Art of asking favours | Sunday Observer

Art of asking favours

Sanath, a young attorney, had started his own law office because he didn’t like working for anyone else. He had a substantial case load, but the monthly overhead expense was killing him, financially. He thought of asking an old family friend to share his office and expenses, but then dismissed the idea. He thought his friend who was successful, after years in practice, will have no interest in such a venture. Not wanting to appear foolish, Sanath just struggled along, doing nothing.

Mayuri wanted to become a commercial artist, but lacked formal training in her field. Lacking the confidence that anyone would hire her and feeling reluctant to apply for a job through her known contacts, she contented herself with doing free projects for volunteer groups.

Sanath and Mayuri, both share a limitation in which they failed to ask for what they wanted. Sanath lacked the confidence to approach the older attorney, feeling he might appear foolish. Mayuri lacked confidence in her present skills and abilities to ask for a job through connections, believing that her request could only be granted as a ‘favour’ by her connections.


Why do most of us cringe at the thought of asking a favour, or asking for help?

For some, asking a favour is like begging. Others are afraid to look vulnerable or needy. Many others just don’t want to inconvenience another person with their request. But, for most of us, it’s the simple fear of rejection - hearing the dreaded ‘no’.

Yet, people ask for favours all the time. Unfortunately, some of us are bad at asking a favour thinking we would offend people, burn bridges, and even damage their credibility in the process.

Do you want to know how to ask a favour correctly?

There are 3 steps:

Keynote speaker and communication training expert Jodi Glickman suggests three steps that would be helpful in asking for favours:

Set the stage

Give a reason

Provide an escape clause

Set the stage by telling the person directly and honestly that you’re asking for a favour. Be polite and avoid clouding your message by beating around the bush.

Understand that it might not be everyone’s idea of a good time to help you with your request, but you don’t need to apologize for asking.

Give a reason, so you’re not just demanding without context. Present the positive outcome, for example, if we have an eye-catching advert for the Christmas fair, more people will come and we’ll raise more money for the sports centre. Clear and simple.

Provide an escape clause, making it absolutely clear that the person is welcome to say no. Nothing is gained by pressuring or making people feel guilty. Be willing to accept defeat and try someone else.

Other points

There are a few other points you need to remember.

Fill your favour basket

Asking for favours is something like having a bank account. You cannot take anything out if you’ve never put anything in. Before you start asking for favours make sure you have made it a habit to help out people in the past.

Be direct and simply ask for your favour explaining what you need and why you need it. It’s also important to ensure you’re asking and not telling. Asking means you’re respectful and aware of the fact that the person will be giving his time to listen to you.

If someone has been kind enough to lend you their time and expertise, take the time to thank them. Let them know you appreciate what they have given you.

This seems to be a straightforward point but many times we seem to ask the wrong person. Make sure what you ask fits into the person’s abilities and talents.


Avoid the following common mistakes:

Don’t be the person who begs the question. Begging may make the receiver feel obligated to help rather than satisfying your request willingly.

Don’t behave selfishly. Be patient, give him time to decide.

Don’t employ improper influence. Be conscious of your status. If you’re in a position of authority, a modest appeal may be misinterpreted as a demand.

Don’t ask the impossible. Be reasonable, never request a favour that’s beyond someone’s capabilities.

Don’t make it impossible to say “no.” Give the receiver a way out rather than pinning him against the wall.

Don’t make unethical requests. Ascertain whether your request is appropriate. If you’re thinking of asking people to compromise their integrity, think again.


Another useful approach involves turning the ‘favour’ into a mutually beneficial arrangement. Look at your situation in terms of facts and figures. What exactly is the problem? What do you need to remedy it? What can you offer in return?

Sanath did a cash flow analysis and found that he needed to cut business expenses by thirty-percent in order to make a reasonable profit. To accomplish this, he could offer a well-furnished office, good location and the services of an experienced secretary.

Mayuri assembled a portfolio of her volunteer artwork and asked for letters of recommendation from various project leaders.

As a further indication of her commitment, she enrolled in a week-end class. Now, she had tangible evidence of her commitment to Art. She also decided to seek employment, simultaneous with her course work, as a trainee, at a reduced salary.

To be shared

Preparation made the task easier for both Sanath and Mayuri. Senath’s friend wasn’t interested in the office for himself, but knew of another attorney in semi-retirement who jumped at the idea of a seventy-percent cut in his own expenses. Mayuri approached a fledgling company that could not afford a highly-trained and experienced artist and was willing to take a chance.

When you can offer benefits to another to be shared, your position of ‘need’ will become one of strength, and the chances for success will be high.