I recently heard about the Ben Franklin effect and it is fascinating. When Ben Franklin was a politician in the 18th century, there was a rival politician who wouldn’t give him the time of day. Ben heard that the man had a collection of books and that one of those books was very rare. It was a prized possession. So Ben wrote him a note and asked if he could borrow the rare book. The rival sent it immediately, Ben let the book sit on his shelf for a week and then returned it with a thank you note. The next time he saw his rival in the legislature, the man spoke to him for the first time and they remained friends from that day forward.
The effect is based on a psychological concept called cognitive dissonance. For example, your “self” has told you that you don’t like a person. But then you did them a favour (loaned them your most prized possession). So now you have to give yourself reasons to like them to get rid of the old belief that you didn’t like them. You are more likely to do another favour for them in the future to prove to yourself that you were right to do the first favour. You can’t hold two contrary beliefs so you lean towards one of those beliefs. The belief that says the person is worthy of your friendship after all.
So what does this mean for us today? Do you have people in your life who are a challenge? A boss, a family member, a neighbour? It seems that if you reach out and ask them to help you, it can change the relationship. If they help you once, they are more likely to see your value in the future. The Ben Franklin effect in full force. It may seem counterintuitive, but why not try it? You could end up with a friend for life.