Asking people to do things for you can be awkward. But there’s no denying that it’s a necessary skill to have because even you—with your superhuman efficiency—can’t do it all.
So the next time you’re psyching yourself up to make a request of someone, try using a magical word that can help make it more palatable for both sides. And that word is “willing.”
Psychologist Elizabeth Stokoe, a professor of social interaction at Loughborough University in the U.K., has found through her research that incorporating the word “willing” into your request changes it from a demand for immediate action (which is easier to turn down) to a question about what that person is capable of in a broader sense.
For example, the next time you ask your beau, “Can you take out the trash?” and he grumbles that he’ll get to it later, follow up immediately with, “Are you willing to take out the trash?” By subtly tweaking the initial ask, you’re more likely to change the outcome. Note that this works especially well after the original request is declined. Ah, the power of persistence.