What's the best way to ask for a favor? Here's how to get what you want

Michael Finney Image
Monday, January 31, 2022
What's the best way to ask for a favor? How to get what you want
Face-to-face, over the phone, via text -- one method of asking has a better chance you'll hear "yes."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- What is the best way to ask for a favor? In person? Email? Maybe on social media?

On Facebook, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney asked what is the best way to approach someone when you need help. There were plenty of opinions. "In Person," "Text," "Phone call," "Online chat." You can make a case for all of those, but know this: most of the answers are wrong. In one study researchers found participants really didn't understand the process.

"So their intuition was actually... that all of those different ways of asking would essentially be the same amount of effective, so they'd get a 'yes' basically just as often using one medium as another, but what we found was that, that really was not the case," says Professor Vanessa Bohns.

Bohns is professor of organizational behavior at Cornell, and author of the book You Have More Influence Than You Think.

In her study, participants were told to ask someone they knew for a favor.

"80% of the ones who asked face-to-face got a yes, so asking face-to-face was incredibly effective," Bohns says. "On the other hand, only about 50% who are asked either by phone or by a video call actually got 'yes' from that person they asked."

The dropoff is even worse when using email, then less than a third got a positive response.

So, bottom line: if you want someone to say yes, the request often doesn't mean as much as the medium used to make the request.

"Yeah I think that's true," Bohns says. "I think people find it really hard to say no in person and so they're more likely to say OK."

The more human the interaction, the more likely you are to get the response you want.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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