If you’ve ever wondered how to encourage someone to do something, this article is for you.
What are ways to encourage someone?
We will start by looking at the importance of observation in getting other people do the things you want them to do.
1. Employ Your Power Of Observation
In order to know how to approach someone with a request, you first need to know something about the person. You can do this by employing your power of observation. As you observe, make special note of the person’s ability and desires. This means you should:
Determine if the person has what it takes
It’s one thing to want someone to do something for you but it’s another thing to determine whether or not the person can actually do what you want. For example, asking a small child to help you push a stalled car will not help you at all (unless it’s a toy car).
The person you want to ask for a favor has to be able to do it. If he does not have the ability, you will just be wasting your time. Do your research to find out who can actually do what you want.
People will generally do something you want if they are invested in you or if they will end up gaining something from carrying out the request. Either way, you need to take the time to listen in order to find out what the person needs. People will open up if they perceive that they are in a supportive environment.
Therefore, keep your mouth shut (unless you open it to verbally articulate your support) and keep your ears wide open. Once you have heard what the person desires, start thinking of ways to supply that need.
By observing someone you want to approach with a request, you will be in a better position to know how to put your request across in a manner that will not be rejected.
2. Show The Person That You Care
The next step after observation is to show the person you care by either meeting their need or:
Being respectful is not a one-way thing. If you want someone to listen to what you have to tell them, you need to show them respect. Start by how you approach them and how you talk to them. Your tone of voice and your mannerisms should be just right. Do not try to offer insincere compliments – flattery can only get you so far especially if you have not previously paid any attention to the individual.
Instead of flattering someone, compliment them on something that you know they take pride in. This way, they will know that you have taken the time to notice their accomplishments.
Mirror their behaviour
Individuals are attracted to people they ‘see themselves in’. However, you need to take this further by consciously mirroring or mimicking someone. Mirroring is a theory that has been studied a lot by researchers. The results are always the same. They state that when you mirror others, they become nicer and more agreeable to you.
Therefore, if you want someone to agree to what you have to say, you will gain a lot by mirroring them. However, you must take caution not to appear as if you are mocking them. Your mirroring should be done subtly. It should appear ‘natural’ on your part. It should make the other person think ‘oh, he does that too’.
Mirroring works so well because in essence, it lets the other person feel validated by you. By copying their behaviour, you are assuring them that they are indeed just fine the way they are. You create a common bond that they will want to pursue and this leads them to react favourably towards you.
Once you understand the person by mirroring their body language, now you need to prepare to ask the person for the favour. Let a see how you go about it.
3. Prepare The Way For Asking The Person
Before you can ask someone to do something for you, you need to smoothen the way or soften their hearts. Don’t just appear out of nowhere and drop your request on them. You will only end up with the door slammed on your face. In order to prepare the way, you can do the following:
Do a favour for the person
If you want someone to do something for you, start by doing something for them. This doesn’t have to be something big. But it should be something helpful – something that will make the individual smile or feel grateful to you.
For example, if you notice the person carrying many things, you can volunteer to help him or her carry the things. This act seems small in itself but the next time you ask the person to ‘grab you a cup of coffee too’, he or she will be happy to do so as they want to reciprocate the act of kindness that you initiated.
Get a small commitment
You may have heard of Benjamin Franklin effect (1). If not, then let me explain. The Benjamin Franklin Effect is the trick he used to get an individual who did not like him to become his friend. He did this by borrowing a book from the guy and going ahead to thank him profusely.
The theory behind it is that once someone does you a favour, he or she will more than likely be inclined to carry out another favour. You should start by asking the person to do you a small favour. This can be something like borrowing a material object such as a pen or book from them.
Once you borrow the item, ensure that you return it in good form and that you (enthusiastically) tell them thank you. This way, they will feel good about having done you the small favour. This will put you in good standing with them and prepare the way for you to ask another favour. However, you should wait for at least a day before asking another favour.
Tangible objects are not the only things you can get from another person. You can also get them to invest their time. You can do this by asking them for advice. Ensure that you ask them about something they like or they are good at.
This will enable them to be more comfortable chatting to you. You should also move the conversation along by asking appropriate questions. Your goal should be to make the person invest time on you – the more you converse the more time they will invest.
Your work is not yet done. You should then make the way for the person to invest emotionally. This is by giving them a reason to seek you out. From your conversation, you will be able to find a common ground. Use this as leverage.
For example, if you discover you both love a certain book, start discussing the book but leave the person with an interesting question to ponder on. This will give them something to look forward to and you will find them eager to interact with you.
Tap into the person’s imagination
Once you get the person to invest in you, you need to start tapping into his or her imagination. Many people rarely exercise their full potential simply because they do not have the opportunity to do so or because no one believed in them. This is where your persuasion skills come in.
For example, if you notice that the person is good at being punctual, you can say something like ‘You’re always punctual; I bet you would make a great manager’. However, try to gear your compliments towards the thing you want them to do.
In this case, for example, you may want the person to help you out with organising an office function. The compliment is said in passing, but it puts the thought into the person’s head.
It is important that you do not be in a rush to prepare the way for asking an individual to do something for you especially if you will require him or her to do something big. Plan well and carry out your plan accordingly. Even as you ask someone to do something, it is important that you give the illusion of free will. No one wants to feel like they are being forced to do something. Let us see how you can give the illusion of free will.
4. Give The Illusion Of Free Will
No matter how much someone is invested in you, he or she will not appreciate it if you give him or her a command to do something. Human beings have free will for a reason and they guard it very well. In order to encourage someone to happily do something for you, he or she must think that it is for their benefit and that they have a say in it. In order to achieve this, you should:
Talk around the idea
This is where you make the other person believe that the idea to do something was theirs in the first place. This is a tactic often employed by salespeople. They give you a speech about the benefits of a product or service and before you know it, you begin to think that having the product is exactly what you needed to solve a certain problem or make your life easier.
