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Test and Request


Techniques General persuasion > Sequential Requests > Test and Request

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



First test the mood of the person from whom you want something. Then, if they are in the right mood, make the request.

With a careful question, you may even be able to nudge them into the desired emotional state. Your attitude will also be important in this. Do not make your request if they are in the wrong mood.

Typically you want them to feel positive towards you, and a simple 'How are you?' may suffice. Of course you should listen empathetically before diving into your request, even if the answer is long. If you do not have the time for an open question, a cheerful leading question may suffice, such as 'Isn't it a lovely day?'

You may also need a negative mood, for example if you want to them to get them to join a protest.


A phone app pops up a question 'How's it working for you - Great or Not great'. Then, when they person taps on 'Great', the app follows up with the request 'Please write a review'.

A person collecting signatures for a petition asks people 'What do you think of the local road plans?' Then they only ask for a signature if the person is opposed to the plans.

A sales person asks customers what they think about the goods being sold. If they say they like it, the sales person moves towards the close.  


Two key principles in persuasion are (a) to work on facts rather than guesses, and (b) to get people into the right frame of mind before asking them for what you want of them. 'Test and Request' covers both of these.

One of the simple keys to working with facts is to gather data before acting, using what you have learned to guide your actions. This leads to a far better chance of success than jumping in and going for the killer request when you do not know whether the other person is at all likely to agree with you.

If you ask for something from a person who is not ready to comply, you might set up an opposing attitude that makes them dig in against you. With a simple question, you can first test their attitude and then use this data to determine your next mood.

What we say can change how people think and feel, so test questions can deliberately lead in the desired direction. In fact as much pre-work as necessary may be used to change their attitude or mood before the main request is made.

See also

Repetition principle, Social Research


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