Syndicate content

Power of Suggestion

The Things We Do: Would You Steal for Me?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

When people talk about saying “no” the discussion usually revolves around why we find it so difficult. We want to help, we don’t want to make the other person feel bad, we are afraid of confrontation, we might feel guilty... the list goes on.  There is usually a chapter on ‘saying no’ in self-help books, and it’s a popular topic for religious leaders and psychologists. They claim that we must be assertive, value ourselves, defend our rights, and seek relationships with healthy foundations.

But there might be a more intrinsic reason why saying no is so difficult: humans are social creatures and are inherently vulnerable to the suggestions of others.

Many of us assume that the favors we ask of others will only be granted if the other person feels comfortable with them, but we fail to realize that simply by asking we are influencing the other’s actions and willingness to oblige.  We don’t consciously think about the degree to which we take cues from other people.

This leads us to underestimate how much power our neighbor who asks us for favors has or the amount of influence we, ourselves, have when we give advice to a relative.  We ask favors and give advice without realizing that the person listening will, more often than not, take what we say on board. We agree to things and we say yes because we are unaware of how easily influenced we are.

So what happens when someone asks a favor that is unethical? Do we realize how easy it is to convince someone, and does this influence our decision to ask for unethical things? Do we recognize our tendency to say yes and do we allow our own sense of morality and ethics triumph?