Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Getting What You Want

Have you ever wanted something really bad but struggled to get someone to give it to you? Here is how to get what you want by asking for more from someone who would give you less.

The"Door-in-the-Face" technique, or DITF, tactic is a tried and tested method for getting what you want. The basic procedure is as follows: You want something, be it an item or a favour. You ask someone, a persuadee, for something so large, expensive or demanding that they are sure to turn it down. Then, you ask for something smaller, cheaper or less demanding. This, according to the method, should get you what you want, even though it is more than what the persuadee was willing to give in the first place.

Salespersons do this all the time. They will offer to sell you a very expensive item, say a £700 dishwasher. Of course you will refuse after which the salesman will try to sell a much cheaper, £400 dishwasher. You are likely to buy this dishwasher even though you were only planning to spend £300. Why is this?

Creepy film demonstrating the DITF tactic

There are a number of processes at work in a situation where the DITF tactic is employed.

  1. Contrast effect: When contrasted with the first offer, the second offer sounds reasonable. A reversal of the process shows how this happens; if the salesperson had offered you a £200 dishwasher first and then the £400 dishwasher, how would you react to this contrast? Thought so.
  2. Reciprocal concessions: According to the golden rule you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Similarly, if someone does you a favour or makes a concession, you feel obliged to do the same. It is embedded in our belief in the civilised human to desire consensus. Thus, when the persuader reduces his demands this is percieved as a concession by the persuadee who then seeks to mirror that kindness done unto him.
  3. Self-presentation: People are concerned about how they appear to the rest of the world. This is of course also comparative. If the persuadee rejects the first offer and the persuader lowers his request, the persuadee will feel he makes a comparatively negative figure. He will then try to compensate by accepting the second offer although this is higher than his original ceiling.
  4. Social responsibility: If you turn self-presentation inside out, you get the social responsibility position. If the persuadee feels it is socially responsible to get along, in other words that his internal standards favours consensus, he will try to fulfil those obligations by accepting the second offer.
  5. Guilt: A combination of the above can be understood through the concept of guilt. Refusing the first offer will induce the persuadee with a sense of guilt which he will try to alleviate. According to Gass et.al.(2011), accepting the second offer may not accomplish this but the expectation of the alleviation is enough to achieve the persuader's goal.
Feel free to try this out yourself, but be aware that the conditions have to be right.

  1. Size of first offer: The first offer has to be outside the bounds of what is acceptable for the persuadee, but it should not be outrageously so. This might lead to the persuasion failing and the prospective persuadee rejecting the whole transaction alltogether.
  2. Goal of the persuasion: Dillard et.al. (1984) has found that an DITF persuasion for altruistic purposes, that is one which aims to help the disadvantaged, is 17% more likely to succeed than one merely for personal gain.
  3. Time between offers: In order to profit the most from the contrast between offers, the time elapsed between the two offers should be as brief as possible.
  4. Just one persuader: In order to achieve a reciprocal concession, there should be just one persuader making both offers. If there are two giving one offer each, and especially if they do not make their offers with both present, the persuadee will register the contrast but there will not be a concession from the persuaders' side since that is tied to the first persuader.
  5. The persuadee: A persuadee who is more conscious about what he owes and is owed is more likely to respond to the DITF tactic than one who is not and is less susceptible to reciprocal concessions.
Source: Gass, Robert H. et.al.: Persuasion, Social Influence and Compliance Gaining, 4th ed., Pearson 2011


  1. I tried this on some guy I know. First I showed him two routers for the Internet. One expensive, then another cheaper. Of course, as explained here, he wanted the cheap one. But then I bought the expensive one for him! He was mad to begin with, but now he loves me!

  2. Especially since you gave him his share of the cheap one. The DITF tactic isn't quite the same if you're giving stuff away.