The "Because" Factor

Maybe it's a sign of our times -- the victim mentality and all. What's wrong with communications at our company (I hear) isn't our ability to talk -- it's everyone else's ability to listen! Hmmm. Does it seem like you are writing memos to the void? Are your requests for support and assistance falling on deaf ears? Are your most heartfelt comments routinely ignored? Well, certainly, we are not as good at listening as we might be. In the press of business, we forget, lose sight of, and sometimes ignore what we've been told.

But the answer is not to complain about the quality of the listening around here; it's to learn how to communicate so that your words are heeded. People listen differently to different kinds of messages. So if you're being ignored, it says something about the way that you are communicating, and it's not good.

Here's an easy and effective tip: when you ask a person to do something, include the word "because" somewhere in your request. Stanford University invested a lot of time and money in an experiment that proved that people are far more likely to do what they are asked when they are told why. Even if the reason given is silly, circular or meaningless, it makes a big difference.

Stanford tested the response rates of people paying their bills when the bill had "Please pay your bill promptly" printed at the bottom. Then it compared this to response rates for bills that had "Please pay your bill promptly because it is due" printed at the bottom. People paid their bills promptly seven times more often when the word "because" was added to the statement. Seven times! Now that's an effective communications strategy!

And here's some extra logic: if you're asking for help, explaining why you need the help ("because") will engage your listener's intelligence and participation. Our last Pulse survey told us that our employees value collaboration, and want us all to do a better job of it. Well, that begins with the simple act of adding "because" to your requests for assistance.

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