The Ben Franklin Effect

There’s an old maxim saying, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Last email, In our exploration of Reciprocation, we imagined a person failing to woo a stranger by offering them something like a drink or a meal.

What if, however, the stranger ended up buying a drink for the person who approached?

Answer: That move would be far more likely to lead towards a continued relationship between the two.

Like all principles of the social matrix this doesn’t have to apply romantically. In his autobiography, Ben Franklin writes of using this technique for political advantage when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century.

He asks a rival to borrow a rare book. The rival loans him to book. Franklin returns it and shows great gratitude. The man ceases to be a rival and instead becomes an ally. His move was so effective to this day many refer to this relationship-shifting phenomenon as the Franklin Effect.

Salesmen frequently use the power of commitment and consistency. The “yes ladder” and “foot in the door” techniques are good examples of this. Both use small requests that then lead up to larger ones to increase the salesmen’s chance of closing the deal.

How can we apply this to the social matrix in an ethical and effective way?

As the comfort between two people grows stronger, their relationship can grow stronger and flourish. Think of your yes ladder as a ladder of growing comfort.

Imagine, for example, two people have just met. They are at a ski resort, currently indoor, both sipping hot chocolate, having their first conversation. Within 10 minutes one person suggests they leave to go ski together. It feels abrupt, so the other politely declines.

What if the first person was more conscious of building comfort levels?

Perhaps, within 10 minutes this person suggests they sit down in the cafe to continue to talk while they drink their hot chocolates. It’s a much smaller and more comfortable request; the other person far more inclined to join.

If that goes well, things continue to develop at a gradual and natural feeling pace. Perhaps once the two finish their beverages, they realize they would make excellent ski buddies, and continue their adventure on the slopes.

Speed isn’t important or impressive when navigating the social matrix; it’s all about the right timing. This principle of influence is most effective after you’ve already brought value into their life.

Imagine, for example, you’ve been such an amazing friend to someone that they decide to by you a gift, or send you a handwritten card. That is this principle working on the highest level.

Or, in the case of our budding ski romance, imagine the other person calls a friend to talk about this great individual they’d met – listing, out loud, the reasons they had such a wonderful time together. Saying the words aloud has a cementing effect.

As usual, being the exception and bringing great value to the lives of those around you does the trick on the highest level.

 

Want to catch up on the social matrix principles? Check them out here!

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