This may seem like a no-brainer, but when it’s so much easier to duck confrontation and send an email or a text begging for help or a much-needed favour, you’re far better doing it in person, face-to-face, says researchers from Cornell and the University of Waterloo. That awkwardness actually improves your chances.
Photo by Mikhail Gorbunov.
The bottom line is that if it’s awkward for you, it’s also awkward for them, and if the favour is benign enough, they will likely agree just to do you a solid, or because they’re inclined to anyway. They don’t have to work up the activation energy or willpower to open your email, ponder your request, and then send you an appropriate line back. From The Science of Us:
In a recent study highlighted this week by the Association for Psychological Science blog, Cornell’s Vanessa Bohns of Cornell and the University of Waterloo’s M. Mahdi Roghanizadad found that asking a stranger for something face-to-face tends to yield better results than asking via email — and that people tend to think of email as much more effective than it really is, while underestimating the power of the in-person request.
In previous research covered by Science of Us, Bohns found that people tend to underestimate how often strangers will agree to a random request. In this latest study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, she and Roghanizadad ran several experiments investigating if the way the request was delivered made any difference.
Bottom line, it did — the way the person made the request had a huge impact, while all groups that participated assumed equal success rates between the face to face and the email groups. In reality, people who asked for favours in person were seen as more trustworthy, and they more often got the favour they asked for. Similarly, the people who were asked the favour reported that they certainly felt more uncomfortable when being asked face to face versus through email, but they felt worse about refusing when they had to look the person asking in the eyes.
So the next time you need something from someone, especially someone at work, or with whom your relationship might be a little contentious, get up and go talk to them in person. Don’t just rely on an email to get what you need.
Here’s the Best Way to Ask Someone for a Favour [The Science of Us]