In a Creative Mornings talk, creative thinker Simon Sinek demonstrates very clearly how the way you phrase a request for something you want will often mean the difference between someone helping you and someone finding you annoying. It all has to do with the order.
Skip to 25:30 in the video to hear Simon’s explanation of this concept, or read below. Either way, watch the entire video when you have some time. It’s excellent.
Take this request for example:
Haven’t seen you in years. I hope you’re doing well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. It’s really amazing! We should grab coffee sometime. If you could do me a favour, I’m in an online contest where I can win a big prize and I was wondering if you’d vote for me. Hope you’re well, talk to you soon.
For most people, reading that email will inspire a press of the delete key. Simon points out that changing the order will change the reaction:
I’m hoping you could vote for me in an online contest where I can win a big prize for my work. I haven’t seen you in years. I hope you’re doing well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. It’s really amazing! We should grab coffee sometime.
This ordering works because the pleasantries seem genuine when they follow the request. When pleasantries precede a request, they feel like they’re just shoved into the letter to convince the recipient to do something for you. It doesn’t feel genuine. When they follow the request, they do feel genuine because they don’t appear to be part of any agenda. Once the request is made, they’re actually appreciated because they coloured by any other motives.
This is a very simple adjustment in how you word a request, but it can have a major impact. It’s also one of many great tidbits in Simon’s talk. I highly recommend watching the entire video.
He demonstrates the importance of trust your work and provides the most solid reasoning I’ve ever heard for when you should and shouldn’t help others. I’ve always wondered about the best medium between altruism and selfishness, and this video pretty much settled it for me. It’s definitely worth a look.