On Hands And Knees – When begging is a good option

In his fantastic book ‘Words That Work’ Dr. Frank Luntz tells us that our manner, or body language, our tone and emphasis, are more important than our actual message.  It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it, the old adage goes, and in this, Luntz is pretty much spot on.  There are of course exceptions.  Telling someone their wedding’s going to be ruined by a swarm of killer bees that are on their way, is going to have a negative reaction no matter how you say it.

The way we say things can completely contradict what is being said, for example ‘stop it’.  Said in a certain way, ‘stop it’ can really mean ‘don’t stop it’.  What I want to talk about in this blog is framing your message in a certain way – a niche way, which usually isn’t the right way to go, but on some occasions is the only option.

It’s called begging.  Luntz uses a great example in his book, one which I’m sure many can identify with; what do you do if you’re getting on a plane and they’ve just stopped boarding, right before you get there?  Do you tell them how much you need to be on that plane?  Do you demand that they open the doors – do you convince them that you’re so important that this situation warrants breaking the rules, just for you?

None of those things will work in that situation.  If you’re at all abrasive you’ll just give the attendants another reason not to help you, and telling them that ‘I need to be on that plane’ is meaningless.  Everyone on the plane needs to be on that plane, that’s why they bought the tickets and got to the airport on time.  If you beg and plead and emotionally connect with someone who can help you, they’re far more likely to help, especially if you show that you know they’re not meant to help you but you’re asking anyway, in a respectful way.

This can work in ‘emergency’ situations, or situations which are emotionally charged and offer little alternative.  It does lower your status somewhat, and it’s not a dominant move, but it can be executed with humility and sincerity.

Begging does not work when asking for things you don’t really need, or when asking for a something that is usually won on credit; a promotion or date, for example.  So don’t employ begging as an everyday tactic, but do keep it up your sleeves for when you really need it.

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