Foot In the Door: The Psychology Of Networking Series - Tip #3

One step at a time

One step at a time

"Can I ask you for a favor?"    

When you get that question from someone, what would be your instinctive reaction?

  • Sure! Happy to help! 

  • Well, depends on what you're looking for? 

  • Um...sorry I can't help Time's up, so which choice did you pick?

You probably couldn't make up your mind right away, because it depends on the context of the ask, like who asked that question and what exactly does the person need from you, right?

Let's say I don't know you at all, and I reach out to you on LinkedIn to request a job referral from you, would you agree to help?

Probably not. Because I'm just a complete stranger to you. 

What if I reach out to you and compliment on your LinkedIn profile, then ask you to share a tip on how to make my LinkedIn profile as catchy and compelling as yours?

You probably wouldn't mind spending an extra 5-10 minutes replying to me with a tip. 

What if I thank you for your initial help, then reach out sometime later to show you my progress and thank you again for your help, will you be more likely to help me the next time I reach out to you?

You probably will -- because I've established a degree of familiarity with you through the initial interaction, which didn't require much effort from your end, and I made you feel good about the action you've taken to help me (remember the concept of "positive reinforcement"?). 

You'll be more receptive to my request for a bigger favor such as jumping on a 15-minute call with me to share insight into your industry because you know that I appreciated and applied your advice. 

What I've just shared with you is a psychological phenomenon and technique called Foot-In-The-Door (FITD). Basically, I got you to agree to a larger request by asking for a smaller request first.

Why would people agree to the bigger request after they have already said yes to the small request?

Well, it's difficult for people to act inconsistently with their initial behaviors because they need to justify why they agreed to do the initial action.  In other words, as long as the second request is consistent with or similar in nature to the original small request, it doesn't make sense for them to change their behaviors and say no at the second time. 

Another reason is that people often feel involved and thus indebted to someone after they’ve had established some level of interaction and familiarity with that person.

How does this apply to networking?

Start with a small request that is hard for people to decline, then upgrade it to a bigger one once you guys have establish a foundation of relationship.  It pays off to be patient, and take things one step at a time :)

Now, can I ask you for a favor?

Can you share this blog post with a friend or two who can benefit from my advice?

Thanks in advance for your help!  


Reciprocity: The Psychology Of Networking Series - Tip #2