The Surprising Science of Befriending Your Foes: The Benjamin Franklin Effect
Remember this dude? Princely, diplomatic gentleman with those lush steely locks? The smoothest social badass of his time? Ringing any bells?
Ben Franklin unlocked the secret to getting other people to like you. Most of us have been conditioned to think that the way to get someone to like us is by doing nice little favors for them, thereby demonstrating that we are a thoughtful and dependable person. Old Benji thought differently.
Franklin once had a very powerful political rival who was hellbent on making his life miserable. Franklin knew that it would be beneficial to have this man on his side, but instead of groveling for his approval, he took a counter-intuitive approach. He knew his rival was in possession of a very rare and valuable book, and simply asked him to borrow it. After a few days, he returned it with a thank you note and, surprisingly, his rival became his friend.
What Franklin tapped into is a well-known psychological principle known as cognitive dissonance. Basically, cognitive dissonance is the tension that results from having two contradictory beliefs in our mind at the same time. This stress is uncomfortable, so we automatically alter one of our beliefs to conform with the other to resolve this conflict.
In the case of Franklin, his rival held the belief: “I do not like Benjamin Franklin.” Upon doing him the favor, however, he was forced to come to terms with another belief: “It’s a pain in the ass to do favors for other people, so I only do favors for people I like.” These two beliefs are in conflict, and since he cannot un-loan the book, he was forced to soften and eventually reverse his ill-will towards Franklin.
The secret of the Benjamin Franklin effect is this: If you want people to like you, ask them to do favors for you.
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