So, you need some help. It’s okay, we all need a hand sometimes. Problem is, a lot of us don’t know how to go about asking – so we don’t. Well, according to a social psychologist, here’s the simplest, most effective way to ask for a favour.
Heidi Grant, the author of Reinforcements: How To Get People to Help You, tells The Verge that the most important thing to keep in mind is that asking for help is always okay. We tend to think people are going to reject our requests, or think less of us, so we don’t ask for help as often as we should. According to research, though, people like us more when we ask for help. But how do you go about it so they will actually follow through?
Pick One Person to Ask
Grant says it’s best to ask one person instead of a group. Asking a group leads to the “diffusion of responsibility” phenomenon, where nobody feels like they have to help because they think someone else will. 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.
Make It Clear You Want Help, and Be Specific
People are afraid of offending others with unwanted help, so make it clear that you’re asking for help, not merely venting. Also, make sure your request is very specific. Don’t be vague about what you need, and never open things up with a phrase like “Can you do me a favour?” Grant says it’s manipulative because it forces someone to commit before you tell them what it is you need. A simple “Can you help me with [specific thing]?” will do.
Give Them a Timeframe, and an Escape
OK, this tip is mine, not Grant’s, but it’s still important. When you ask for help, give the person some kind of timeframe or soft deadline. Floaty phrases like “whenever you can” or “if you get a sec” put the onus on the person who is already doing you a favour. You might think it’s polite to let them choose, but it’s actually kind of rude because you’re putting even more pressure on them. You’re saying, “Hey, I need your help, but I also want you to figure out when I need it,” which makes it more stressful. Now they have another abstract to-do weighing them down. There’s nothing wrong with asking when they’re available, but it helps them to know when you actually need the help. For example: “Can you help me with [specific thing] sometime this afternoon? I’m hoping to wrap this up today.”
It’s also nice to offer them a way out if you know they’re busy. It ensures your request for help doesn’t feel like a demand. Keep it classy.
When you ask for help, you may feel inclined to apologise for taking up their time and energy. Don’t. According to Grant, this is a bad idea because putting yourself down makes the other person feel less joy in helping you. Many of us apologise too much anyway.
Don’t Hesitate to Circle Back to People
Grant wants people to know about an untapped help resource: people who have said no to helping us in the past. Just because someone didn’t help you before doesn’t mean they won’t help you now. In fact, research suggests they’re more likely to help. Why? Because they want to feel better about rejecting you previously and “repair the relationship.” So find someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t help you before and ask again.
The entire interview with Grant is worth a read, so be sure to check it out at the link below.