One of my favourite kinds of science is the kind that help me understand how to get people to do what I want them to do…for the betterment of society, of course. This is a consistent theme in my TBR pile.
I recently finished Infuence Is Your Superpower: The Science of Winning Hearts, Sparking Change and Making Good Things Happen, by Zoe Chance.
This book is an incredible cocktail of memorable stories and scientific research about how to be more persuasive in an ethical way. Adam Grant calls it “An engaging book on the science of encouraging other people to say yes.”
If this stuff is interesting to you, you should read the whole book. Chance explains conscious and subconscious decisions with a whole Gater and Judge bit that makes it easy to understand (finally) why facts aren’t as persuasive as we think they are. The insights about the Path of Least Resistance and Framing are really useful, as is the explanation about why changing someone’s mind won’t necessarily change their behaviour.
But in this post, I’m sharing my single most significant takeaway for those of us out here disrupting for good, that can be implemented immediately with tremendous impact: the Magic Question.
The Magic Question
Chance names her favourite influence strategy the Magic Question. The best part? You can implement it immediately and completely shift conversations that can feel stressful, awkward, and adversarial.
All it takes is a simple reframe.
“What Would it Take?”
Consider these two options:
“Is the City going to pay for a warming centre or not?”
“What would it take for the city to fund the warming centre?”
"I want to talk to you about why I deserve a raise."
"What would it take for me to move to the next pay bracket?"
Chance notes that the Magic Question works with anybody, from policymakers to kids. And the impact doesn’t wear off - you can use it over and over with the same person.
It moves the negotiation forward in a productive way because:
The Magic Question may take the conversation in a very different direction than you expected, so we need to stay flexible and open-minded ourselves, not married to our own Big Idea That Would Solve Everything.
But it’s a worthwhile trade-off to me compared to tense, aggressive, or slimy arguments that usually go nowhere or position the issue as a zero-sum game: in order for me to win, someone has to lose.
I challenge you to try out “What would it take?” this week. Take it for a spin, and see what happens. If you disrupt for good with the Magic Question, let me know how it goes!
I'm Jennifer. I am an advocacy and communications strategist working with multiple charities and nonprofits. And I want to disrupt our sector for good.