Over 500,000 people visited Farnam Street last month to learn how to make better decisions, create new ideas, and avoid stupid errors. With more than 100,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub. To learn more about what we do, start here.

How A Simple Psychological Trick Can Help You Get The Most Out Of Others

Helping others allows us a moment of ‘persuasive power.' But what's the best way to use that edge?

Perhaps one of the more practical uses of the reciprocity principle in business interactions concerns not how we can get others to respond, but instead how we respond after we provide help and assistance. Persuasion researchers 
have found that people 
are afforded a ‘moment of persuasive power' immediately after they are thanked for providing something valuable and meaningful.

Clearly I'm not suggesting that the next time an important client thanks you for pulling out all the stops in order to help them out of a fix, your response should be, ‘Yes I did help you out and now you owe me!' Such a response will ensure they'll likely never come to you again. But the much more common ‘No problem, I was happy to help' potentially throws away an opportunity legitimately earned.

Perhaps a more effective thing to say would be something along the lines of ‘I was happy to help. It's what we at ABC Ltd do for our important customers' or ‘You're welcome. I know 
that if the situation were ever reversed, you'd do the same.

Will such an approach 
always result in you getting what you want? Certainly not, but it may be that by simply recognising when these persuasive moments occur, a few more opportunities might come your way.

Steve Martin is co-author of Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion.