3 tricks kids can teach you about getting people to say “yes” to almost anything

kids manipulate adultsToday’s the big staff meeting and you’re running late. As you grab your briefcase and lunge toward the door, a little voice stops you cold.

“Are you getting my toy tonight?”

You feign ignorance. “Toy? What toy?”

Your child smiles, face full of expectation. “The Power Space Commando Ninja Mutant Laser Brain Blaster!”

Why do kids have such good memories? “I thought that was for your birthday. Besides I’ll be working late tonight, honey.”

Your child’s face screws up in dismay. “But you promised!”

You look at your watch. “Why do you need the toy tonight?”

“Because … (sniffle) … you said tonight. And I believed you!”

Your heart sinks. “Okay. I’ll stop by the toy store tonight. All right?”

The little face lights up again. “Thank you thank you thank you.”

Two minutes later as you drive away, you see your child waving frantically at you from the front window, eyes wide with glee.

You wonder … what just happened?

Kids know something that you and I often forget. They have a secret, but deviously clever way to get just about anything they want. Like a good sales person, this child used three simple principles to generate a “yes” response.

1. If you want something from someone, ask for it.

My wife used to be subtle about gifts she wanted. She would walk me by a store and comment on the leather purse in the window. Or she might leave a catalog open on the coffee table, the corner of the page turned down, pointing to a jade bracelet.

Then she would be flabbergasted on the big day when she tore back the wrapping paper to reveal a bread maker or battery-powered socks.

She has learned that a direct approach works best. Now, she writes down her wish list, complete with price, color, size, store location, and item number. I buy two or three of the items, wrap them, and hand them over on the big day, all the while thinking I’m clever for getting just what she wants.

Everyone’s happy.

The child in my previous example knows what he wants and asks for it. Repeatedly. There’s no question. No confusion. It’s clear, direct communication.

2. If you want someone to do something, give a reason why they should act.

I read about a study where a psychology student tried to skip ahead of a long group of people waiting to use an office copier. The first time, the student walked to the head of the line and asked, “May I please use the copy machine?” Between choice expletives, most people told the student to wait her turn.

Later, the student tried again. Only this time the student said, “May I please use the copy machine because I have to make a copy?” Even though the reason given was meaningless, that one word — because — generated a “yes” nine out of ten times!

It’s a natural human instinct to want reasons to act. We make emotional decisions, but we temper those decisions and rationalize them with logic. We need to know the reason why. In our opening story, the child not only asks for the toy, but gives a good reason for prompt action: “You promised.”

Why use a reason? Because it gets results.

3. If you want something now, create a real and unavoidable time limit.

Sales reps know from experience that people are more inclined to give you what you want if you put on a little pressure, establish a time limit, and ask for an immediate decision. People have difficulty making decisions, and given enough time, they will find reasons to say “no.” Limiting the decision making time, and thus bypassing the opportunity to find negatives, makes it easier to say “yes.”

Car salesmen know this. Retailers having a store sale know this. And experienced direct marketers know this, too.

The wily child waits till the parent is walking out the door before asking for the toy. There’s no time to think. Say no, and you get a crying fit. Say yes, and, while you may have to make a trip to the store, you’ve maintained the peace.

The conclusion? If you want a yes response and you want it now, act like a kid begging for a toy: 1) Ask for it. 2) Give a reason. 3) Create time pressure.

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9 Responses to “3 tricks kids can teach you about getting people to say “yes” to almost anything”

  1. Jeremy Powers on June 7th, 2011 2:32 pm

    I love that you point out the reason why does not matter nearly as much as the fact that a reason is given.

    You need to sign this paper.


    You need to sign this paper because I cannot get started until you do.

    It may be simple, but it works.

  2. Frank De Jomes on June 9th, 2011 9:01 am

    The first two tips focus on the upside of losing. You can’t get kids excited about competing if their teeth are chattering in fear.

  3. David on June 9th, 2011 11:24 am


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    [...] recent post on Dean Rieck’s Direct Creative Blog, 3 tricks kids can teach you about getting people to say “yes” to almost anything, inspired me to google “how to get your parents to say yes.” From Wikihow articles to YouTube [...]

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  6. Melinda on June 28th, 2011 8:08 am

    Thanks for this simple yet so true insight. Think these principles may be worth writing and posting on my wall at work.

  7. What Kids Know About Getting the “Yes” | The Personal Marketing Company on June 30th, 2011 8:00 am

    [...] recent post on Dean Rieck’s Direct Creative Blog, 3 tricks kids can teach you about getting people to say “yes” to almost anything, inspired me to Google “how to get your parents to say yes.” From Wikihow articles to [...]

  8. Event360 on August 5th, 2011 11:19 am

    You hit the nail on the head — asking directly is one of the first steps in acquiring donors. Thanks for these simple yet important tips.

  9. Janet Moore on August 20th, 2011 5:08 pm

    Thanks so much for these great tips. I’ve seen the one about the photocopier before but appreciate the reminder.
    How often do we know things but don’t take action on them?
    Jan Moore
    Love, Life and Business Relationship Coach

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