A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful than an Email

Research suggests that requests made in person are more effective than those made over email. How much more effective? Well, according to this piece by Vanessa Bohns, 34 times more effective!

 

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective.

We found that people were much more likely to agree to complete a survey when they were asked in-person as opposed to over email. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that people are more likely to comply with requests in person than over email.

Why do people think of email as being equally effective when it is so clearly not? In our studies, participants were highly attuned to their own trustworthiness and the legitimacy of the action they were asking others to take when they sent their emails. Anchored on this information, they failed to anticipate what the recipients of their emails were likely to see: an untrustworthy email asking them to click on a suspicious link.

Indeed, when we replicated our results in a second study we found the nonverbal cues requesters conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests, but requesters were oblivious to this fact.

It is often more convenient and comfortable to use text-based communication than to approach someone in-person, but if you overestimate the effectiveness of such media, you may regularly—and unknowingly—choose inferior means of influence.

 

If your office runs on email and text-based communication, it’s worth considering whether you could be a more effective communicator by having conversations in person.

For more, visit the Harvard Business Review.

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