Jacky Leonard's blog

Archive entries for: Feb-2013

Just Because

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

“If you’re the boss, just because they don’t ask, doesn’t mean your employees don’t have needs.” 

― James Levine

In my last blog I said I wasn't a fan of 'why' and suggested you replaced the word with more creative ways of asking people for the reasons behind their decisions or actions.

I personally like to know the intentions behind people’s behaviour, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of the word.  American psychologist Dr Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence Science and Practice, presents more compelling evidence in support of it.   He says if we ask someone for a favour we “will be more successful if we provide a reason.”   It's a word that’s used as a precursor to many explanations we receive as children, so you’ve more than likely learned to respond in a certain way when hearing it. Psychologists refer to it as a fixed-action pattern, something which triggers your pre-programmed learned behaviour.   An experiment (Langer, Blank and Chanowitz, 1978) demonstrated a simple request with the addition of ‘because’ improved compliance by over 30%, even when no real reason was given i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”

So it would appear this simple word can be an effective influencer and powerful in its application.

In your role as a manager, trainer, mentor, when you give information to your team do you give them the ‘because’ and tell them 'why' things are done a particular way, or why you’ve made a specific request?   It would seem giving the thinking behind your requests or actions is more effective for a number of reasons…

  • It’s an effective influencer
  • It helps 'sell' your idea
  • It enables a greater understanding, thus minimising mistakes that can happen if people do things by rote
  • It can allow your team to consider viable alternatives, solutions or improvements because they appreciate the rationale
  • Having to give a reason is more likely to make you think it through

So, if you can't explain the reasons things are done a certain way, perhaps it's time you did!  Is it because you’ve always done it that way?  You may be missing more creative, efficient or effective ways of achieving the same thing.

Try it and see...because it may pay dividends.