The Power of Because

I’ll admit it. I like to influence people. There's a thrill that comes with sharing good ideas and fostering cooperation to get important things done.

If you make presentations or facilitate meetings, you understand how difficult it can be to influence a group to work together to achieve a goal.

Did you know that if you include one word in your message, the likelihood of cooperation moves from 63% to 93%?

That power of because

Harvard Professor and Social Psychologist, Ellen Langer, did a study in the 1980’s to look into the power of the word BECAUSE.

It was a simple experiment. Professor Langer had a student attempt to cut the line at a copy machine, and she measured how many people would let the him do it.

Round #1 - the student was instructed to say,

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

63% let him cut the line.

Round #2 – Langer changed the script to say something else.

“Excuse me, may I use the Xerox machine BECAUSE I’m in a rush.”

94% of them let him cut the line!

(Okay, hold on. Maybe the change happened because the student had a good reason. He was in a rush.)

Round #3 - To test if BECAUSE really made a difference, Langer changed the script one last time to something nonsensical.

“May I use the Xerox machine BECAUSE I have 5 pages.”

93% allowed the student to cut the line!

Cooperation shot up to 93% simply by using the word BECAUSE. The word seems to influence others, even if it isn't attached to a good reason. Why does this happen?

It works because all of us are bombarded with messages. Experts estimate that we may see or hear 3 - 5 thousand messages per day! Our brains are busy navigating, trying to sort out the messages that are credible from the messages that are just noise.

The word BECAUSE signals credibility and tells your audience that there is a reason to care. Some examples:

  • We must invest in renewable energy because…

  • It’s time for action because…

  • You’ve been invited to this meeting because….

  • You should buy this product because….

  • We all must pay attention to this because….

  • I love visiting this city because...

Give your audience a reason to believe in your message, and they will! Just because.

Take Care,


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