Building Rapport – The Power of Because

Last time (a long time ago), I talked about the potential fears a user might have when we direct them to a support page:

  1. They feel as though we’re blowing them off.
  2. They are afraid we’ll disappear on them if they click away.
  3. They are overwhelmed or confused by the support page.

For this post, I’m going to address the first fear specifically….

The Power of “Because”

A study was done back in the 70s to see how naturally agreeable people are in their day-to-day lives. The researchers tested this by having people purposely cut in line in front of others who were waiting to use a copy machine. The line cutters were part of the study, and the people being cut into were the unknowing test subjects.

The line cutters were instructed to say a carefully worded sentence when they asked to cut, and the researchers measured how often the people being cut into complied. These are the three different sentences:

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”

In the first case, no reason is given at all. In the second, a pretty valid reason is given. And in the third case, it sounds like a reason, but it’s recursive. It’s like they’re saying their reason for cutting in line is to cut in line. 🙂

The researchers then measured how often the subjects complied with the request to cut, and here are the surprising results:

  1. 60% compliance
  2. 94% compliance
  3. 93% compliance

As expected, giving no reason for cutting made people not particularly inclined to comply, and giving a valid reason increased compliance to almost 100%. But the shocking part is that giving just the semblance of a valid reason got almost the same compliance.

The conclusion here is that people are basically agreeable. So, as long as we give some sort of a reason when we make a request of them, the other person will be naturally inclined to comply.*

*There is one caveat. The researchers also found that if the line cutter asked to make 20 copies, then only the “I’m in a rush” reason was acceptable. Basically, this trick to induce compliance only works with minor tasks.

Applying the Power of “Because” to Live Chat

So what’s the point of me bringing up this study? Well, the lesson here is that if we ask a user to look at a support page (which may or may not be a minor task), we should always explain why. Even a one-sentence explanation will assure the user that we’re not just blowing them off, and it will hopefully trigger their natural inclination to be agreeable. Hopefully.

Below are some snippets that I use like 20,000 times a day (give or take three or four), with a breakdown of the sentiment each snippet is intended to evoke in the user. The snippets are taken from my collection of gentle reassurances:

  • If you take a look at this support page, it will walk you through the steps:
  • Please take a look at this support page, as it will give you the step-by-step instructions:
  • Please take a look at that, as it will give you all the information you need.

So admittedly, I didn’t actually use the word “because” on any of these, because grammatically… it’s not as elegant. But the gist is there. The key words are “step-by-step instructions” and “information.” These hint to the user that the support page will guide them through everything in a more thorough manner than I can.

Here’s another series of snippets that are chock-full of gentle reassurances and implied “becauses”:

  • Here’s our tutorial site for Business users. This site will walk you through the steps to set up a website here:
  • If you go through the tutorial, it will give you a broader understanding of how is organized.
  • I think that will be the best place to get started.
  • And then you can let us know if you have any specific questions on anything.


The next time you direct a user to a support page, consider both the power of “because” and the user’s concern at being brushed off. If we can be proactive at addressing a user’s potential fears, we can build better rapport with them and ensure that we engineer happiness in the end!

This post was adapted from my Productive Live Chatting Learnup.

#building-rapport #power-of-because #tips-language