Don’t do me any favors

Building on last week’s post, some more thoughts on how to ask for things.

A friend and experienced public speaker recently shared that for any speech she thinks about an audience full of friends – people who want to see her succeed (different from a room full of clones of my inner critic…)

It’s the same with asks.  Go through the world acting generous and expecting generosity in return, and make asks with this mindset.  This will affect both the way you make asks and what you ask for:

  • the way you ask because in expecting generosity you will ask unapologetically, which inherently makes your ask stronger;
  • what you ask for because as a generous person you won’t fall into the trap of asking without giving back, nor will you act like you have nothing of value to give (of course you do!).

But “favors” are another thing entirely.  “Favors” to me feel like one-off, I’ll-go-out-of-my-way-this-one-time sort of things.  That’s absolutely fine when what you actually need is a favor (“help, I’m totally stuck, can you bail me out?”), but most of the time you don’t need to be bailed out.  Most of the time you need help from someone who’s on your side, who has the same goals, who is part of building what you’re building.

I see this dynamic play out a lot when someone at a nonprofit feels like they’re approaching someone more high-powered than they are – a major donor, a board member, etc.  With the mindset of asking for a favor, the donor is treated with kid gloves, the nonprofit staff member is sheepish and apologetic, and awkwardness and a “we/you” mentality ensues.

Ask for help, give help.  Leave favors for everyone else.

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