In a recent blog post, I wrote about a challenging situation I’m facing with a particular friend. In short, I get requests for favors from this friend from time to time, which I always promptly respond to and complete. But whenever I ask for a favor, the friend is nowhere to be found.

I sought advice from readers, and Steve Gardner was one of the readers who responded with a thoughtful note. I asked him to turn that note into a guest post so you all could benefit from his thoughts on how to deal with someone asking for favors, and how to ask successfully in return.

I’d ask you to make sure to take a look at Key #4, and the sample favor-asking email he provides, as I’m curious what folks think of this. Steve reports success, and states that “While this format is not as warm or friendly as some like or expect, those busy people will appreciate you giving them the critical info up front and back ground info if they need it.” I’m not sure I’d agree, though, and I think I’d need to tweak the email to make it significantly more friendly and grateful sounding.

What do you think? 

#

In my experience of similar situations, I’d take a particular tactic to try and turn the relationship around. First, after a few of these unanswered requests happen, and then the person pops back up to ask me for something, I’d reply back and ask for a good time to chat about what they needed help with. Then, after I provided my input to their current situation, I’d pose the question back to them.

I’d say that I respect and value their opinion, but on my recent attempts to get their feedback on an important issue I felt disappointed to not hear back from them. I’d then ask how – the next time I felt I wanted to get their advice – I should contact them in a manner that they would be able to respond?

There are four keys I would keep in mind throughout this process:

1. Assume Positive Intentions.

Oftentimes people want to help, they just get distracted by all their other commitments. Remember this, and don’t assume the worst.

2. Connect with Your Core Group (You Have to Give to Get).

Try to remember to give back to them (unasked & without strings). i.e. I try to find something that I think the other person is interested in and email them about it. Just a simple “Hey found this article on 3d printing I thought you might like, as I remembered you were an engineer.”

3.  Ensure you Use their Current Info.

I’ve sent several requests to review information to an email address, only to get this reply “Just a reminder I don’t check this email account anymore. When we were talking previously we were using my new account.”

Also, if the person in question responds to texts (or direct messages) more than email, then remember to text them your request.

4.  Structure your Emails for a Multi-Tasker (or, “tweet-a-fy “your request)

Lets face it, we are busy people, who multi-task constantly. You need to structure your emails so that you tell people what you need. Lead in with the subject line of email direct to point.

Then in opening of email tell them what you need (i.e. Action requested, For your review, My action unless otherwise instructed, etc.) Then have a Background section that goes into the paragraphs of typical information on the project, with the request buried again between paragraphs 4 & 5.

While this format is not as warm or friendly as some like or expect, those busy people will appreciate you giving them the critical info up front and back ground info if they need it.

Here’s an example, of a request I might send to Claire:

Email subject line: Claire, Feedback on Chapter 1 BikesForGood manuscript.

Email body:

Claire,

Action requested:

Please review the first 5 pages of BikesForGood manuscript. If possible, have back to me by end of Nov, as my publisher has me on a Dec 1st deadline.

Background:

I value your feedback. After reading TwitterForGood, I started on actualizing my goal of inspiring the world to donate 1 billion community service hours by using social media…. Etc.

See how that works? You’re more likely to get a response if you make it clear what you need. Overwhelmingly, when dealing with someone who asks a lot for favors (and from whom you sometimes might need a favor of your own!) keep these 4 keys in mind.

Steve Gardner, Social Entrepreneur, whose vision is to inspire 1 Billion community service hours. Our 2013 project is @BikesForGood Bike Drive to give 10,000 bikes to deserving children.

So what do you think? Do these four keys make sense when dealing with an apparent “taker”? In #4, do you think that the proposed email template would work for you? What changes would you make?

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