How to Ask Someone Nicely to Do a Favor for You

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No one can do everything -- sometimes you need assistance. Asking politely and appropriately for a favor can improve the chances that you will receive help when you need it. Doing favors for friends and family when you are able encourages a favorable response when you need something.

Politeness Counts

Begin with “please” and end with “thank you” to make your request sound more like a favor and less like a command. Don’t phrase your request negatively, such as, “I’m sure you probably can't, but could you please…?” That implies that you expect a negative answer or that you don’t believe the person you ask is willing to help.

Appropriate Wording

Let the person know what you need in a simple and direct way and the reason you are asking, and provide a way for that person to respond either positively or negatively, suggests Jodi Glickman, founder of Great on the Job, a communication training firm. Your request might sound like, “Jenny, I need a favor, please. I’d appreciate it if you could water my outdoor plants twice while I’m out of town this week. I’ll understand if it's not convenient, but I’d be grateful if you could. I can simplify the job so it takes about 10 minutes.” Graciously accept a refusal, if it comes, with a “Thanks for considering it, anyway.”

The Personal Touch

Whenever possible, ask face-to-face or over the phone, and ask in a timely manner so the person agreeing to the favor doesn’t feel rushed. A text doesn't provide a personal touch and might come off sounding more like a command. If you get a positive response to your request, make your “thank you” just as personal, with a sincere verbal response, a gracious note or a small gift.

Business Requests of Strangers

You might have occasion to ask a favor of someone you don’t know, such as asking your Congressional representative to champion a bill or requesting a charity donation. Ensure you clearly identify who you are, suggests business writing expert Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. If you’re sending a written request, include the name and title of the person to whom you’re making the request. Provide all the details necessary to answer and fulfill or refuse the request and a method of getting back to you. Keep your request polite and appreciative.