Recently I discovered for myself why I am struggling to make new connections with people who could make a significant impact on my career. I remember how I questioned myself:
How can attract the attention of that person on LinkedIn?
Why should he or she be interested in communication and partnership with me?
The answer to my questions was the so-called Benjamin Franklin effect.
In the late 18th century, Benjamin Franklin was involved in politics in Pennsylvania and tried to win the favor of one of his fellow legislators. This is how he describes the story in his autobiography:
“I did not seek … to win his favor by showing him any servile signs of attention; but after a while, I applied another method. Hearing that there was a very rare and interesting book in his library, I sent him a note in which I expressed my desire to read this book and asked him to be kind enough to borrow it for a few days. He sent it immediately and I returned it about a week later with a note in which I warmly thanked for the service. The next time we met in the Chamber, he spoke to me, which he had never done before, and moreover very kindly. In the future, he invariably showed a willingness to provide me with services on all occasions, so that soon we became great friends, and our friendship continued until his death. Here is another example of the validity of the old saying that I have learned, which says:
“The one who once did good to you is more willing to help you again than the one whom you yourself helped.”
It seems to us that if people have sympathy for us, they will provide us with services because this is what happens in urban communities.
However, the Benjamin Franklin effect and subsequent empirical studies suggest that this is not the case with unfamiliar people. Such people begin to feel sympathy for us only when they themselves do us some kind of favor.
After that, they are ready to provide us with other services. Franklin concluded that if he needed to win someone over, he should ask that person for a favor. And so he did.
When we do someone a favor, we begin to believe that we have sympathy for that person. This sympathy leads to another service, etc.
As a variation of the foot-in-the-door technique (a strategy in which you first ask for a small favor and then for a larger one), the Benjamin Franklin Effect suggests that one service over time creates others, while small services entail larger ones.
However, speaking of the Benjamin Franklin effect, a question is often omitted, which is of great interest to many young men and women in their twenties: why on earth would a person, perhaps older and more successful, help them? How did Benjamin Franklin get that very first favor?
Everything is very simple. It is pleasant to do good deeds. When a person is generous, he has a feeling that is called “the pleasure of the helper.” In the course of numerous studies, a direct connection has been established between altruism and happiness, health and longevity — but only on the condition that the help we provide to another person does not become a burden to him. Most people remember how, at the very beginning of their life, they were helped by someone who has already achieved some success.
In this regard, benevolence towards young people after twenty has a downside.
Helping others is one of the essential elements of maturity, so twenty-year-old boys and girls, turning to unfamiliar people for help, give them the opportunity to do a good deed and experience pleasure from it — if only what they are asked for is not beyond reason.
Let’s discuss this point.
Sometimes in their twenties and thirties, they try to discuss their vague career aspirations with unfamiliar people in the hope that these people will tell them what to do. Such requests are not beyond the capabilities of successful people but maybe outside the scope of their schedule or roles.
It can be time-consuming to write a detailed response to an e-mail about what higher education someone needs to get. In addition, people with whom you have weak ties should not tell you whether to become a social worker or a folk music performer.
One HR manager told me the following: “It often happens that people make an appointment with me to find out about vacancies in our company, and when they come, they sit back in a chair, fold their arms and wait for a response from me. And I think: “After all, it was you who asked me to meet, so ask the right questions! Don’t ask me how long I have been with the company just to keep the conversation going until I tell you what to do with your life. ”
Let’s take a closer look at what kind of service Benjamin Franklin asked for. He did not send a messenger to the legislator with a note that read, “Peanut soup at the diner?” (In the 18th century, this would be the equivalent of an email with the words “Coffee?” or “Let’s chat?”). Franklin knew that such an offer might seem too vague to a busy person, so he acted more deliberately, working out the right strategy.
Franklin studied the information about the person whose sympathy he wanted to achieve and identified his area of interest. He has shown himself to be a serious person who makes important requests. He aroused interest in himself, proven its adequacy and he made a clearly formulated request: to let him use the book.
When you ask people with whom you have weak ties to give you recommendations, make suggestions, introduce someone, or conduct a well-thought-out informational interview, I recommend that you take the same approach: arouse interest in yourself, demonstrate your adequacy. Do the necessary preparatory work in order to know exactly what you need or want. Then ask politely. Some of those who you ask will refuse your request. However, many will agree to do it.
The fastest way to something new is one phone call, one email, one package of books, one service, one 30th birthday party.
Once I found an interesting prediction in a cookie: “A wise man creates his own destiny.” Perhaps the best thing we can do for our own destiny in our twenties is to say yes to our weak ties or give them a reason to say yes to us. Research shows that in adulthood, people become less social due to careers and family life keeping them busy. That is why, even if we often change jobs, move from place to place, live with different people and spend a lot of time at parties, this is the best time to make useful connections, and not only with those who also say that they have a bad job or that there are no good people left in the world, but also with those who perceive everything a little differently. Weak ties are contacts with those people
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