The Ben Franklin Effect

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I admit that I like to be liked and to hear that others appreciate me. It gives me confidence and makes me feel happier. Do you have that too?

There are many techniques to be liked better and to influence others. Often, they are manipulative, and I’m not fond of that very much.

In this article, I write about the Ben Franklin effect. It might also be a way to influence someone and be nicer to you by knowing how to approach people (strangers) for help. But if it’s sincere, I think it’s a good method to do something good yourself and make others feel good too.

Who was Ben Franklin?

Ben Franklin was an inventor, writer, politician, and one of the heroes of American history. In addition to his many achievements, he contributed to drafting the Declaration of Independence, of which he was one of the signers.

The story

Ben Franklin strongly believed in learning lessons from experience. One of the valuable lessons was how he handled the hostility of a political opponent while serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 18th century.

Ben Franklin was eager to persuade his political opponent to cooperate with him. He did not want to gain the respect of his political opponent by being submissive or servile. However, the man had a rare book Ben Franklin would like to see. He decided to write a note to the rival politician. It said it would be a great favor to him if he could see the book and that he would like to borrow it for a few days. The political opponent promptly sent the book, and after a week, Ben Franklin returned the book. He had enclosed a note expressing his gratitude for the favor. When they met soon after, the political opponent approached him and began to speak to Ben Franklin in a friendly and respectful manner—something he had never done before. The political opponent even went on to do favors for Ben Franklin. Eventually, they became good friends until death.

The lesson

In his autobiography, Ben Franklin wrote, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

The Ben Franklin effect is a psychological phenomenon: people like others more after they have done them a favor. This can also lead to yet another favor later. Even with people to whom they are neutral or even hostile.

So, it turns out that when we’ve done someone a favor, we’re more likely to have positive feelings toward that person.

Cognitive dissonance

That’s weird. You only do favors to people you like. Not to people you hate.

The Ben Franklin effect is an example of cognitive dissonance. Our brain cannot handle two conflicting thoughts or ideas. Only one of them can win in the end. It’s hard for our brain to reconcile hatred with favor. Because, again, you’re only doing favors to people you like. We justify that the other person likes us because they are doing us a favor. And it’s a two-way process: Not only do you sincerely do favors for people you like, but you start to like people more because you’re doing something good for them.

How can you be liked better?

Make new connections

Returning to the Ben Franklin effect: To build a relationship with someone, don’t do a favor; ask for one instead. When people contact me, I almost always ask “How can I help you?”. It feels good to help others. But if I need something from someone else, it’s up to me to find the courage or charisma to act and ask for help. Of course, it’s easier to ask favors from people you know. The challenge is to make new connections with people you don’t know or may like you less.

Ask targeted questions

Ben Franklin didn’t send a note to his opponent asking them to go out for a beer at the inn. No, he immersed himself in the rival politician and made himself relevant by asking a pointed question if he could borrow a rare book.

Prepare yourself, show interest in the other person, make yourself relevant, and don’t sit back expecting others to help you. They do not.

Be grateful

Ben Franklin wrote a note and included it with the rare book he returned to his political opponent. It said how much he appreciated being able to borrow and look at the book.

By being genuinely grateful, the other person feels valued, and they will likely be open to helping you again.

The added value of your WHY

Your WHY can help you better understand who and what you need to live your WHY. That sounds very selfish, but your WHY is your contribution that has an effect on the world. A WHY is always action-oriented and positive. It helps others grow through service. By living your WHY you know what is good to do to gather the right new people around you.

Do you want to know more about your WHY? Then read this article or click here to discover what a WHY session looks like. Contact me today to get to know me and find out how I can help you!

What lesson do you take from this blog, and what do you do to be liked? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article. and I are looking forward to reading from you!

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Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!


—Meg Jay, The Defining Decade
—Harold Klemp, The ECK Book of Parables, Book 3
—Ben Franklin on Wikipedia

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