The Most Persuasive Word for Leaders

The most powerful words are always the simplest.

For instance, the most powerful word in leadership is “believe.” That is a word we all know, yet we rarely use it with our team. You can read more about that powerful word here.

The Most Powerful Word to be a Persuasive Leader

In his best-selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (I have read it three times now and highly recommend it), social psychologist Robert Cialdini tells us about the power of this word. In it, he shares a study by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer that shows the almost irrational effect the word “because” has on the hearer:

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: Ninety-four percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line.

Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied. At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words, “because I’m in a rush.”