This Is the Absolute Best Way to Ask Your Friends for a Favor—Guaranteed

We may live in a digital world, but when you want something, it pays to step away from the screen.

Need-a-Favor--Asking-Like-THIS-Will-Almost-Guarantee-Success-289830740-Monkey-Business-ImagesMonkey Business Images/shutterstockWe’ve all done it—fired off a quick text or email asking a friend for a favor. It’s fast, easy, and avoids any awkwardness if they respond with a “no.” But it might not be the most effective approach, according to two recent studies reported in Scientific American Mind.

In the first study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 participants were told they would each have to ask 10 strangers, either in person or via email, to complete a survey for no pay. Each participant said they expected one in two strangers to agree to complete the survey (regardless of whether they made the request in person or via email). But they were all wrong. More than 70 percent of people approached in person complied, while the response rate was only 2 percent for those asked over email. (Did you know that letting your emails go unanswered could be one of the best time management tips ever?)

The second study also asked people to complete a survey via email or in person, but this time it was a paid survey. Before they started the paid survey, they were asked if they wanted to complete a second, unpaid, one. Again, the canvassers underestimated how compliant the people asked in person would be, and overestimated email responses to the unpaid survey.

“If your office runs on email and text-based communication, it’s worth considering whether you could be a more effective communicator by having conversations in person,” writes Vanessa K. Bohns, co-author of the paper, in Harvard Business Review. “It is often more convenient and comfortable to use text-based communication than to approach someone in-person, but if you overestimate the effectiveness of such media, you may regularly—and unknowingly—choose inferior means of influence.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever use e-mail, but consider making it more personal to approximate the face-to-face interaction that would have sealed the deal. “If people want to have more effective e-mail messages, they have to include more personal information to facilitate building initial trust,” says Mahdi Roghanizad, business professor at Western University in Ontario, Canada, and co-author of the paper.

When it comes to asking a friend or colleague for a favor, Roghanizad believes face-to-face is still best. “When a friend comes to you and asks in person it means they are in serious need or respect you enough to pay a visit,” she says. Want to be a better friend? These 24 little things will make a big difference to your friendships.

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