The Fine Art of the Favour

Chances are you’ve either asked or been asked the following within the past 6 months: for help with a move, a ride to the airport, assistance to plan a party, proofreading of a résumé, or the introduction of a connection. Favours require strategy, respect and reciprocity, whether you are the one who asks or does the favour. Otherwise, feelings are hurt, people are taken advantage of, and friends, family and coworkers will quickly lose patience.

Don’t hold the favour above someone’s head
If you do someone a favour, don’t hold the favour above the head of the person who asked you. It is incredibly annoying to be on the other end of that. This means things like, “you wont break your plans and come out with me after I lent you my favourite dress last month?” On the plus side, if you do this repeatedly, the other person will probably stop asking you favours in the first place.

Don’t expect anything in return
Of course, you obviously don’t want to be taken advantage of or find yourself a constant favour-doer; favours should be organically reciprocal between friends, coworkers and family members. Don’t offer a favour just because you know you’re going to have to ask the other person a massive favour later on in the day or next week, however. That’s so transparent.

Don’t defeat the purpose of the favour
The purpose of the favour is that you put yourself out to do the favour and go beyond what is expected. It completely takes away the point of doing a favour if the favour-doer constantly reminds the person who asked them that they are making sacrifices to do so or are not happy about it. As in, “it took me forever to find a parking spot to pick up your dry cleaning; there was a massive line and I missed my yoga class as a result.” Why bother?

Think before you ask
You also should be conscious when asking the favour. Remember that favours are about respect, generosity and reciprocity. When asking someone a favour, the benefit you gain from the favour should outweigh the inconvenience of the person who does the favour. Furthermore, you should make it as easy as possible on the part of the other person to facilitate the favour. Otherwise, you’re being selfish.

Just ask
Don’t beat around the bush – just ask. There is nothing worse than being pleasantly surprised by the phone call of a friend you haven’t caught up with for awhile only for them to make small talk, be uber-sweet, then ask a favour of you. It makes you feel used. Its much better to start the conversation with “I have a favour to ask you,” or to write “favour” in the subject line of an email.

Don’t overdo it
You can’t constantly ask for favours, and you only have a limited amount of favours that you can ask of certain people… so be strategic when doing so. For example, we can clearly recall someone we barely knew asking us to connect him with a very connected friend of ours. Our thoughts? Why would I waste one of the favours I have with this contact on you, and why are you even asking me this in the first place? 

In general, remember that there is typically a degree of comfort and familiarity involved in favour-asking and there are usually only a certain amount of favours someone will do for you, especially if it goes unreciprocated.

Want more updates on the most Notable things happening so you know before your colleagues do? Get our exclusive newsletter here.