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Telling people the reason why you are doing something has a major influence on how they react to you because, more often than not, people willingly comply with requests when given reasons why they should. Ellen Langer, a social psychologist at Harvard University, demonstrated that people respond automatically and without thinking when given the proper stimulus.

Here’s how it went: In a busy library, one of her subjects would approach the person at the front of the line for the photocopier and say, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I am in a rush?” This request was successful 94 percent of the time. Later, when the subject returned to ask another group of people lined up at the same machine and said, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” her success rate dropped to 60 percent. No big surprise here. What was a big surprise was that when the subject approached the front of the line a little later and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make these copies?” the compliance rate whizzed back up to 93 percent!

Automatic response is based on reason, or at least the appearance of reason. People need to have reasons to make decisions and justify their actions even when the reason is not really a reason, but only looks like a reason. For most people it’s powerful enough to set in motion a patterned response, in this case a “yes” response, even in the absence of concrete information.

When you want to connect quickly, offer your contact a “because” and chances are you’ll be successful. For example, if you’re aiming to do business with company Q, and you meet a key contact there,
instead of simply saying, “I’m delighted to meet you,” add “because I’ve read so much about your pioneering work with XYZ . . .”

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