Making the Ask

When you are trying to get someone to do something, how persuasive are you? Or rather, how persuasive do you think you are? It may all depend on how you make the ask.

Imagine you are trying to get people to donate to your favorite nonprofit. Do you send an email blast to several hundred friends and family members? Or do you ask some of the people you see on daily basis? Perhaps you do both—but don’t think the two are equally effective.

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that asking in person is far more effective than sending an email, in spite of email’s increased reach. In fact, you only need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast!

Past research shows that people tend to underestimate their persuasiveness when making requests of strangers—but this new research shows that may only be the case in requests made face-to-face. When the same requests are made via email, the requesters actually tend to overestimate compliance with their requests.

Analyses of these findings suggest that requesters fail to appreciate the suspicion with which people view email requests from strangers. And given the prevalence of email and text-based communication in today’s world, it’s important to keep this in mind—especially if you are in the business of persuasion. iBi