The Massive Power of “Because”


Many trial attorneys do not realize the power of specific words that they can use to bring about a win. They simply draft an argument or outline, but don’t refine it with words that can translate into a victory. It is no secret that the words we use have an impact on the receiver. So why not craft your words carefully, and use some that are persuasively powerful?

One of the most persuasively powerful words in the English language is “BECAUSE.” Specifically, when a request is made followed by “because” and a reason (even if imagined), it is much more likely that the request will be granted compared to if there is no “because” at all. This simple tip can easily be used in jury trials. As you read further, think about how.

In the 1970s, a psychological study was conducted by Dr. Ellen Langer, a social psychologist from Harvard University. In this study, which ended up being groundbreaking, subjects completed requests to individuals who were waiting in line to use a copy machine. The subjects were carrying their own documents and attempting to cut in line to make copies. Three separate groups made different requests and the responses to each inquiry were analyze to determine the  impact of each. In the first control group, there were requests made without a “because.” In the second control group, subjects made the request with a “because” followed by a specific real reason. Finally, in the third group, subjects asked to cut in line with a “because” followed by a fake or placebic reason. Here is the breakdown of specifically what was said:

  1. Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?
  2. Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?
  3. Excuse me. I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?

The results show that the effect of the “because” or “why” on persuasion is astonishing. The conversion rate of the request in the first group was merely 60%. However, the conversion rate of the request in the group with the fake because was 93%! The conversion rate with the true because? 94%! Obviously, the because is extremely powerful and has a major effect on persuasion and human activity.

So how can this power be used in the courtroom? Work the word “because” into your closing argument. Tell the jury specifically, “My client is not guilty BECAUSE…” or “It is clear that my Mr. Client did not commit these crimes BECAUSE…”

You can also use the word in cross examination to have the witness freely admit to something. For example, if you’re trying to show that a detective failed to do something you could use it like this – “Sir, you did not interview the other brother living at the residence BECAUSE….” Then, you can use the neglect in your closing argument to really hammer home the win.

Quite honestly, it does not really matter how you end each of those sentences. The bottomline is the word needs to be used to elicit an agreement or favorable response. Test this in everyday life and you will see that it works, and that it will increase your probability of receiving a consensual response.

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