The origin of the foot-in-the-door technique is as plain as it sounds. If you have your foot in the door, the door can’t close and you are one step closer to achieving your goal. Bailiffs looking to collect property due to unpaid debts or persistent salesmen use the FITD technique literally as well as figuratively by refusing to let people shut their door until they get what they want.
The FITD door technique can have a similar meaning to phrases such as “the thin end of the wedge” or “if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile,” meaning if you grant someone a small favor you may be in store for a series of larger favors. Loaning your buddy ten dollars one week, for example, may result in him asking for $100 the following week. He may then want to borrow your car and sleep on your sofa if he can’t pay his rent.
The foot-in the-door technique is a term usually applied in business circles and refers to the practice of achieving a small goal in the hope of securing a much greater one at a later time. For example, a person may long to be a film director and decide to take job as a cleaner or coffee maker on a film set. They have got their “foot in the door” by securing a lesser job and hope that they can eventually achieve their dream by working their way up and making useful contacts in the industry.
Charity collectors also use the FITD technique when looking to secure donations from businesses or members of the public. A collector may ask a business to sign a petition to support a local cause such as preventing a local library or hospital from being shut down. A few days later, he might call back to request money towards the cause rather than just a signature.
Charity canvassers use similar FITD techniques, by asking you how you are today and promising to only take up two minutes of your time. The conversation can often last for much longer and they may request you sign up for regular charity donations by the end of it.
According to psychologist David Straker, studies have yielded mixed results as to the effectiveness of the FITD technique. Some studies have shown a greater success rate from the FITD technique in business compared to traditional methods, whereas others have shown to significant differences.
Straker points out, however, that additional requests are more likely to be received positively if they are related to earlier, smaller requests. For instance, asking permission to borrow your buddy’s car and then asking to extend the loan period are two closely related requests. Asking to borrow $20 and then asking your friend to help you paint your house are not related and therefore less likely to be successful.
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