Be Careful What You Say Yes To!

Have you ever wondered why salespeople try to get you to say yes to small, seemingly insignificant requests? There’s a really good reason why and it’s based on psychology.

Dr. Robert Cialdini is the author of an amazing book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it he outlines six triggers that influence our behavior and two of the most powerful are commitment and consistency.

But before I get into how these variables influence us, let me share a fun, little study that will show how the two work together to drive our behavior - even when we’re not aware of it.

Imagine that someone knocked on your door and asked you if they could put a 10-foot tall, ugly, neon-colored billboard on your lawn that said “Drive Safely.” Would you go for it?

What if they asked you to put a 3-inch sticker in the front window of your house that said “Be a Safe Driver,” and then two weeks later asked you to put up the obnoxious billboard? Now would you be more or less likely to agree to the billboard?

Lucky for us, this is not just a theoretical question, and the answers point to some interesting psychological dynamics.

Dr. Cialdini and some of his research associates approached a group of homeowners and asked them if they could put a huge, ugly, obnoxious sign in their yard. An overwhelming 83% said, “No Way!”

Then they went to another neighborhood and asked people to put the small sticker in their window that said, “Be a safe driver,” and most, readily agreed to this small request. When they returned two weeks later and asked if they could install the ugly billboard, a whopping 70% said, “Sure!” What do you suppose is going on with that!?

According to Cialdini’s theory, once we become committed to something, we naturally like to be consistent with it. So by saying ‘yes’ to the small sticker, it was much easier for homeowners to say ‘yes’ to the huge, ugly billboard.

The moral of the story is that whenever we say ‘yes’ to something, we open ourselves up to a much larger commitment down the road. But it’s not all bad. There is a way to use this tendency to your advantage.

If you want to make a big change, start with a small commitment and then be consistent with it. As your commitment and consistency increase, it will be easier to take bigger steps later.

Do you want to study poker everyday but never seem to get around to it? Commit to study 5 minutes per day and do it consistently, everyday for 30 days, and see what happens. Generally speaking, this level of commitment and consistency will lead you to naturally and easily study for longer periods of time as you build the habit.

You can use these two triggers (commitment and consistency) to build almost any habit. Oh, and be sure to say “no” to any small request a salesperson makes, lest you be roped into a much larger commitment down the line!