Next time you hesitate to ask someone for a favor, remember this: A series of studies reveal that people will accommodate you more often than you think.
Many of us hesitate to ask for help from a co-worker, a friend or a stranger because we assume the person will say no, which could leave us feeling embarrassed. The research, reported in Stanford Graduate School of Business News, shows that people underestimate how likely others will agree to help.
In one study, participants were told to ask favors of people in college campus settings, such as borrowing a stranger’s cell phone or asking for assistance in finding the campus gym.
Researchers found that participants consistently overestimated by 50% the number of people they’d have to ask to get a certain number to agree with each request.
“Participants were initially horrified at the prospect of going out and asking people for such things,” says Vanessa Lake, one of the researchers at Columbia University. “But they’d bound back into the lab afterward with big smiles, saying, ‘I can’t believe how nice people were!’”
People being asked for help reported they were much more likely to do a task if asked point-blank. “That really puts the obligation on them, and makes it very awkward for them to refuse,” says Lake.
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