A small favor

One common tactic is to portray the help we need as so small, that it is barely a favor. "Would you add these updates to the database? It won’t take you more than five minutes.”

It is conveying that you think the work the other person does is easy, quick, trivial and not very taxing. That’s not a great way to enlist help. You might also underestimate the size of the favor. Do not presume it won’t take them very long the next time you ask them for help.

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Communication

MORE IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE

"You're going to love helping me!"

Don't try and convince someone how much they will enjoy helping you. It reeks of control and is presumptive. It drains their joy out of helping.

How they feel is for them to decide.

While reciprocity does make people more likely to comply with the request, it also makes us feel controlled, which takes all the fun out of it.

Reminding someone that they owe you a favor does not create good feelings. Scorekeeping is fundamentally bad for relationships.

The motivation to be helpful is tied to your helper’s identity and self-esteem. People help because they want to be admired.

  • Other-praising (Acknowledging and validating the character or abilities of the giver.) “You go out of your way …” or  I feel like you’re really good at that.
  • Self-benefit (Describing how the receiver is better off for having been given help). “It let me relax.” or “It makes me happy.”

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RELATED IDEAS

  • Strong sense of in-group: the belief that the person in need is on your team makes us more helpful to them as we care about what happens to the in-group.
  • Opportunity to reinforce the helper’s positive identity: people help more when they reflect on why it’s important to them to “be a benefactor to others.”
  • Opportunity to see one’s own effectiveness: people want to see or know the impact of the help they have given or will give.

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IDEAS

What Not To Do When Asking For Help
  • Instruct people.
  • Tell or imply that they should help our debt they don’t have a choice about it.
  • Using unnecessary prefaces makes people feel trapped.
  • Profusely apologizing makes the experience seem less positive.
  • Emphasizing reciprocity can make people feel indebted or like they are engaging in a purely transactional exchange.
  • Minimizing your need suggests the assistance is trivial or even unnecessary.
Pick One Person to Ask

It’s best to ask one person instead of a group. Pick someone who you think can help you the most, or at least send individual requests to several people at once instead of dropping a line in a group chat. 

Asking a group leads to the “diffusion of responsibility” phenomenon, where nobody feels like they have to help because they think someone else will. 

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