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A Quirkitude
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Ask for something weird or outrageous. Then ask for what you really want.

I recently read a study (not really a new thing; I've heard of it before) in which people who were asked to do something strange or out of the question were then given another, more reasonable request, to which they readily consented.

It's very manipulative, of course, because the person doing the asking is deliberately setting up a situation to get what he wants.

But it works.

I discovered it for myself, more than 50 years ago, when I needed a loan to help me meet my college tuition (this was before the Dean of Women hauled me into her office and demanded to know why I hadn't applied for a scholarship!). In those days a woman couldn't get a loan without a male cosigner. [Yes, Virginia, before women's liberation.]

I called my wealthy Uncle Charlie, and in my nervousness I asked him to lend me the $4000, instead of making it clear that I needed a cosigner only. I was making a cold call and I was pretty sure he would say no to cosigning a loan. We were virtually strangers, thanks to my mother.

Outraged, he said, "What!? I wouldn't give you that much money. My own children have college expenses."

I realized my faux pas immediately, walked it back, and said, "I'm sorry Uncle Charlie, I meant would you cosign the loan that I will pay for?"

"Oh, is that all? Sure," he replied. And he did.

I realized, after, that I had softened him up by asking for something outrageous at first. Now I find that it's a manipulative technique much used in business (and, I suppose, in personal affairs). Not one that I use.

I wonder why it works so effectively. Does asking for something weird or out of the question prime the pump in some way? Make the person being asked feel guilty? Set the bar so high that anything less seems reasonable?

A quirkitude of humans.

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