Why Is It So Hard To Say No?

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Do you find that when someone asks you to do something for them, it's hard to say no?

What about being asked to tell a white lie or something else that really isn't right? Have you done it when somebody asked you to?

Studies show that the majority of people when asked to do something say yes — even when they are asked to tell white lies or do something they think is wrong.

"It comes down to this fundamental motivation we have to stay connected to other people," says Vanessa Bohns, an assistant professor of management sciences tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson. "We don't want to reject people. We don't want people to think poorly of us ... so we are really managing the impressions other people have of us."

Bohns says the decision making process is an "intense emotional experience."

"People think that they'll be OK saying no, but in the moment, when you're actually face-to-face with someone, and you're in this awkward, embarrassing, sort of guilt-ridden experience, you don't realize that it's over powering, and you're more likely to give in and say yes than you think," Bohns said.

The takeaway, Bohns says, is realizing the power you have over other people when you ask something of them.

"In some ways, we need to take a little more responsibility when we ask people to do things," Bohns said.


  • Vanessa Bohns, assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. She tweets @profbohns.

This segment aired on March 31, 2014.


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