People ask for favors all the time. So you’d think we’d have the process down to a science. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, some of us are so bad at asking for a favor that we offend people, burn bridges, and even damage credibility in the process. Do you know how to ask for a favor?
Some etiquette is as basic as it gets. Waiting for the proper time, saying “please” and “thank you,” and never taking someone’s help for granted are a few examples of proper manners. Other forms of etiquette aren’t as obvious.
Asking for a Favor? Avoid 15 Common Mistakes
There’s a right way and a wrong way to request a favor. Don’t be the person who:
- Begs the question. Be careful how you ask for a favor. Begging may make the receiver feel obligated to help rather than satisfying your request willingly.
- Behaves selfishly. Be patient. Don’t jump out of the gate too fast. (When someone requests a favor just minutes after I meet them, I’m always tempted to say, “Dude, I don’t even know you.”)
- Employs improper influence. Be conscious of your status. If you’re in a position of authority (i.e., the boss), a modest appeal may be misinterpreted as a demand.
- Beats around the bush. Be direct and clear. Don’t take an hour to ask a five-second question.
- Asks the impossible. Be reasonable. Never request a favor that’s beyond someone’s capabilities.
- Makes it impossible to say “no.” Give the receiver a way out rather than pinning them against the wall. When you say, “Can you give me a hand within the next few months?” — you make it difficult, if not impossible, to refuse your request.
- Shames into submission. Select the right venue. Don’t embarrass someone into obedience by making the request in front of others.
- Guilts the receiver. Be straightforward. Don’t minimize the task by saying, “It won’t take you any time at all.”
- Makes unethical requests. Determine whether your request is appropriate. If you’re thinking about asking people to compromise their integrity, think again.
- Returns for an encore. Be conscious of going to the same person again and again. That’s taking advantage of someone’s good nature.
- Comes out of nowhere. Determine whether it’s even reasonable to request the favor. If you haven’t spoken to someone for a while, think twice before asking.
- Resorts to bait-and-switch. Be open, honest, and sincere in requesting support. Avoid a hidden motive or trying to trick someone with a false promise.
- Takes a rejection personally. Accept “no” for an answer. A rejection may be due to a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with you.
- Asks for the world. Make sure your request matches the depth of your relationship. A marriage proposal on a first date is probably not a good idea.
- Ducks responsibility. Before asking of others, do for yourself.
When you are asked for a favor, avoid these five common mistakes. Don’t be the person who:
- Keeps score. Give willingly without expectation of something in return. Your reward is the satisfaction of having helped someone.
- Fakes it. If you’re not the right person to satisfy a request, don’t pretend that you are. Instead, suggest someone who may be in a position to help.
- Breaks promises. Be candid. Don’t say “yes” when you really want to say “no.” It’s better to decline someone’s offer than to let them down.
- Rubs it in their face. Be gracious by saying, “You’re welcome.” Don’t continuously boast about what you did.
- Demands a quid pro quo. Don’t ask for anything in return. Keeping score is a losing game.
Do Yourself a Favor
Real friends don’t wait to be asked. They know their friends so well that it’s easy to anticipate needs and respond before being asked. In fact, some of us get more pleasure from doing something nice for another person than from gaining something for ourselves. Does this sound like you? You win more friends by granting a favor than by asking for one.
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