Reason Respecting, Because, Why, Commander’s Intent
One of the most powerful words in the English language is the word because.
Why? Because, as humans, we have an underlying need to understand the reasons behind most things. When we know the why, we are more likely to:
- comply with a request
- remember something
- complete a task successfully
The key idea is that because can be a powerful motivator or persuasion tool, for both good and bad.
- The Copy Machine Study, where people waiting in line to use a copier were more likely to let someone cut in front of them if the person supplied a reason (a because) … even if the reason was really weak.
- Commander’s Intent, where soldiers on the battlefield are more able to complete a mission if they know the why. Simply knowing the desired outcome (the why) lets them adapt as things change while continuing to work towards the end result (vs being given a set of instructions to follow but not knowing the intended outcome).
Why It Is Useful
Quite simply, because is a great persuasion tool. You can use it, rightly or wrongly, to get other people to do what you want … and they can do the same to you!
Case 1: You’re a front-line manager in a large organization and you need your team to come together and work some extra hours to get a project done on schedule.
Simply by explaining why the project is important to the organization and why the deadline is so important, you can influence their willingness to stay and get the job done.
Case 2: You’re in the same role as front-line manager and your team successfully met the deadline. Now you want to ask your boss for a raise for completing the project on time.
To do so, you write up a detailed summary of the work your team has accomplished over the past year or two, outlining how the great results have impacted the company’s bottom line.
At the top of the document you summarize that you are requesting an in-line adjustment to your base salary … because of the accomplishments listed in that document.
Case 3: Your boss agrees, giving you a nice raise and an extra week of vacation. You decide to blow both on a nice trip to Fiji, but you need your team to keep moving forward on the next project.
So what do you do? You guessed it … you pull them together and tell them what you need them to work on, along with the why so they understand where they need to be with it in a week when you get back.
This way they can adapt to issues that come up and keep working while you are out … because they know the why.
How It Fits Into The Latticework
Reason-respecting is part cognitive bias and part persuasion tactic.
Probably the easiest way to include it in your toolbox is simply to add the word because to any email or verbal communication where you want to increase the chances that a person or group of people will comply with your request.
Additionally, it helps to remember to include the why when you need a task or project completed where the desired outcome is known but the people implementing it may need to adapt along the way.
Simply start adding because to your communications and see if, on average, you are a little more persuasive than you were before.
- Harvard Business Review: Commander’s Intent
- Josh Kaufman: Commander’s Intent
- Book: Poor Charlie’s Almanac (Reason Respecting is listed as one of the mental models in the back of the book)
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