Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On the Power of “Because” and Sharing Your Left-hand Column


When making a request for you or of other people, making it obvious as to WHY the request is being made at that point along with what you want, seems to improve the chances of your request being fulfilled, and fulfilled well.

I call it the”power of because”, and I was delighted to find out that there are scientific studies documenting the extent. Robert Cialdini describes this phenomenon in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, where people were more likely to let you skip the line if you had a reason: e.g., “Can I get ahead of you?” vs. “Can I get ahead of you because…”. Moreover, it turns out the quality or the validity of the reason didn’t even matter. In lining up to use a photocopier, you have a higher chance of skipping the line if you say “Can I get ahead of you, because I need to make some copies” than if you omit the “because” phrase, even though the reason doesn’t reveal any more information, because presumably, everyone in that queue is lining up in front of the photocopier to make photocopies.

When I use the power of because, I also tend to share my “left-hand column” and consider the left-hand column of people I am speaking with. I loosely use the term to mean what’s going on internally that’s not expressed verbally in a conversation or a decision or a request, your intentions and motivations and how you are feeling, where the right-hand column is the explicit information being communicated. I picture myself taking notes on a sheet of lined notebook paper where there is often a margin. What goes on the right-hand side has the facts, and I put the analysis of it in the margin. In the left-hand column exercise, the paper, metaphorical or otherwise, takes up more than a margin where there might be a lot more going in on the left-hand column than the right-hand.

When I mention “I need x, because y” where y is from my left-hand column, I am appealing to the other person as a human being, someone with feelings, even if I am not sharing any emotions. People who know about your left-hand column can be more compassionate, and therefore, more likely to put more effort into fulfilling your request.

I also see it as part of mentoring or building a partnership, where disclosing your thinking and your methods can help the others incorporate the left-hand column information they just learned for future interactions with you or in similar situations they might encounter where they can use similar methods.

Perhaps the power of because is so effective because we shy away from revealing our left-hand column, that when we take the time to do it, people take note. (And perhaps the Danish parents intuitively know the power of because, which may be why they insist on using the word “fordi (because)” everywhere especially when they are parenting.)

Photo: San Francisco, Califonia


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This entry was posted on April 18, 2015 by in language, Management, Psychology and tagged , , , , .
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