How The 'BYAF Technique' Takes The Pressure Off Of Communicating A Request

Being able to persuade someone is not only a valuable skill, it's a crucial one. Whether you need to get an important point across in the workplace, come to a resolution during a rough argument, or advocate for yourself at the doctor's office, it's helpful to understand what you can do to help yourself win. We're all pretty familiar with the modes of persuasion that are unlikely to be effective. For example, yelling, lying, and dropping subtle hints don't usually help us reach our goals. Not to mention, they also have lots of negative emotional consequences for everyone involved.

What if there was a way to get what you want or need and also make the other person feel good about their decision to agree or give in? Fortunately, there is a technique that allows us to achieve just that. The But You Are Free (BYAF) method might completely change your approach to persuasion, and in turn, change your life.

How the BYAF technique works

According to Inc., the But You Are Free (BYAF) technique is one of the most effective ways out there to persuade anyone of anything. Basically, it boils down to saying some version of "but you are free to do what you want" after you give someone a suggestion or ask them to do something; that kind of phrasing makes the person feel like it was actually their own idea. Researchers found that across 42 studies involving 22,000 people, the technique worked wonders. In fact, double the number of people were successfully persuaded when BYAF was used as opposed to when it wasn't. Numbers don't lie, so this is definitely a powerful tool to have in your psychological toolbox. 

Why does the practice work so well? Basically, people don't like being told what to do, but they do love the idea of autonomy because autonomy is actually something that we all need. When people have a strong sense of autonomy, they experience more self-confidence, improved social behaviors, and overall better mental health. So, with BYAF, you're giving someone the gift of feeling autonomous and getting what you want. It's a win-win!

You can use BYAF in a variety of different ways

The technique doesn't need to be as straightforward and blunt as saying the words "but you are free." There are a multitude of ways to employ this method of persuasion, and the right one to use just depends on situational context. After making suggestions to someone, you can strategically add phrases to the end like, "but the choice is yours," "only if you want to, though," "it's up to you," or "whatever you decide works." You might just see their mental wheels start to turn in your favor.

Of course, it's also important to make sure you're not crossing a line and acting in a way that's unkind and overly manipulative — that can be a toxic relationship red flag. If you find yourself stretching the truth, punishing people when they don't immediately do what you want, or pushing them too much, pause for a moment and reflect. BYAF doesn't guarantee anything, but when used in a thoughtful and healthy way, it gives you a better chance of making your case.