A cheat’s guide to asking for what you want (and getting it)

According to science.

By Erin Cook

No matter how great you are at your job (or life in general) there’s going to be moments where you need to ask for things. A pay rise, perhaps. Or to simply change the time and location of a meeting.

Asking for any kind of favour can be tricky territory. However, according to a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the way you go about it can help you get what you want.

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Psychologists from the University of Waterloo and Cornell coordinated the study, getting participants to ask strangers to fill out surveys and complete proofreading tasks. They either had to ask over email or in person.

Beforehand, participants had a guess at the likelihood they would get a positive response. Both the emailing group and the in person group had similar expectations for ‘yes’ responses.

However, those that asked in person had a much higher success rate than expected. Whereas those who emailed had far fewer positive responses. "Requesters, anchored on their own perspectives, fail to appreciate the suspicion, and resulting lack of empathy, with which targets view email requests from strangers," researchers said.

Turns out, we underestimate compliance when making requests of strangers in person. For the best chance of getting the response you’re after, you’ve got to ask face to face. Email just doesn’t have the same effect. Got it?