our everyday life

How to Ask a Favor

by Tamara Runzel

Asking favors is a fact of life. Whether it’s a ride to the airport, lending money or helping with child care, friends and family will most likely step up to help you out. Considering the favor you plan to ask and being honest about it, though, can help ensure someone will lend a helping hand.

Think about the favor you plan to ask. Before you ask, decide if it’s a reasonable request. If it’s not something you would do for someone else, it’s probably not a favor you should ask.

Decide who to ask. Narrow down the list of friends, co-workers or family members you might ask the favor of to those relationships that you have invested the most time. Someone is much more likely to help when you’ve invested a considerable amount of time into your relationship, according to Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI, a business networking organization.

Decide when to ask. Pick an appropriate time to ask the favor, but don’t wait until the last minute. And don’t put the person on the spot and ask in front of a group of people. A better option is over the phone or when it’s just the two of you.

Prepare the person for what you’re about to ask up front. Say, “I have a favor to ask you,” rather than just stating what you need. This gives the person a few seconds to prepare to respond and also implies that you would be willing to return a favor at some point.

Explain the reason why you need a favor, but keep it brief. For example, you can say, “I have a favor to ask you. Can you pick my kids up from school Thursday? I have a last-minute business meeting.” Keep your explanation straightforward and honest.

Provide an option for the person to say no. Say something like, “Is that something that would work?” or “If you can’t do it, I completely understand, but I wanted to check.”

Respond kindly afterwards, regardless of the answer. And don’t be afraid to ask another favor later. People are more likely to say yes the second time they are asked a favor than the first, according to research by Stanford University professor Francis Flynn, University of Waterloo professor Vanessa Bohns and Stanford doctoral student Daniel Newark. Researchers determined the main reason behind this was discomfort over saying no again.

Think about the positives. Asking someone for a favor is almost serving as a favor to that person as people generally feel better about themselves when they can help someone else, says psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne in an article on Psychology Today's website. But remember to return the favor when something is asked of you later.

About the Author

Tamara Runzel has been writing military, parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. Her articles have appeared in military publications as well as numerous online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.

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