You’ve been working on your blog and need a break. So you kiss your spouse and head out the door for a walk.
But your child’s voice stops you cold.
“Are you bringing home the toy you promised?”
You feign ignorance. “Toy? What toy?”
Your child smiles, face full of expectation. “The Power Space Commando Ninja Mutant Brain Blaster!”
“Um … I’m just going for a walk.”
“But you promised.”
Ouch! You did promise a few days ago.
“Well, we’ll see. Okay?”
Your child’s face screws up in dismay. “But you promised! (sniffle) You proooomised! And I believed you!”
You hang your head in defeat and grab your car keys. “Okay. Okay. I’ll run to the toy store. All right?”
The little face lights up again. “Really? Allriiiight! Thank you thank you thank you.”
Two minutes later as you drive away, you see your child waving frantically at you from the front window, eyes wide with glee. And you’re asking yourself, “What just happened?”
Kids know something that you and I often forget. They have a secret, but deviously clever way to get just about anything they want. Like a good sales person, this child used three simple principles to generate a “yes” response.
1. If you want something from someone, ask for it.
My wife used to be subtle about gifts she wanted. She would walk me by a store and comment on the leather purse in the window. Or she might leave a catalog open on the coffee table, the corner of the page turned down, pointing to a bracelet. Then she would be flabbergasted on the big day when she tore back the wrapping paper to reveal a bread maker or battery-powered socks.
She has learned that a direct approach works best. Now, she writes down her wish list, complete with price, color, size, store location, and item number. I buy two or three of the items, wrap them, and hand them over on the big day, all the while thinking I’m clever for getting just what she wants.
Everyone is happy.
The child in my previous example knows what he wants and asks for it. Repeatedly. There’s no question. No confusion. It’s clear, direct communication.
2. If you want someone to do something, give a reason why they should act.
In a famous experiment, a psychology student tried to skip ahead of a long group of people waiting to use an office copier. The first time, the student walked to the head of the line and asked, “May I please use the copy machine?” Between choice expletives, most people told the student to go to the back of the line.
Later, the student tried again. Only this time the student said, “May I please use the copy machine because I have to make a copy?” Even though the reason given was meaningless, that one word (because) generated a “yes” nine out of ten times!
It’s a natural human instinct to want reasons to act. We make emotional decisions, but we temper those decisions and rationalize them with logic. We need to know the reason why. In our opening story, the child not only asks for the toy, but gives a good reason for prompt action: “You promised.”
Why use a reason? Because it gets results.
3. If you want something now, create a real and unavoidable time limit.
Sales reps know from experience that people are more inclined to give you what you want if you establish a time limit and ask for an immediate decision. People have difficulty making decisions, and given enough time, they will find reasons to say “no.” Limiting the decision-making time, and bypassing the opportunity to find negatives, makes “yes” more likely.
Car salesmen running a one-day “mark down event” know this. Store owners promoting a “Saturday Only” sale know this. And experienced bloggers and online entrepreneurs know this, too.
The wily child waits until the parent is walking out the door before asking for the toy. There’s no time to think. Say no, and you get a crying fit. Say yes, and, while you may have to make a trip to the store, you’ve maintained the peace.
The conclusion? If you want response and you want it now, make like a kid asking for a toy.
- Ask for it.
- Give a reason.
- Create time pressure.