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How to Ask For a Favour and Receive it

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We’ve all been in need of a favour before. And while we all have tales of denial and disappointment, the interesting thing about asking for favours is that you can increase your chances of success using knowledge of human psychology.

If you read psychology or some other related social sciences, you probably know the “foot in the door” technique already. If you do, how often do you use it and other techniques when asking for favours?

The foot in the door technique is a tested and proven method of getting someone to grant a request, which is grounded in human behaviour and psychology.

The foot in the door technique is based on the fact that we humans tend to more readily accept a difficult request if it follows an easier one which we’ve already accepted. This is not a fairy tale idea from somebody’s own imagination. It actually works.

Suppose that I want my neighbour to charge three mobile phones for me – my cell phone and my parents’ two phones – because we all share one charger which is broken. I stand a better chance of getting my neighbour to comply with my request and get the job done if I approach my neighbour and politely ask them to charge only my phone, and then later on ask to add the other two phones.

The other option – going to my neighbour and asking them directly to charge three mobile phones for me – is a weaker approach. That is not to say this method is totally guaranteed to fail. My neighbour could grant that request, but at the end of the day, I stand a better chance of getting the favour if I use the first procedure.

A method opposite to the foot in the door, known as the “door in the face” technique, also works well. To use this technique, intentionally make a big request that is very likely to be denied. When it is denied, ask for an easier and more sensible favour.

Again, in this situation, research and experiments over the years show that humans are more likely to grant an easier favour to someone right after denying them a more difficult one.

So back to the example of my neighbour, this time I’ll ask to charge three cell phones when I actually need to charge only one. If I get the green light, cool. If my neighbour turns me down, I quickly ask to charge only one phone. This request then becomes more likely to be met.

If you’re not using any of these techniques, would you try them next time you’re asking for a favour? Do so and see how it goes. Just remember, there’s no one size fits all and these psychological techniques will not work in every situation.

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