Dealing effectively with objections can be more powerful than other standard methods of persuasion. You ask someone for a favour and they say no. Where do you go from there? According to two experiments conducted by Boster and colleagues, you ask: “Why not?”, then try to deal with the objections (Boster et al., 2009). The key is transforming the ‘no’ from a flat refusal into an obstacle to be surmounted. If you can deal with the obstacle, the theory goes, your request is more likely to be granted.
Boster and colleagues tested this approach against these three other well-established methods of gaining compliance to a request:
Door-in-the-face (DITF): first you make a very large request which is easily turned down; this is where the metaphorical door is slammed in your face. But, then follow up straight away with a much smaller request which now, comparatively, looks very reasonable. This has been shown to substantially increase compliance.
Foot-in-the-door (FITD): better known as the ‘low-ball’ technique, this is the exact reverse of the door-in-the-face, in that you first ask for something small, then crank it up. Agreeing to the smaller request makes people more likely to agree to a second, larger request. The art is in judging the step up just right.
Placebo information (PI): this is when you give someone a reason, but not a very good one. Like you say: “Can I use the photocopier before you, because I have to make some copies?” This example was used in an experiment by Langer (1978) who found that for small requests it boosted compliance from 60% to 90%.