Last updated: 18 December 2015
Imagine saying this to a colleague in your office:
“I’m making some coffee. Would you like one?”
At some point later in the day you might ask that same colleague to do you a favor. It might be a small favor, like printing off a document. Or photocopying a page for you. Or even just taking your coffee cup to the kitchen sink.
The point is, since you made them a coffee earlier, without being asked, they’ll feel obliged to return the favor.
This is an example of the theory of reciprocity. You’ve done them a favor, and so when you ask them to return the favor, they feel like they owe you one. It’s a simple technique that can be used for building rapport and for getting what you want without the other person being aware of what you’re doing.
As far as conversational hypnosis goes, it’s pretty basic. It works, and that’s the main thing. Of course, you won’t be able to pull it off on the same co-worker day in and day out. Fortunately, though, there are other ways you can persuade the people you work with to do anything you want them to do.
Some questions you might be asking yourself are:
Do I really want to? Or do I really need to?
You’ll have to decide the answers to those questions for yourself. And while you’re deciding, think about what you could gain from it:
- Increased cooperation
- Better working conditions
- More decision-making muscle
- A harder working team
- Shared business goals
One way of strengthening your persuasion skills at work is by using powerful words so you sneak under the radar and break down defenses.
5 Fast-Working Powerful Words
Look at the list of benefits above. Can a single word really give you better working conditions? Or increased cooperation from your colleagues or employees? Yes it can.
Words create associations in the brain. They focus attention. They bypass the conscious mind and worm their way into the unconscious to stimulate different ways of thinking.
Here are the words and the power they contain, in no particular order:
The word “now” is short, sweet and to the point. Tell someone you need work done now and they know exactly what you mean.
There’s no room for ambiguity. There’s no question about putting it off until tomorrow, or next week. You don’t even have to give a reason, as long as the word now is included in your sentence.
What does “now” do to your colleague’s mind? It focuses it. It gives your words a sense of immediacy. It makes people work hard, even if it’s only for a limited period of time.
For example, an editor needed some copy for the next installment of his online newsletter. His writer was dragging his feet, renowned for leaving things to the last minute. But the editor was going away and didn’t have time to wait for it. So he simply emailed him this message:
“Hi Josh, I need your copy now. Doesn’t matter if it’s perfect as long as I get it asap. I want to pay you for it before I go on holiday.”
Have you ever asked someone if they could keep a secret? Do you remember what they said? The truth is that when asked that question, very few people will say NO.
Why? Because they want to be in on it. They want to know what it is you know. They’re curious about what “the secret” you’re keeping has to do with them, or with someone you both know, or with your situation at work.
Arouse their curiosity, and you’ve got them hooked.
Naturally you then go on to say that the information must be kept completely confidential. You ask your colleague not to tell anyone else, that it’s a secret just between the two of you. And that means you both share a common goal.
For example, you might tell them you heard there’s a bonus on the line if sales increase by a certain percentage. Or you could tell them the management are looking for someone to promote from within. These are great ways to get people working harder – as long as there’s some truth in the secret you’re revealing.
In other words, it has to be a secret, or at the very least something that not everyone knows about. But it does work, and that’s the crux of the matter.
Next time you get the chance, stand outside a crowded room and shout “Hey, you!”
What will happen? Most of the people in the room will turn and look in your direction. They don’t know whose attention you’re trying to get, but they’re curious to find out if it has anything to do with them.
It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that the three most powerful words used in sales and advertising are you, free and guaranteed. The best sales copy is written in the third person because when someone reads it, it resonates with them. It’s directed at them through the use of the word you.
The logic behind it is this: when you see or hear the word you, it gets your attention. It’s a substitute for your real name. There’s no doubt in your mind whatsoever that the message is aimed at… you.
Why does it work? For a split second, it puts you at the center of the universe. That’s where most people want to be, whether they admit it or not. That’s what drives everything you do, everything you want, everything you believe in and everything you feel. You.
So, for example, suppose you were to say to one of your employees whose work ethic was below par:
“I need you to take over (some minor responsibility) starting first thing tomorrow morning.”
It automatically makes them feel important. While there’s no guarantee they’ll rise to the occasion, it’s a simple way to increase their feeling of value to the company. It just might be the trigger that turns their work habits around.
Although it may be grammatically incorrect to put it like this, you is everyone’s favorite person.
With few exceptions, most people are suckers for flattery. As long as you do it carefully, you can butter them up and get them to respond or perform any way you want them to.
The easiest way to achieve this in the workplace is by using just one word – help. For example, you might say:
“Anna, I need your help getting this spreadsheet balanced.”
What will Anna think about that? She’ll think you realize that she’s:
- Good with computers
- Good with spreadsheets
- Good with numbers
In other words, Anna believes that you value her experience and expertise. Asking for her help gives her an instant boost of confidence. She’ll help you because she wants to prove to you that she really is able to do what you want her to do. And after all, you wouldn’t ask her unless you already knew that.
You probably don’t really need help, but you noticed that Anna didn’t seem to be fitting in as part of the team. By asking her to help you in this way, you give her the chance to shine, raising her self-esteem and perhaps making other staff members take more notice of her.
Result? Everybody wins.
When you were younger, you probably had a conversation like this with your mother:
“Mom, can I stay up and watch TV?”
“No, it’s time for bed.”
“Oh, please, Mom?”
“I said no.”
“Because I said so.”
Ring any bells? Sure it does. And because it’s your mother, you’re not going to argue. You know you’re not going to win, so you give up.
Thing is, mom didn’t give you a good reason. “Because I said so.” That’s not a reason. If she said you needed your sleep, or the TV was overheating, those would be reasons.
But your mother’s a clever lady. She knows she doesn’t have to give you a reason. The word “because” takes care of all the hard work. She accepts the fact that you might cry, you might whine about it for a while, but in the end you’ll go to bed just like you’ve been told to.
Likewise, in the workplace you can get colleagues or employees to do things for you without giving them a valid reason. For example, you might say:
“Joan, would you finish typing this letter for me because I want to leave now?”
The two things – the letter typing and the fact that you want to leave – are not connected. As soon as you phrase the question this way, however, they get connected. They get connected in Joan’s mind. You want her to do something for you because you want to do something else.
If she’s someone you have a good relationship with, she’ll probably agree to help you. You’ll be long gone before she figures out (if she ever does) that you’ve talked her into doing something you could easily have done yourself.
These are not the only powerful words you can use in conversation, but they’re words that have a particular potency in the workplace.