April 5th, 2010

How to Ask for Favors, Properly

by Jacqueline Whitmore

I often receive emails from people who ask me for etiquette advice. Here is an actual email I received a few months ago.

I have an etiquette question. I dated someone who did not treat me well at all. If I run into him in the future, should I be polite and show good etiquette? In other words, should I say hello or is it okay if I ignore him since he mistreated me? Thank you in advance. ~ L. Ponnell

First I’d like to say that I try my best to respond to each and every email, especially those that come from my loyal Protocol Post e-newsletter subscribers.  This email, however, could have been written more thoughtfully and properly.  If you’re going to email me or someone else and ask for a favor, your message must contain the proper ingredients to warrant a response or it might get deleted.

Here are some tips to help make an email request stronger and more effective.

Greet me. An email that doesn’t contain my name tells me that you might have sent this question to a multitude of experts. Dale Carnegie tells us that the sweetest sound to a person’s ear is the sound of their own name. Well, I like to see my name in print too. It shows that you have taken the time to personalize your message.

Enlighten me. In general, I will assume that I don’t know you unless you tell me how we met or know one other. Did we meet at a luncheon or a seminar? Did someone refer you to me? I meet and speak with a lot of people, as I’m sure you do too, so please refresh my memory.

Flatter me. Sometimes I will get an email that requires me to stop what I’m doing and make an effort to do a little research in order to answer the question. I am more apt to help you if you have done something to help me. Do you subscribe to my blog or e-newsletter? Have you attended one of my classes? Have read you read my book, Business Class, purchased one of my products or referred me to someone you know? If you do something nice for me, I am eager to reciprocate the favor.

Be specific. Not all emails are clear, concise and contain all the facts, therefore, if your email does not contain pertinent information, I can’t give you my best answer. Make sure you to include as many facts as possible without making the email too long or boring.

Give me a deadline. If you need an answer right away, let me know; otherwise I will assume that your email is not time sensitive.

Thank me. Your email may require research and time on my part. If I take the time to respond, please send me an email in return that expresses your appreciation for my efforts. Better yet, let me know how the situation turned out if you did take my advice. It’s always nice to know that my efforts were worthwhile and helpful.

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