Ben Franklin Effect


When Ben Franklin was a young man, he turned a rival into a fan with a brilliant, counterintuitive move.

Ben had co-founded a literary and debate society and served as clerk. When he ran for reelection as clerk, the rival ripped Ben in a long, hateful speech.

Rather than counterpunch, Ben asked the hater for a favor.

Ben wrote a letter asking if he could borrow a “very scarce and curious book” that the rival owned.

The rival loaned the book to Ben who quickly acknowledged the favor with a “thank you” note.

From that day forward, the former rival treated Ben with great respect. They became great friends.

The moral of this story: If you want people to like and bond with you, master the Ben Franklin Effect.

Yeah, “The Ben Franklin Effect” is really a thing.

Here’s how psychologists explain it…

We humans want our actions to make sense. So our subconscious mind crafts stories to put everything in order.

If you do a favor for someone, your subconscious tells this story: “I’ve done a favor for this guy. That means I must like him.” (Because it wouldn’t make sense for you to do a favor for someone you don’t like.)

So when you ask someone for a favor, you create a bond. The person who grants that favor is more likely to work well with you in the future.

Ben put it like this 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.”

I thought of Ben last week when I discussed “calls-to-action” with a client. I encouraged her to end her emails and social media posts with more direct calls-to-action. Ask people to share the post or forward the email or buy something.

“I don’t want to be too pushy,” she said.

Can you relate? I can. Many of us fear that we cross the “too-pushy” line when we ask for something. We reason that we’ll put people off. We even fear that friends and followers will get so annoyed with us that they’ll stop liking us.

Ben would see it differently. He would tell you that most people are happy to do you the favor if you ask. They’re happy to share your post, happy to forward the email, happy to refer a friend, happy to check out your products and services and even buy something. Just ask.

And whether they realize it or not, they may even like you more when they do you that “favor.”

Here’s the bottom line for marketing your business: You can’t drive action unless you call for it.

You may be surprised how well people respond.

Don't go away yet..

p.s. Coaches, authors, and consultants hire me to power-up their creative content and storytelling to captivate prospects, stand-out and book more business.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.

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