Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
May I have your attention, please?
An easy way to build trust as we head into the new year.
Low power mode continues …
May I have your attention please? Thank you.
I have an idea for a resolution for 2023. Some of you do it already, and you're probably the better for it.
For the rest of us, it costs nothing, it takes almost no time, and there’s actually some research that suggests it makes people trust you more.
The resolution? It’s simple.
Be more polite.
A study in the journal MIS Quarterly suggests that being more polite makes people’s arguments more persuasive.
The researchers—Shun-Yang Lee of the University of Connecticut, Huaxia Rui of the University of Rochester, and Andrew Whinston of the University of Texas at Austin—studied conversations on Stack Exchange, which is a network of question-and-answer websites and communities.
Key finding: The more polite an answer was, the more likely it was to be rated highly and chosen as the "best answer."
It's not totally foolproof. If the person offering an opinion was already perceived as a true expert, that helped overcome impolite responses, the researchers said.
But all things equal, polite answers seemed more reliable to readers.
‘Please jump out of this airplane’
When I first heard about this, I thought of the one time I went skydiving (pre-parenthood, by the way).
This was a tandem jump, where you get about an hour of training, and you're physically attached to an experienced skydiving instructor.
(If you zoom into the photo below, that’s me in the purple. I’m upside down. The instructor is wearing the white jumpsuit. You can just make out the airplane at the top of the photo.)
A friend went with me that day. The qualified skydivers we jumped with clearly knew what they were talking about.
In fact, I remember that while this single jump was a major life event for me, it was one of five or six they each did that day alone.
But I also remember that my friend felt a lot less more nervous than I was, once we got going.
We realized that it was because the instructor she was jumping with was gruff and direct: “Arms up. Stand here. Move over there.”
Mine was a lot more polite: “Okay, put your arm there, please? Great. Now stand up here, and we’ll lock these first two carabiners. Perfect.”
Zeal of a convert, thank you
My mom reads these emails. I suspect she'll find it funny that I'm writing about politeness. (She already knew about the skydiving.)
She grew up in Montreal, before marrying my dad and moving to the U.S.
My brothers and I used to insist when we were young that while people might say “please” and “thank you” in Canada, Americans weren’t anywhere near as polite.
This was a bone of contention at times, when she’d try to correct us. Yet here, I am, all these years later, writing to thousands of people—with the zeal of a convert.
Just ask my daughter. Man, the number of times I’ve stopped her and said things like: “What’s a better way to ask that?”
Then she’ll respond with something like: “Ugh. Fine. Dad can you please draw Santa and his reindeer and a sleigh and presents and name them all??”
(Okay. Sure. She’s got me wrapped around her finger, as long as she says “please.”)
So, for 2023: Lose weight, stop your bad habits, be more mindful. Jump out of more airplanes, draw more pictures.
Whatever it is that you plan to resolve for the new year is fine.
Just do whatever you resolve to do politely. Everyone will trust you more. So says science.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays. Photo credit: (a) another guy also falling out of an airplane, but taking my photo at the same time, and (b) me! See you in the comments!