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5 Non-Evil Ways to Get People to Do What You Want, From Dan Pink | TIME

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Telling People What To Do Doesn’t Work – But Showing Them Does

Setting an example is far more powerful than telling people what to do.

These days it seems like everyone is always busy on their phone. (You might be reading this on your phone right now.)

Often they’re not paying attention to anything around them. Dan thought it might be fun if phone zombies had their own lane. Here’s Dan:

So, with permission, we spray painted two lanes onto a large downtown sidewalk. One for people with cell phones. One for people without cell phones. Then we enlisted these five actors to be marshals of sorts. They wore these orange reflective vests and directed people. “Oh, cell phone lane is over here. Oh, you don’t have a cell phone? That’s your lane over here.”

You know what happened? People didn’t play along. In fact, they got angry. Nobody likes to be told what to do.

So Dan had his team take off the vests and just pretend to be pedestrians. Half of them took out their phones and walked in the phone lane.

The ones without phones walked in the other lane. And you know what happened?

Without a word, people complied. As crazy as a “phone lane” is, they joined right in without even thinking about it. Here’s Dan:

It’s all about social norms. The way to get people to change their behavior wasn’t to direct them like originally thought, but simply to get other people doing it. We all look around for cues about how to behave. The power of those social norms is remarkable. Social proof ended up being a really big factor. One of the big takeaways is that you can change individual behavior by targeting the group.

People wouldn’t take direction for the same reason people never take your advice: it’s a status issue.

If they do what you recommend, you’re “telling them what to do.” And, hey, you’re not the boss of me.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

The source of the difficulty here lies in who comes up with the solution. Paul’s suggestion makes him look smarter, and Eric less smart. This impacts their relative status, which Eric is likely to fight against. The better Paul’s answer is, the more likely Eric might resist it. It’s bizarre… Paul’s giving out suggestions also threatens Eric’s autonomy: it’s no longer Eric’s choice to follow a specific path.

Research shows that autonomy makes us happier than money.

Leaders take note: the best way to get a bad employee to behave might be to ignore them and focus on having your good employees follow the rules.

Same is true for parents. If everyone in the house does it one way, that problem child might be more likely to fall in line.

(For more on how to win every argument, click here.)

Of course, getting a group of people to all comply can be tricky too. Is there a simpler method? Yes.

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