There’s a principle of influence know as scarcity which illustrates David Housel’s point; people are more motivated by what they stand to lose as opposed to what they stand to gain. It the simplest terms; if you’re like the vast majority of people you’d feel more pain by losing $100 than the pleasure you’d get by finding or winning $100. According to some behavioral economic studies, the pain you’d feel would be about twice as great as the pleasure.
Was Alfred, Lord Tennyson correct when he wrote, “Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?” I’m willing to bet some who loved, lost and never loved again might beg to differ with him. I’m not advocating avoiding love, but you’d do well to consider deeply who you give your heart to because the potential pain could be worse than the perceived joy.
So how can this bit of insight into scarcity help you? Two ways; motivating people to action and avoiding unwanted or unnecessary actions on your part.
If you want to motivate people to action then you want to tap into scarcity. When you make a request of another, is there a legitimate downside if the person doesn’t take the action you suggest? If so then you want to make the downside part of your request. Where I work we have to renew our benefits each year by selecting exactly what we want. Signaling the deadline – if you don’t select your benefits by November 19 you won’t have any – is a surefire way to get people to act because no one wants to lose their health benefits.
On the flip side there are some people who understand this principle but would use it in a less than ethical manner. For example, have you ever had a home repair salesman (roofing, siding, painting, etc.) come to your home and tell you at the end of the sales presentation, “This discounted price is only good today because I have so many other clients to see that if I have to make a return trip I won’t be able to offer you this price.” If you hear something like that, just toy with the salesman using a response along these lines, “So if I decide tomorrow that I want to go with you I can’t have this price? You’re telling me you’d rather go make another 90 minute presentation to someone who probably won’t buy instead of seeing me for about 15 minutes to make a guaranteed sale? Good luck being a successful salesman with that strategy!” Then you politely show them the door because you don’t need to deal with an unethical salesman.
There are times when supplies are in short order and scarcity might legitimately be at play but all too often the line I mentioned above it just that, a line. During the holiday season, sales end at certain times so you might need to act quickly but no matter what you should always pause to consider whether or not you’re making a decision based on the merits of the item you want to buy or are you rushing into the purchase because you’re afraid of losing some perceived opportunity. Fact is, sales come and go so often that it’s seldom we truly lose an opportunity for good.
Now when it comes to love, if you don’t ask that person out that you’ve had your eye on then you might just lose out if someone else acts first so give that some serious thought because love can be pretty awesome! Despite scarcity I’m in the camp to go for it and deal with the consequences later.
And by the way, Auburn won the Iron Bowl 28-27, keeping its national title hopes alive. I suspect the joy Auburn fans felt didn’t come close to the pain that was experienced by Alabama fans, especially because the game was played at Alabama and they had a 24-0 lead at one point in the game. Ouch!
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.