’s behavior. Thus, the political opponent becomes Ben’s friend, and in fact, is even more willing to do more favors for Ben, to further relieve any evidence of contradiction between his thoughts and his actions.”
Jessica Mehring states, in an article about this same psychological phenomenon on the Horizon Peak Consulting site, “I personally believe that Franklin triggered the principle of “commitment and consistency.” This is one of the 6 principles of influence that Robert Cialdini writes about in detail in his bestselling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Essentially, once we commit to something, we try very hard to stay consistent with it. So when the man committed to lending Franklin his book, psychology kicked in and the man felt compelled to have an attitude that was consistent with his action.”
Being asked, and receiving, a favor generates good feelings on both sides. Giving people a chance to help you could turn out great for both parties. Asking an expert for their help could result in you maybe learning some inside expert info, and get the expert to feel more generous to you in the future.
Maybe Franklin discovered a powerful relationship-building tool?
How can we use The Benjamin Franklin Effect today to build valuable relationships with those we respect and admire? Here are a couple of ideas for starters:
- Ask for a review of your work? You don’t need to score face-time to ask your idolized industry-expert for their help. This is the digital age, baby! Send them a copy or a link and ask that they review on their own time. I bet you’ll be surprised about how many yesses you will get, if asked respectfully.
- Get social! Ask the industry experts that you follow on social media for their opinions on current events in their fields of knowledge.
- Get more social! Invite several industry experts whom you admire to write guest articles on your blog.
What do you think? Ideas to add?
Better yet, give it a try, and ask someone you admire for a favor. Please post your results in the comments below.
✍ Hey, can I ask you a favor? Are you a #writer living la vida loca of a #writerslife? Like to #write? Would you like to gain exposure to your #writing by publishing an article here on the new I AM TECHNOLOGY blog? Anything you write that is relevant to the material on the site or to technology, personal, spiritual or career development. I will promote you and your work along with the blog. You can widen your audience. Your writing is sure to drive more traffic here to the blog. It will be a win-win! Contact Trey for more info, firstname.lastname@example.org.