Next time when you approach an ATM machine and find a queue in front of it, try this hack – tell the person in front of the queue “Excuse Me. May I go before you because I have to withdraw money?”
I am sure you haven’t tried this before, neither have I. But at first look it sounds like a lame idea. Why would they let you go ahead unless you have a genuine reason. Isn’t withdrawing money a redundant excuse? Isn’t it obvious that everybody in the queue is there to withdraw money?
But there might be some merit to above idea because in 1970s Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a similar experiment. She went into a library, where there was a long waiting queue in front of the photocopier, and approached the first person in the queue and asked, “Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” That would probably infuriate a lot of people because everybody was there to make copies. Naturally most people refused to oblige to Langer’s request.
In the second part of the experiment she gave a reason while making a request. “Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” This time most people gave in to her request and allowed her to go ahead. This is reasonable because if people are in a hurry, you would often let them cut into the front of the queue. But then came the interesting twist in the experiment.
In the final part of the experiment she tried another approach, this time saying, “Excuse me. I have five pages. May I go before you, because I have to make some copies?” Now that’s a lame excuse. Everybody in the queue has to make copies, but surprisingly the result in this approach was amazing. She was allowed to pass to the front of the queue in almost all cases.