The trick is to use the indirect root. Drop hints or clues and allow the person to come to a logical conclusion. However, you should pace your clues or hints so that they are not so obvious or the other person will see right through you.
Arouse the desire for mastery
Human beings love learning new skills and get excited when they are faced with a project that presents just the right challenge. This means that you need to ensure that the thing you want the person to do does not sound overwhelming as this will put them off. You should also make sure that it does not sound boring, as this will also put them off.
Another thing to do to stimulate the desire for mastery is to give feedback as the person continues to do what you have requested. However, you should refrain from praising the person, as this will only reduce their desire for doing the job.
This is a tactic mostly used to make people purchase more expensive things than they would have. The idea is to make the person think that whatever they may want to accomplish will make much more sense if they put in more effort or use more cash. For example, a salesperson who wants to sell a computer hard drive to someone should first ask the person why he wants to buy the hard drive.
The person may choose a hard drive with lower GB, which also happens to be less expensive. The salesperson should then instil doubt into the customer to make him question his choice of hard drive. In this case, if the individual wants to use the hard drive to store photos, the salesperson should tell him that that is okay for the hard drive ‘as long as you don’t plan to store other files in it’.
Since the individual does not know the future and since he may see himself storing other things in his computer, he will begin to doubt his purchase and he will turn to the salesperson for advice. You can use a similar approach to find how the person wants to carry out the task and then suggest your way of doing it by instilling doubt.
Push for a feeling
Emotions are part of human beings. Many people do things in order to achieve a certain feeling. Some people desire to be happy while others desire to be appreciated and acknowledged. It is up to you to relate your request to the individual’s feelings. The person will be eager to accomplish what you want him to do in order to achieve that feeling.
Make sure that the feelings you ignite are positive feelings otherwise, this will be counterproductive. Keep in mind that even when a task is unpleasant, finishing it usually brings about a feeling of satisfaction. Stick to that reasoning.
The illusion of free will is about stating your case in such a way that a person ‘chooses’ to do what you have asked of him. The more effective you are at encouraging the individual, the easier it will be for him or her to agree with whatever you are saying.
5. Make It Easy For Them To Carry Out Your Request
The last part of your strategy is to make it easy for the individual to carry out your request. This means that you should:
Reduce their cost
Doing something for someone usually translates into sacrificing time and effort. For example, a manager who wants an employee to cover extra work needs to acknowledge that the employee may have to work overtime and stay late at the office. Staying late at work may discourage the employee from taking on the extra responsibility.
However, if the employee is promised a vacation and bonus after accomplishing a task, he will begin to look favourably at the responsibility. In this case, the cost refers to the time the employee would have to work. By offering him vacation time and bonus, the manager will have effectively reduced the cost.
Reduce their risks
Many people would hesitate to do anything that they consider risky even if you make the terms enticing. The problem is that what constitutes ‘risk’ to one person is not what another person may view as risk.
For example, one individual may fear failing while another may fear tarnishing his reputation if whatever project you want to involve him in fails. This means that you have to first figure out what the individual terms as risk. Then you have to lessen their perception of risk. Assure the person that he has what it takes to carry out the job and that their reputation will only soar due to taking part in the project.
The best way to reduce the risk associated with reputation is to frame a project as a study. This way, the person will be motivated to do all he can to make the study work but he won’t be limited with his feelings of failure.
Leave out hindrances until the end
Obstacles or hindrances are often responsible for stopping a project before it even starts. If you ask someone to do something that is filled with hindrances, they will be highly reluctant to do it. Of course doing many things comes with certain hindrances. The trick is to leave out these hindrances until the end.
At the beginning of a project, you should only focus on the goal. As the project proceeds and hindrances make themselves known, the person will be less likely to stop as he has already started the project. The closer he is to finishing it, the more he will work to overcome any obstacles (2).
Give a reason for it
People need a reason in order to do something. However, what you may not know is that the reason doesn’t have to be elaborate. Various studies have shown that asking people to do something ‘because of’ something else usually gets positive results.
In one study, an individual wanted to cut the line to the photocopier and no one allowed him to do so because he just stated ‘can I cut the line’. However, when he stated ‘can I cut the line because I’m running late’ and ‘can I cut the line because I need only ten copies’ all the people in the line allowed him to cut the line.
The lesson is that you need to come up with a reason for the person to help you. The moment you use the words ‘because of’, you ignite the sympathy of others because they too know well when they needed to do something urgently due to other factors.
Offer a reward
After everything has been said and done, go back to the part where you used your listening skills to find out what the person needs in his or her life. Find a reward that he or she will appreciate. This type of reward does not have to be expensive. However, it does need to show that you value their contribution.
Remember to thank the person after they has finished the task. A handwritten thank you card works better than a typed one or a verbal acknowledgement.
Don’t make people jump through hoops in order to carry out a request for you. This will only tire them out and they will avoid being caught up in a situation like that again. Your request should be reasonable enough to make them happy to carry it out.
The point to note is that people will generally be happy to do what you ask of them if they are invested in you and if they perceive that doing that thing will make them feel good or accomplished.
However, this does not mean that they will automatically do what you ask of them just because it is you asking – hence, the reason for the discussed strategies. Follow the strategies closely and use your discernment to see whether or not the person is acting favourably towards you.
Remember to respect the individual, talk around the idea, offer feedback without praise and finally reward the person after he finishes the task. Doing this will not only make people happy to do what you want them to do but it will also create future opportunities for you as far as asking them to do things is concerned.