Over the past 9 years as an online freelance article writer, I’ve enjoyed having saved up lots of lists of so-called power words and often, pulled them out to use when in a bind. I was browsing through these lists while doing the research for the content of this article. It was then, that I came across this favorite study of “power-words” by a social psychologist Ellen Langer, who set out to test the power of single words. In this particular experiment, she wanted to use various words when trying to cut into a long queue at a photocopy machine. She tried out three different methods of asking.
In the first experiment, she simply asked whether she could cut into the queue, 60 % said okay. Next Ellen asked whether she could cut into the queue but added the word because she was in a hurry. 94% replied, saying okay. Finally, to test the actual word, because, she again asked if she could cut into the queue and again used the word because, saying simply, like the other people in the queue, she too wanted to make some copies, 93% said okay. This indicated, that the reason for cutting in, was less important than the actual word used, namely, because.
, I feel Ellen Langer’s third request was quite obvious. Yet that wasn’t the object of the experiment. The power word “because” was all she needed. So, when we want people to take action, we need to always give them a reason.
Do you have any power words that work magic for you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
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