Life is all about asking for and receiving help. Whether you're looking for a mentor to help you grow your business or simply asking a colleague to print out that final report while you set up the meeting room, asking for a favor can be a tricky task.

Some people find asking for help extremely daunting. "Is it a sign of weakness?" "Will my boss get mad at me?" "What if my colleague says no?" Our internal dialogue has a tendency to hinder our ability to be honest and ask for help when we need it most. But it doesn't have to be that way.

In fact, if you follow these four steps, you'll feel much more confident about asking for that favor, and drastically increase the likelihood you hear a "Yes" instead of a big fat "No". So let's break the ice and outline four simple steps to help you get what you want, when you need it.

1. Set the scene.

Speak to someone directly; either approach them in-person (ideally) or call them on the phone.

"I have a favor to ask you. I really need your help. Will you help me?"

When you phrase the question in this way, the natural response is to ask, "What do you need?" or "What is it?" Involving the other person in your situation is a great way to get them engaged from the start. Because you're actively speaking to them, the other person (your colleague, boss or whomever) will have to assess the nature of the favor in front of you. It's very unlikely for someone to do this and turn you down, and is much more effective than sending a passive email or text.

It's also very good to use the word "help" more than once. People respond incredibly positively towards the word "help", especially if you're asking in a way that's genuine and authentic.

2. Give a reason.

When the other person asks the inevitable "Why?", you need to be armed with a rational and convincing response.

Let's say you work at a bar and you need a colleague to cover your shift. You must clearly and succinctly explain why you want the favor:

"I really need you to help me cover this shift because my daughter is graduating today. I'm so proud of her, she'll be devastated if I miss it."

Just to be clear, you need to have a good reason for someone to help you (even more so depending on the level of help you're expecting). If you're just asking for someone to print out a piece of paper for you, your reasoning doesn't have to be very drastic. But, in the case above, context is key. The reason comes directly after the "because", and in this case even explains the consequences of what will happen if you miss the graduation.

Using emotion elicits a response and supports your reasoning. The overwhelming majority of people make decisions emotionally, so use this to your advantage.

3. Provide the weak escape clause.

If the other person pauses to consider your question, use this temporary lull as a way to provide a weak escape clause:

"Hey, if you can't, I'll just tell my daughter I couldn't find anyone to help me."

Can you imagine anyone saying "No" to this request now? At the very least, you've persuaded with empathy and that individual will either directly help you or use their efforts to find someone else who can cover your shift.

And remember, if you don't think it's going to close right away, you can provide the upside quickly:

"If you can do it, I'd be happy to cover a shift for you at some point in the future."

Making this statement shows a commitment to fairness and a genuine desire to match their kindness. It would take a heart of steel to say no at this point.

4. Re-enforce the value to ensure nobody goes back on the deal.

When you get the answer you're looking for, don't say:

"Are you sure?"

Just say, "Thank you. I really appreciate your help."

For whatever reason, many of us are tempted to play nice and respond by questioning their commitment one final time. But why give someone a chance to back out now after all your hard work?

Offer a genuine thanks and re-enforce why it means so much to you. This stops any chance of buyers' remorse.

"You know, if it wasn't for you I'd have to miss a really important life event. I've waited so long to see this. Thank you so much."

Then, confirm the details, keep your side of any commitment you make and move forward. You might not have your daughter's graduation to use every time you need a favor, but if you use the technique described above, you can effectively influence and encourage others to help you when you need it most.

Published on: Aug 9, 2017
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