If you’ve ever been a kiss-ass trying to win someone over, it turns out you’re making life a whole lot harder for yourself. Haters gonna hate until you master the Benjamin Franklin Effect – a cunningly counterintuitive way to make people like you.
The American Founding Father himself skillfully exercised the technique to overcome his political enemy in the House.
Franklin wrote a sweet note asking to borrow a book from a legislator who despised him. To his surprise, he was granted the book, kept it for a week (without even reading it), and returned it with an overindulgent thank you. When they next met the guy did a complete 180. They became great mates and strong political allies.
Franklin states in his autobiography,
“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”
And for those of you playing at home, what he means is – if you want people to like you, ask them for a favour.
Why the Benjamin Franklin Effect work?
Scientists conducted a host of psychological tests on Franklin’s narrative in the ’60s, and they confirmed it’s very much true, and likely due to cognitive dissonance.
Effectively it works on the following assumptions:
- The person asked will feel respected and a little bit smug that you needed their help. Everyone wants to feel needed, seen and heard. In asking, you are validating and affirming something they have that you don’t. Feeling a bit superior helps them warm up to you, and they will most likely follow through.
- Next, they justify to themselves that they like you, because why would they do a favour for someone they don’t like? That inconsistency creates far too much of a mind fuck. So they convince themselves they must like you enough to lend a helping hand. The action comes first, and then the brain catches up with the action. This echoes the self-perception theory, which maintains a very optimistic view of humanity that we act before we judge. So we see everyone as natural, act in a certain way, observe how our behaviour is received, and only then conclude how we feel about others.
- If the person has done you a solid, and you offer them some help back, you’re both likely to continue in a pattern of helping each other out. You develop trust and improved communication, both Dr. Phil prescribed necessities for a great relationship.
Our take on it is… the more you invest energy into making someone like you, as long as they just stonewall you with absolutely no response, they’ll like you less and less. The ‘Benjamin Franklin Effect’ is a way of letting them meet you halfway. You can’t care about something if you have zero stakes in it.
Dale Carnegie gave the method his thumbs up in his best-selling title How To Win Friends & Influence People, calling the technique a “subtle but effective form of flattery.” And what better way to manipulate someone than in such a sly and ingenious way.
The good news for your workplace, neighbourhood, or parking garage feuds is the greater the dissonance, the greater the desire to overcome it. So the bigger the hater, the better the result you get.
How to attack it
- Get over asking for a favour. Start small and build up.
- The individual favour is not as important – it’s more about what the favour represents. But it does matter how you ask. Aim for kind and complimentary. If you feel slimy and creepy when you do it, that will probably show.
- If you want to seal the deal, be prepared to help them out with something pretty soon after.
A great place to start is going straight up to that guy in your office who can’t stand you and shout him a cold one at after-work drinks.
You’ll win the approval of Franklin himself, who loved a tipple and made up over 200 terms for being wasted in his lesser-known work, “The Drinker’s Dictionary.”
Speaking of, read our self-penned thesaurus for drinking synonyms at our 109 hilarious ways to call a beer and beer.