Reasoning is an influencing style that relies on data and facts to get buy-in.
A leader using reasoning relies on data to highlight the benefits of a proposal and get people’s support.
The most successful leaders learn to use a combination of influencing styles to get things done.
Some of the other common styles include inspiring, consulting and collaboration.
As a style, logical reasoning is more factual and analytical compared to the others.
It’s most effective where a leader needs to justify actions or make objective decisions.
The “Because” experiment, which we’ll discuss later, is perhaps the most explicit demonstration of the effectiveness of reasoning.
The experiment showed that giving a reason, however mundane while using the word “because” in requests makes people much more likely to comply.
Backing your arguments with facts and data and using the word “because” is likely to get your team to comply faster.
For example, a sales manager convincing her team would say something like: “We should focus on upselling our biggest clients because we derive 70% of our revenue from them.”
According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, reasoning is “the drawing of inferences or conclusions through the use of reason.”
Reasoning uses existing knowledge, data and facts to arrive at conclusions, make predictions and even structure explanations.
Unlike other styles, logical reasoning appeals to the other person’s analytical side. For example, a sales manager will use company sales data to identify weaknesses and convince the team to focus on those areas.
Without data, decision-making becomes less objective, relying primarily on emotions and hunches, which are not always practical.
However, using reasoning as an influencing style has its downsides. For instance, sparse or inconclusive data weakens logical arguments making it harder to convince people.
The other side might also have equally compelling facts and data to the contrary opinion. In such cases, decision-making becomes less clear-cut.
The ability to reason and use reasoning to influence has a fundamental impact on our performance both professionally and at home.
Logical reasoning helps us generate and maintain beliefs congruent with facts and knowledge. It also guides our actions, including how we relate with people and evaluate arguments.
Reasoning is more than just staying objective.
It works very well with analytical and logical individuals whose decisions are less emotional and more data-driven.
These skills have become more valuable and urgent as the world has become more data-driven. Organisations need people who can make sense of the massive amounts of data being collected to guide future actions.
Data-driven decision-making is like a waterfall. It follows a logical step-by-step approach. This rational flow of ideas helps the discussion by focusing on solving one problem at a time.
How did your team arrive at a decision? Was it based on a hunch or even the team’s combined experience?
By relying on data, you can always come back and identify what occasioned the decision, especially if you are writing about decisions in email so there is a written record.
It’s said that numbers don’t lie, or the more recent, “in data we trust.”
Logical reasoning reduces emotional decision-making by making decisions based on data instead of personal feelings.
Significant improvements occur when you base arguments on data instead of personal hunches.
The facts do all the heavy lifting helping the team unite behind ideas and not personalities.
Previous research indicates that teams operate better and more efficiently when guided by facts and logical reasoning.
Leaders who use data and logical reasoning are perceived as more rational and objective. They are also open to feedback and entertain contrary opinions, which brings out the best ideas and promotes meritocracy.
For the best results, understand what motivates people in your team and how they react to conflict and work-related pressures. What’s their default action? Do they argue using facts, or do they respond better to direct requests and orders?
People respond differently to different influence styles.
Logical reasoning, for example, works best with predominantly analytical individuals.
These are people high on Thinking (T) and Sensing (S) on the Myers-Briggs scale.
The Myers Briggs uses a four-scale system to identify and categorise individuals’ behavioural patterns.
Individuals who score high on the Thinking(T) parameter tend to make decisions using logic, objective analysis, and process-driven conclusions.
Those scoring high on the Intuition/Sensing preference gather information and focus on facts within that information.
People scoring high on these two preferences make the best candidates for reasoning influence. They already use it in some way at work.
So, how do you identify such individuals?
Using the Myers Briggs personality test can help identify people who respond well to logical reasoning.
The Myer-Briggs or MBTI Model has four scales representing opposing preferences. These are:
These preferences then yield 16 different personality “types” denoted by a four-letter code, such as INFJ, ESTJ, ENTP, among others.
Individuals likely to respond well tend to fall into the NT or intuitive reasoning personality type, also known as rationalists. From the MBTI, they would be ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP and INTP.
It would also work well with individuals in the SJ or sensing and judging personality types, also known as melancholics or guardians. Their personality types on the MBTI model include ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ and ISFJ.
These personality types rely heavily on data-driven decision-making. They weigh all the facts judiciously before arriving at decisions. They also tweak those choices as new information emerges.
You can also identify individuals susceptible to reasoning influence through observation.
For example, these people tend to be balanced and gather detailed information before making a decision. They are the people who come to meetings armed with spreadsheets and charts to prove their point.
They also tend to prefer order, control and firm decision-making.
Some professions tend to have more individuals who prefer logical reasoning. These include careers that rely heavily on data and analytics to arrive at decisions.
Among occupational careers with these traits include engineers, software developers, data analysts, and marketing professionals.
The “Because” experiment is perhaps the clearest demonstration of how effective reasoning can really be.
In 1978, Ellen Langer, a Harvard researcher, led a study on the effectiveness of using the word “because” to justify something.
Langer targeted participants lining up for the copy machine on campus. Back then, copy machines weren’t as common. The researchers used three differently worded statements to get a break in the line.
The statements were as follows:
“Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
“Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine because I have to make copies?”
“Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
The last statement with the word “because” had 94% compliance, the second last statement 93% compliance and the first statement had 60% compliance.
Just adding a ‘because’ to the statement radically changed compliance levels.
The researchers further demonstrated that the reason given didn’t factor into compliance. Just hearing the word “because” led people to comply.
Other researchers have repeated the experiment with similar results in real-world settings. Fundraisers, for example, tend to raise more money when they give a plausible reason for soliciting donations.
So, what do these results mean?
Applying reasoning influence works as long as you supply a plausible reason. Backing the reason with factual data wins over even the most vocal critics.
If you have a small request, use the word “because” and supply a reason, even a weak one, to justify the request.
More significant asks may face more resistance, but using data and logical arguments breaks through the resistance.
Persuasion is a must-have skill for any manager or employee in an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment.
Reasoning influence, as demonstrated, can be an effective instrument in your influence toolkit.
However, keep in mind that logical reasoning doesn’t work with everyone. Some people require a more dynamic or direct approach to requests.
Influence is also not a one-off event. It would help if you consistently built credibility and trust to get higher compliance. But regardless of your position inside your team, you can use the word “because” for backing up a request and observe how others collaborate.
Ultimately, reasoning influence can catapult your career to a higher level. You get more buy-in for your ideas, and your team becomes more effective and productive.