BYAF stands for “but you are free”, and these are the magic words to getting someone to agree to your request.
Being demanding doesn't always work. And anyway, isn't it better when people do things for us because they wanted to, not because we made them? However, there are times when even asking nicely won't work as well. Adding the words “but you are free” at the end of any request tells the person you're talking to that they're free to refuse. Of course, they're also free to agree.
Giving someone this choice doubles your chances that you'll get what you want. This is a simple compliance-gaining technique that can be applicable to a variety of situations. Whether you're trying to get someone to sign a petition or trying to make a sale, it's an effective tool to keep in your arsenal.
Nicolas Guéguen and Alexandre Pascual developed the technique way back in 2000. More recently, researcher Christopher Carpenter analyzed 42 different studies on the BYAF technique to asses how effective it is. He conducted a meta-analysis to determine the effects of using the technique. He also found out in which situations the technique is most effective.
Carpenter found that the technique is most effective when the target agrees or refuses the request immediately. If, for example, you used the technique and your target delayed their response, the technique would then be less effective. Thus, there's a lesser chance that you'll be able to get a positive response.
The technique, however, can work no matter how small or large the request is. Carpenter tells of a study in which requesters asked targets to hold a clear plastic box containing a large spider. It wasn't just any other large spider—it was bigger than a grown man's hand. Requesters asked people standing near a post office to hold the box while the requesters went inside the office. Carpenter says that this study was creative in finding a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technique. Even when the request is quite large, the technique can still double the chances that people will comply.
It's curious that giving people the free choice to refuse makes them twice more likely to say yes. However, it's not so surprising. One explanation for why this technique is effective is that people like their freedom. Thus, people are more inclined to say yes because they don't feel like they're being forced to say yes. Another explanation is that the phrasing of the request is respectful, which makes people more amenable.
So in what situations can we use the BYAF technique? It may be best to keep this technique in the board room or in other impersonal situations. Carpenter himself doesn't use this technique in his private life. He says that there's a risk of seeming manipulative, and this risk isn't worth the reward of getting a yes. Thus, if you're thinking of employing this technique in your life, make sure to use it wisely and with respect to the person you're speaking to.
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