The Ben Franklin Effect

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

We all know my love of Benjamin Franklin— which means I am completely biased.

Let’s face it… he’s one of the founders of our country (assuming you’re in the United States). His quotes from hundreds of years ago still carry relevance in our daily lives. From electricity to mail, freedom to libraries, this man probably touches your life on a daily basis.

That being said, today’s lesson of greatness revolves around The Benjamin Franklin Effect. Don’t worry, we’ll cover the what, why, and how… starting right now.

What is the Ben Franklin Effect?

He that has once done you a Kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged

The effect, nothing more than a physiological phenomena really, simply holds that we like people more for whom we do favors. Conversely, if you harm someone, you’re more likely to harm them again (or care less about them).

Wait… what?

Simply put… if you do someone a favor, you will most likely think better of that person. It gets even better… if someone does a favor for you, they are more likely to do another favor for you than if you had done a favor for them.

There’s been studies on it… and yes, people can talk more about cognitive dissonance at their own will. Be as it may, the truth remains that the Ben Franklin effect is very real, and very powerful.

Why Ben Franklin?

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin mentions a story of a “rival” in the legislature that started to impact his life. Ol’ Ben needed to deal with the rival and rather than going to the mattresses he asked him for a favor.

Ben’s love of books was well known, and his rival had a very rare book in his personal library. Ben sent him a respectful note asking to borrow the book for a few days. After a week, Mr. Franklin returned the book along with a personal note expressing “strongly” his gratitude for the favor.

The effect was immediate. The next time the two happened to be in the same location the rival came to Ben Franklin and spoke to him— something that he had never done previously. The rival became someone always willing to lend a hand and the two ended up developing a good friendship.

How does this Ben Franklin effect affect me?

Got a problem with someone? Ask them for a favor. Don’t return it immediately… and be respectful and appreciative of the favor.

Did someone ask you for a favor? Be cognizant that your opinion of them may improve.

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