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The Biggest Mistake We Make When Asking a Favor
We’ve all had those sigh-and-roll-eyes Facebook messages and emails from old connections. They all start off the same. We get lavish praise about how fantastic we’re looking these days, then down to business with a do me a favor question. They are usually the friend that you used to rescue from disaster date situations but was always suddenly unavailable when you needed a companion at the Leviosa Con in Las Vegas (the Harry Potter Convention to go to). No one likes those emails, but that shouldn’t stop us from asking for favors. The trick is in the wording.

The Biggest Mistake We Make When Asking a Favor 

The Classic Mistake

They’re dropping hints, you’re feeling sticky from all their sugar-coating. Whether it’s a small favor or a vital organ, it’s never the favor that usually bothers us. We’re instantly put off by unconvincing attempts to butter us up before asking for something. It often looks a little like this:
Hey Lauren,
Long time no see! I hope you are well. Facebook tells me that you’ve got a new job. Nice! How’s that going? We should catch up for coffee soon, I’d love to see you again. 🙂
I’ve recently opened my own boutique online clothing store. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind following my boutique on Instagram and give my website a review? The details are below. I’d really appreciate your help. Thank you in advance, you’re a legend!
Kind regards,
A friend you haven’t heard from in two years.
When we receive these messages, we are generally disgruntled and conveniently forget to reply. For the very polite and considerate, you may respond half-heartedly and enter into an awkward reluctance of trivial email correspondence, until someone forgets to reply.

What You Should Be Doing

However, there comes a time when you genuinely need a favor from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You don’t want to be that friend or acquaintance, but you still need their help. There is, however, a way to avoid the overdone caramel covered pleasantries and get what you want. The trick? Simple plain honesty.
Using the example of the above email, a simple sentence shuffle can make all the difference:
Hey Lauren, 
I’ve recently opened my own boutique online clothing store. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind following my store on Instagram and give my website a review? The details are below. I’d really appreciate your help.
I hope you are well. Facebook tells me that you’ve got a new job. Nice! How’s that going? We should catch up for coffee soon, I’d love to see you again. I’ve got the next two weeks off, let me know if you’re free.
Kind regards,
A friend you haven’t heard from in two years – but I wouldn’t mind catching up.
Which of the two emails above would you prefer to receive? Which one feels more genuine? Which one makes you more inclined to help? The wording of the two is almost exactly the same. You immediately know your friend is looking for a helping hand, however, it doesn’t seem to play out as the main motive of the email. In fact, it seems that your help is a great excuse for her to get back in touch with you, and have a coffee in good company.
[RELATED: The 36 Fundamentals of Email Etiquette]

The Three Golden Rules of Favor-Asking

When emailing or messaging and asking for a favor, remember these:

1. Be Straight Up.

People respect straightforwardness. No pity parties and no groveling.

2. Make Sure It’s Reciprocal

Only email someone who you would genuinely be willing to return a favor to. Give and take is the name of the game.

3. “Would I Do This For Someone Else?”

Don’t ask anything of anyone that you wouldn’t mind doing yourself if asked.
Sometimes, it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. Keep it clean, concise, and for all intents and purposes, classy.

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