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How not to ask for help: 4 most common mistakes
How not to ask for help: 4 most common mistakes

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How not to ask for help: 4 most common mistakes
How not to ask for help: 4 most common mistakes

1. Emphasize how much the person will enjoy helping you

One of my colleagues has a friend who always phrases requests this way. “Can you help me re-paint the living room? Let's have a beer and chat! Hen-party!" - she may write. Or “Listen, can you pick me up from the auto shop? We haven't seen each other for 100 years! Let's arrange a mini-trip! " It's amazing that their friendship can stand up to such requests.

In general, this is a bad way to get someone else's support. People really enjoy doing good things for others. But when you persistently convince how pleasant it will be for a person to help you, all the joy of helping you disappears.

It turns out that you are trying to control him, and even behave extremely arrogantly - you decide for the other how he will feel.

You can mention some kind of benefit for the helper, but not obtrusively. Don't mix up selfish reasons and altruism; this will make your request look too manipulative. The researchers tested this with one experiment, Mixed reasons, missed givings: The costs of blending egoistic and altruistic reasons in donation requests. … They wrote to about a thousand alumni who had not previously donated to their university and asked for a donation. Participants received one of three versions of the letter:

  • with selfish motivation: “Graduates report that donations to the university make them feel good”;
  • with altruistic motivation: “Donation is your chance to change something in the lives of students and teachers”;
  • with mixed motivation: “You will get a lot of positive emotions. It’s also your chance to change the lives of others.”

And those who received a letter with mixed motivation donated half as often.

2. Describe the service you need as small and insignificant

We often talk about what we need as some kind of trifle, which will take another person a minimum of effort. “Can you bring these documents to the client? It's almost on the way to your home "or" Would you like to add something to the database? It will only take you five minutes."

But by reducing our request in this way, we also reduce the value of the service.

And also those pleasant feelings that a person might have in the process of helping. In addition, there is a risk that you miscalculated how much time it will take for a person to fulfill your request. Especially if you don't quite understand how it works.

For example, an old friend periodically writes to my editor with a request to see his texts. Usually it sounds something like this: “I think the text is pretty clean. Maybe you can subtract quickly? It shouldn't take a lot of your time! She opens the attached file and it turns out to be a 6,000 word research paper. And once it was a whole book.

I don't think people do that out of selfishness. It's just that we really don't always understand what the responsibilities of specialists from other industries include. As a result, we consider the work of another person to be simple and insignificant. But this attitude is unlikely to contribute to success.

3. Remind you what you owe

  • Remember I took that problem client away from you?
  • Do you remember that time when I sat with your child?
  • Do you remember how you always forgot your house keys and I had to go back and open the door for you?

It is better to refuse such phrases. In general, if a person needs to be reminded that he owes you something, most likely he does not feel obligated at all. And talking about the last favor will only embarrass you both. It will seem that you are trying to control the interlocutor (which is what you are doing).

Nobody likes such an appeal, but it is somehow inconvenient to refuse.

My editor found himself in just such a situation. She politely explained to a friend that he was asking her to do a job that would take about 40 hours, and offered to watch the chapters he particularly doubted. And he recalled in response that he helped her with articles at the beginning of her career. It seems logical that now she too should respond in kind.

But this is appropriate when the services are approximately the same. Helping with a few short articles is far from the same as editing an entire book. In addition, you can recall the past if you helped a person not so long ago. Hardly anyone will feel obligated to you 10 years later - unless you saved their life.

4. Too much stress on how someone will help you

There are many ways to thank you for your help, and we often do it wrong. We get too hung up on how we feel and forget about the other person. Scientists have noticed this by observing how people thank their partner for their recent help.

Some noted the positive qualities of a partner - for example, they said: "You are so responsible", "You always try your best to help," "You are very good at it." Others mentioned only themselves: “It helped me to relax”, “It made me very happy”, “I now have something to brag about at work”.

As a result, scientists have identified two different types of gratitude: "praising the other" and "rejoicing for herself."

The first type recognizes the value of someone who helped us, and the second describes how much better we got from the help we received. At the end of the experiment, participants who helped themselves rated how empathetic their partner was, and how satisfied they now feel. Those who were praised felt happier overall and were more disposed towards their partner.

This is worth thinking about. We are by nature egocentric looking at the world - first of all we think and talk about ourselves. And having received help, we naturally want to tell you what feelings it caused us.

It seems to us that this is exactly what the other person wants to hear, because he helped us to make us happier. But it is not so.

Yes, he wanted you to get better. But the desire to help someone is also closely related to self-esteem. People do this because they want to be good and respectable. They want to see themselves in a positive light, which is difficult if you only talk about how you feel. Therefore, focus not on yourself, but on who helped you.