September 4, 2012

Awkward Questions Are A Form Of Strategy

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

If outrageous questions are part of your repertoire, then chances are you have a knack for getting people to do what you want, according to new research.

Asking someone to accomplish an outrageous task for you is the best way to try and get him or her to do the real task after their initial rejection, a new study finds.

The study author Dariusz Dolinski, a researcher at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland, said the technique is a more effective version of the classic "foot-in-the-door" approach.

He said the reason the approach is so successful is because the unusual question throws off the usual refusal script. So, instead of instinctively saying no, we question why we are being asked something out of the ordinary and wonder whether we should have been so quick to refuse. Essentially, the awkward questions throws off the person being asked.

One of the researchers was tasked with asking people on the way to the supermarket if the strangers would be able to bend down and help tie their shoes for them.

"Excuse me, but I suffer from terrible back pain and I cannot bend down. My shoelaces are undone. Could you please be so kind as to tie them for me," the researcher said to the people passing by.

Also, some of those passing were asked to fill out a routine marketing survey.

After the different groups who were asked questions said no, they were asked by a woman if they would "keep an eye" on her shopping cart full of groceries. She said that her husband had the car keys and it was hard to push the cart around and look for him.

Dolinski said the team found that people were much more likely to help keep an eye on the woman's grocery cart after they had been previously asked to fulfill the unusual request of tying someone's shoes.

The new research may help in an office context for bosses who want to get their employees to do something. A boss can come up with an outrageous request, like asking them to work weekends, and then come back with a normal request like asking for something to be turned in by Friday.