Graeme Newell

The Boomerang Effect

Don’t eat bad food. It’s dangerous to eat laundry pods or inhale cinnamon. When others tell us we shouldn’t do something, we often respond with twisted, self-destructive behaviors. Our primary goal becomes rescuing our dignity and proving the other person wrong.

When we see others doing the wrong thing, too many of us try to pick a fight. We don’t attempt to PERSUADE, we CORRECT. In our mind, we’re doing them a favor. We’re educating them on the error of their ways, but brain science shows that this bull-in-a-china-shop, frontal approach has a powerful blowback – the BOOMERANG EFFECT. The slightest whiff of condescension evokes an intense backlash.

The key to changing another’s behavior isn’t to point out they are wrong, but to trigger their inborn longing to be smart and cool. One of the most powerful ways to do this is FOMO (fear of missing out) or as we call it in the brain science world, “SOCIAL PROOF.” Study after study shows that our inborn desire to ape the behavior of our tribe is one powerful motivator.

When researchers sent out fliers making the very rational case that recycling benefits the planet, they had limited uptake. But recycling skyrocketed when they simply changed the message to say, “Most of your neighbors are recycling. Would you like to give it a go too?”

Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, lay off the rational appeals. You’ll have much greater success if you start your appeal with “you don’t want to be left out do you?”