Persuasion and Motivation: Labeling Technique


Have you ever been given an unexpected compliment from someone you respect? How did it make you feel? Pretty good, right? People love compliments, especially unsolicited compliments.

And what’s more, research shows that when we receive a compliment we strive to live up to the complimented trait. For example, when employees are told they are “hard workers” they tend to go out of their way to uphold that label. Likewise when you tell people they are trustworthy or honest or dependable, you have created an implicit expectation of that person.

If you are sincere with your compliment (your “label”), a powerful technique is to then follow up that compliment with a request that the person act in a way that is consistent with that trait.

Example: Two Yale researchers polled potential voters. After the interview they told half of them that, based on their, responses thay appeared to be “above average” citizens likely to vote in.” They told the other half that they were simply “average in terms of their answers and their involvement in the political process. Those who were told they were “above average were 15% more likely to participate in the next election.

This technique can be used in every day settings. Have you ever been through a customer service maze? Those can be among the most frustrating experiences. Next time you have to go through that, try this exercise. Start the visit by stating your expectation right up front. For example: “I have a situation that I know you will be able to handle for me.” You have created the expectation. And you should have a much better experience as a result.



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