“The Franklin Effect”

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography, “Enemies who do you one favor will want to do more.” He illustrated the maxim with a story:

A political adversary had been lambasting Franklin in public speeches. Franklin knew that this person was very proud of his large library, so he sent him a note requesting that he borrow a particularly rare book. The adversary sent the book over right away. Their next in-person meeting was very civil, and the two became friends, remaining so until the one-time adversary’s death.

Katie Liljenquist and Adam Galinsky confirm Franklin’s insight (although they don’t mention it) in a Harvard Business Review blog-post titled ‘Win Over an Opponent by Asking for Advice’:

We seek advice on a daily basis, on everything from who grills the best burger in town to how to handle a sticky situation with a coworker. However, many people don’t fully appreciate how powerful requesting guidance can be. Soliciting advice will arm you with information you didn’t have before, but there are other benefits you may not have considered:

 … Arthur Helps sagely observed, We all admire the wisdom of people who come to us for advice.” Being asked for advice is inherently flattering because it’s an implicit endorsement of our opinions, values, and expertise. Furthermore, it works equally well up and down the hierarchy — subordinates are delighted and empowered by requests for their insights, and superiors appreciate the deference to their authority and experience. James Pennebaker’s research shows that if you want your peers to like you, ask them questions and let them experience the “joy of talking.” This is especially important because research shows that increasing your likability will do more for your career than slightly increasing competence.

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