Apparently there’s such a thing as The Benjamin Franklin effect. It goes like this: Once upon a time, Our Mate Ben was faced with a troll who tried to tear him down. Ben thought quickly: tame him!

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

The troll was a posh literary type. So Franklin sent him a letter if he could borrow a specific scarce book from said hater’s library. Flattered, the hater sent it right away. Troll cornered! Franklin then returned it a week later with a thank you note. Nice finishing touch! Troll totally tamed!

From then on in, the troll was a fan, forever ready to do another favour for Franklin.

Various people have written about this phenomenon – why and how it works. American psychologist David McRaney writes in You Are Now Less Dumb:

“When you feel anxiety over your actions, you will seek to lower the anxiety by creating a fantasy world in which your anxiety can’t exist, and then you come to believe the fantasy is reality. “

So once compelled to lend a book, a hater needs to justify their actions. They couldn’t possibly lend a book to someone they hated, so they switch to becoming a fan…to avoid anxiety within.

As Ben himself once said: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

I’m kind of aware of this phenomenon working the other way around. You get what you put out there, and all that CBT jazz. When I do something kind, the more I see the world in a positive light and then the better I feel (just to put it really rudimentarily).

Switching it back onto others, however, is really amping up the psychological dial.

But, then, that’s where I feel the world is at. I think we’re ready to amp things, to stop whinging about others’ behaviours and not just be the change we want to see, but prod it out of others. You don’t have to like the troll, or condone their behaviour, nor do it for your own personal ends.

You just steer the world to better behaviour.

I was wondering how difficult the BF effect is to actually implement. It kind of feels contrived. But then I realised I actually manage to implement it quite regularly. Not because I’m particularly wise or advanced psychologically, but because I simply don’t have the patience for haters. I don’t like this patience in myself so I turn on my patient and generous self…which brings on their better behaviour and so on and on.

Besides, as Kierkegaard wrote, also on the subject of bullying: “How invaluably interesting to have one’s knowledge of human psychology enriched in this way.”

Try it…let me know if it works for you. Or is already working for you.