Monday, April 28, 2014

Asking Questions vs. Asking For A Favor: How To Tell What's What

In  a recent mental argument I had with someone else (you know the kind -- where someone says something annoying/stupid/horrible in passing, you hear it and then you argue with them in your head for the rest of the day, even though you don't know them and will never have an opportunity to tell them what you think), I noticed that a lot of people think they are asking questions when they are really asking favors of people.
"So, SchweetieWumpkins, will you be joining me tomorrow for the fundraiser for Hard Shell Lobster Rights? We're running the bake sale."

"Um, no."

"BUT SHWEETIEWUMPKINS -- I want you there with meeeeeee!  I really thought you'd do it! "


"Seriously?  I asked you very nicely!  You're such a jerk!  Why won't you do it?"

"Because I don't f$(#ing want to! Leave me alone!"

--end scene--

In my head, I was scowling and muttering, "If you ask someone, you have to be able to gracefully accept that they might say no.  When someone is asked IF THEY WANT to do something, they are perfectly within their rights to say no.  No defense of their answer is needed. "

If, on the other hand, you really NEED the other person to do something for you, and you know you are not really giving them much of a choice in the matter, that is called 'asking for a favor,' and that goes something like this:

"Ok, SchweetieWumpkins, I have a favor to ask of you.  I'm doing this fund-raiser thingy tomorrow. I need somebody to cover the bake sale booth for a couple hours.  I know you probably wouldn't do this if I weren't begging, but Marge got sick, and she was going to cover noon to 2, and ... well, I need help.  What do you say? Could you do it?"

"Well, yeah.  I guess so."
 [OR:  "Shoot. No, I can't. I wish I could help you out, but maybe next time?"]

"Ok, thanks!"
[OR: "Ok, thanks anyway."]

---end scene----

I keep telling my kids that if you are truly asking someone a question, you simply MUST be prepared that the answer might not be what you want.
If you really need a certain outcome (like with a child who needs to get dressed), you tell them "You need to get dressed now."  Then you give them choices you can be happy with.  "Do you want to wear the blue dress or the t-shirt and jeans here?"
Acting like they have a choice when they don't is dishonest. *

What say you?

*Yoinked almost directly from Love and Logic TM.


Eris Devotee said...

I'm practically incapable of both, which is probably why I am no longer publishing a crochet magazine. Even asking people for something when I am going to pay them is... it's just not me. I'm good at leading a crew already in place, but finding those people - beyond my skill set.

On the receiving end, being in business for myself has taught me the necessity of NO-without-explanation. It's nobody's business why I might have to refuse/decline.

Jenny Hart Boren said...

I worked with a wonderful woman who always couched every instruction as a request: "Do me a favor and leave this bandage on for four hours?" I'm sure she meant it as a way to soften her words, because of course it wasn't a favor, it was just her speech pattern.

I agree that when the other person doesn't have a choice, it's thoughtful to offer options, if possible: "Are you getting off the tracks now, or after the train runs over your feet?" Teachers definitely know this rule.

As for asking "Why not?" when the answer is no--that's for wheedling children and busybodies. The correct answer is, "Sorry, I have diarrhea."