You did it. You summoned all of your courage, took a deep breath, and asked that contact of yours for a favor.
You’re still reveling in your sense of accomplishment from gathering the nerve to even ask, when suddenly you’re shut down. Or—even worse—your request goes totally ignored.
Your first inclination might be to think that your network is just full of no-good, unhelpful professionals. But, have you ever stopped to think about the role you’re playing in those situations? Like it or not, you have a significant impact on how these requests play out.
Unfortunately, asking someone to stick his or her neck out and help you isn’t as easy as you might initially assume. In fact, if you’re aiming to do it well, it involves quite a bit of careful thought and consideration.
If you aren’t getting the results you want when asking for favors, you could be committing one of these pesky—and all too common—mistakes.
1. You’re Not Asking the Right Person
Have you ever had someone ask you for help with something that’s totally unrelated to your area of expertise or anything you’ve ever been remotely involved with before? It’s annoying (and honestly, a little perplexing), isn’t it?
So, before you reach out to someone with your ask, it’s important that you take some time to consider whether or not this person is someone who could actually help you—even if he wanted to.
Remember, asking someone to perform a completely irrelevant favor will just never turn out well—no matter how polished your approach is.
2. You’re Failing to Consider Timing
Your colleague is buried under piles of tasks and to-dos, desperately trying to get ahead on her workload before she leaves for vacation in a couple of days. Yet, you decide that now is the perfect time to ask her to review your super important presentation—oh, and by tomorrow morning, please.
Do you see the problem here? As with anything, your timing is critically important. So, it’s not an element that you can just brush aside and ignore. Instead, you should pay close attention to those good times to ask for favors—and, more importantly, those bad times. Things can pan out much differently for you if you manage to strike at the right time.
One more important note related to timing: Never approach someone with a request in the eleventh hour. The more advanced warning you can give, the better. When you’re already asking for a gracious act of kindness, you don’t need to throw a stressful time crunch on top of it.
3. You’re Coming on Too Strong
"Please, you have to do this for me! You’re the only person I know who can help me. If you don’t do this for me, I don’t know what I’ll do."
To you, this might seem like an effective way to illustrate to your contact just how highly you think of her and how much you need her assistance. But, when you’re the person on the receiving end of these pleading statements? Well, these phrases come off as obnoxious, pushy, and even a little desperate.
When it comes to asking for favors, guilt trips, threats, and groveling really aren’t necessary. Pull yourself together and simply explain what it is that you need help with. Throwing a fit won’t help your cause. It achieves just the opposite, really—it only makes you more likely to get a firm “no.”
4. You’re Expecting Too Much
Here’s the thing about favors—while they can mean big things for you, they should still be relatively small asks of another person. That means you shouldn’t expect your networking contact to be willing to copyedit your 942-page screenplay within a week (ahem, or at all).
So, make sure to frequently check yourself to ensure that you’re being realistic with your requests. If it’s something that’s overly involved, complex, or time-consuming, it’s likely not a task or service you can expect someone to pick up for you free of charge.
5. You’re Never Willing to Reciprocate
The world is surprisingly small. And, if you’ve managed to cultivate a reputation as the person who’s constantly asking for assistance without ever providing anything in return, it’s going to become increasingly tough to get anyone to lend you a helping hand.
Remember, if you ask for a favor, you need to be willing to return it. Otherwise, you just seem selfish, unappreciative, and inconsiderate—and those aren’t personality traits that inspire a lot of selflessness in others.
Asking for favors, it’s something we all have to do every now and then. But, while the concept seems relatively simple, the actual process isn’t always quite so easy.
If you’re aiming to get more positive responses (or any response at all!), make sure that you’re not guilty of any of these five mistakes. If you are? Well, you can do us all a favor and stop—immediately.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author