Benjamin Franklin-effect

Improve Your Relationships with the Benjamin Franklin Effect

“Do good to your friends to keep them, to your enemies to win them.” – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, discovered a fascinating psychological phenomenon: asking for a favor can lead to greater sympathy from the giver. This paradoxical effect, known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect, remains relevant today in our daily interactions, from personal relationships to professional environments.

Historical Context: How Franklin Discovered It

Franklin stumbled upon this effect after borrowing a rare book from a political rival. Remarkably, this improved their relationship. This anecdote not only provides insight into Franklin's personal relationships but also illustrates a larger psychological principle that continues to be studied.

Understanding the Benjamin Franklin Effect

Understanding the concept of 'cognitive dissonance' is crucial to grasping the Benjamin Franklin Effect. When one helps another, the brain seeks a reason for this behavior. If you wish to assist someone whom you previously viewed negatively, it helps to adjust your opinion of that person somewhat positively to maintain consistency. We sometimes think that we do good for people we like. But the Benjamin Franklin Effect also means the opposite, namely that we come to like people for whom we do something good.

Of course, asking for help can also be seen as a compliment because you acknowledge that someone can do something better than you.

How to Utilize the Benjamin Franklin Effect

When you ask your employees for advice, it can lead to a better working relationship because the employee feels valued. But even if you ask your friends to help you move, it can strengthen your bonds. Or consider neighbors who ask each other for help and how it strengthens the social fabric of the community. Even businesses use it to make customers more loyal: they ask their customers for feedback on customer service. But today, with the numerous surveys, the request for feedback may have gone a bit overboard. This can, of course, have a counterproductive effect. Asking for help has also become a useful tool in online communities and social media. And even among business competitors, seeking help can lead to fruitful collaborations.

But be aware, this effect can also be used for clever marketing. For example, there have been marketing campaigns, such as those by Lays Chips, where customers are invited to give their opinion on a new flavor, leading to increased engagement and a more positive perception of the brand, ultimately resulting in more sales.

Do You Sometimes Struggle to Ask for Help from Someone? Consider that the Benjamin Franklin Effect may lead to a better relationship with that person.

Recommended Reading: David McRaney, You Can Beat Your Brain, How to turn your enemies into friends, how to make better decisions and other ways to be less dumb, 2013.