That's What She Said

Amplify and be amplified for success at work and at home - even during Pandemic Winter Break

Friday’s newsletter was delayed to today because we had a Covid-19 exposure in the family and had to deal with that matter before writing any more newsletters. We are all fine so far.


In 2016, word got out of the Obama administration that women were having trouble being heard, being credited for their ideas, and even being “called on” in meetings.

They came up with a technique they called Amplification, which quickly went viral. The idea:

After one woman offered an idea, if it wasn’t acknowledged, another woman would repeat it and give her colleague credit for suggesting it.

The results were good: “Obama noticed, [one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly] and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.”

Whether you’re introducing a new idea in the workplace or asking kids to put away laundry, being heard is essential to the achievement of your goals — regardless of role or gender. And in a culture in which women are socialized to tear one another down, the technique is just plain revolutionary. Maybe that’s why it went viral.

How it Works

This technique utilizes a few of my favorite cognitive biases:

  • The Mere Exposure Effect: Advertisers will tell you that a consumer needs to see her advertisement seven times before she buys their product. Just being exposed to the same idea more than once increases the likelihood that your meeting participants or children will agree with the idea, too. By amplifying one another, we create an instantaneous second exposure — or more. (Learn more)

  • The Bandwagon Effect: We talk about a sport’s team’s having a “bandwagon” of popular support, and the same is true of ideas and people. We are, for better or worse, more likely to listen to ideas that seem to enjoy an existing base of support. By amplifying one another’s thoughts, we give the impression that an idea enjoys an existing base of support. (Learn more)

  • The Ben Franklin Effect: We talked about Mr. Franklin last week in the post “How Ikea and Ben Franklin can improve your December holiday season.” When people agree to amplify your message, they’re more likely to support you and your message than if they hadn’t. Ask people to amplify your message, and you’ll get more support for your message.

In culture:

  • Social media relies on amplification everywhere: every share or retweet amplifies the original poster’s message whether or not you use the disclaimer about not agreeing with everything you RT.

  • Amplification is the central rhetorical technique of the New Testament of the Christian Bible, of course. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell each apostle’s version, admittedly not during the meeting, of “What Jesus said” and did. Their versions of the story of Jesus have formed the basis for one of the largest religions in the world.

How to:

Amplification is a serious technique that’s easy to implement and works well, so these are more “serious ideas” and less “Incredibly Dumb Weekend Activity Idea (IDWAI)”, but please send me your IDWAI ideas, too.

At work:

  • Have a social-media following? Find a newbie whose message you can amplify. Use your voice for the benefit of others even without asking them to do the same.

  • Ask subordinates how you can amplify their work as part of your regular meetings. Developing people is a mark of a great leader, and helping a subordinate increase his scope of influence is part of his development.

  • Copy-paste these women’s idea exactly. Just pre-game your next meeting. Talk with other people about supporting one another’s ideas. Easy, simple, effective.

At home:

  • If you have adult family members or close friends who make posts on social media, consider sharing them occasionally. Your family members’ projects will benefit from your amplification, and your relationship will benefit, too. Bonus points for making one helpful introduction to someone who could help them.

  • If you have a partner, talk with them about how you can amplify their messages with your family members. Home is easy (“Your mother had a great idea about how to handle this situation”), but you can also amplify your partner’s career ambitions, which benefits both of you.

  • If you raise children with a former partner, you can buy immeasurable goodwill with your former partner by agreeing in advance to amplify one another’s messages to the children and to the outside world.

  • Amplify your child’s messages sometimes—if appropriate, of course. “Madyson said she thinks going to the park is the best idea for Saturday because it’s free, close by, and pandemic-safe” helps Madyson feel heard. You might even pre-negotiate a positive response!

  • Share this post with your friends to amplify the messages of this newsletter if you’re feeling generous at this time of year. :)

Have any more ideas how amplification can increase your impact or that of your loved ones? Please share them in the comments below.

Happy winter-break amplification to those parents in North America!

Leave a comment