Why Do Some People Deny My Requests?

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How Do People Make Their Decisions?

If someone refuses to give you what you asked for you would probably take it personally and feel offended. But if you know what guides people's thinking and what affects their decision making process, you would know how to make them change their mind.

When people feel committed to something, they would pursue it to the end, no matter how disagreeable it might be to them. Their past actions determine their future ones and they feel bound by what they have previously said or done.

In one study it was found that most people in a certain neighborhood would refuse to put an unattractive wooden sign on their front lawn to support a "Drive Safely" campaign in their neighborhood. However, in another neighborhood, it was found that 4 times as many homeowners are willing to put up that ugly sign.

What do you think is it that convinced the second group of homeowners to put up the sign ?

Commitment and agreeableness

They didn't refuse to put it up because ten days earlier they had agreed to place a sticker on their windows in support of a "Drive Safely" campaign. That sticker was the initial commitment that made people agree to the another request of the same kind.

Most people, in other words, feel loyalty towards any engagement they make and therefore fulfill all the requests of these engagements. (see also How to know if someone is listening to you)

It was found that missed appointments in a health clinic were reduced by 18% by asking the patients rather than staff members to fill in the information on the appointment card.

If, for example, you are asking someone to donate money, you should know that the people who would not deny your request are those who have earlier made voluntary and public commitments to do charity work.

Bonding and Liking

People usually don't deny the requests of those that they like. But what causes one person to like another? There are three main reasons why one person might like another. (see also How to know if someone likes you)

We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments and we like people who cooperate with us when we have the same goals.

In a study carried out between students of two different business schools, one group was told, "Time equals money. Get straight to business". In this group 55% were able to come to an agreement.

Another group was told that before they start negotiating, they should exchange personal information with each other or identify a similarity they have in common. In this group 90% came to an agreement that was 80% convenient to both sides. (see also How to change someone's mind)

Therefore, you should look for areas of similarity between you and the person you want to ask for something and give genuine compliments before you get down to business.

How Do Similar People Behave?

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behavior of others to decide on their own. (see also social proof theory)

If in one hotel there's a sign that tries to persuade guests to reuse their towels. Any hotel would try to do this by drawing the guests' attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection. This strategy causes about 35% of hotel guests to reuse their towels.

But is there a more effective way? If it's a known fact that 75% of people who spend four nights or more at a hotel reuse their towels at some point in their stay, what would happen if hotels mentioned that fact on the sign and made it say, "75% of people reuse their towels. Please do so as well." In this case, towel reuse rises by 26%.

But when hotels put this instead on the note, "75% of people who stay in this room reuse their towel." Do you think that specifying the "people who stay in this room" has any influence on the guests' behavior?

It turns out that changing just a few words on the sign to honestly tell people what comparable previous guests did, led to a 33% increase in towel reuse. (see also How words can change your brain and life)

Therefore, instead of relying on your own ability to convince people, you can simply point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others. This encourages people to do the same.

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