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ModusPonies comments on Boring Advice Repository - Less Wrong

56 Post author: Qiaochu_Yuan 07 March 2013 04:33AM

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Comment author: ModusPonies 07 March 2013 03:21:23PM 38 points [-]

If a complete stranger or an acquaintance can do something useful for you, ask. (Politely. At a convenient time. With an appropriate amount of honest flattery.) If they say no, don't press them.

Failure case: make someone else feel important. Success case: get a favor, maybe make a connection.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 07:40:52PM *  24 points [-]

Always remember to thank them after they agree to help you and again after they've actually helped you, see for reference Ben Franklin effect , the 299th rule of acquisition, and the power of reinforcement.

Comment author: ModusPonies 07 March 2013 08:03:00PM 21 points [-]

A thousand times yes! And since this is a thread for boring, useful advice, I'll include the general version: Thank people who do things for you, whether or not you asked them to do it. It conditions them to help you. Thanking people reliably and sincerely is a powerful tool, and while there's a bit of skill to doing it well, it's more than worth practicing.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 08:27:36PM 1 point [-]

Does anyone know why the rest of my comment isn't showing? There should be links to an article on conditioning, an article on the Ben Franklin effect, and the rules of acquisition.

Comment author: arundelo 07 March 2013 09:31:32PM 4 points [-]

See if it's one of these problems. If not, I'll look at your Markdown source code if you email it to me. (My username AT hotmail.com or gmail.com.)

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 09:41:04PM 1 point [-]

That worked, I had en.wikipedia instead of http://en.wikipedia.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 March 2013 08:54:18PM 0 points [-]

I don't know, but you have a chance of finding out if you click on the edit icon (the pencil in a square) for the comment. There's probably something wrong with the way you formatted the links. See if the Show Help box has anything useful.

Comment author: beoShaffer 07 March 2013 09:02:46PM 0 points [-]

I've done both and it looks correct.

Comment author: Rukifellth 12 March 2013 08:05:22PM *  3 points [-]

make someone else feel important

appropriate amount of honest flattery

I'm worried about tactics like this being overused. Pleasantries really do become mechanical through repetition, and I'm not sure if short term benefits are worth it. More likely than not, a person may be conditioned to think that flattery is only given before a request.

Comment author: ModusPonies 15 March 2013 08:39:40PM 4 points [-]

That is definitely a danger. It's important to also express honest appreciation when you have nothing specific to gain. (I've been making an effort to do more of that, lately.) If you do, you and your peers will be justifiably happier, and you also get to use tactics like the above without poisoning the well.

You should be a good person to everyone you meet — it is the moral thing to do, and as a sidenote will really help your networking

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 March 2013 10:38:15PM 6 points [-]

Failure case: They feel compelled to help, resent you for it, and destroy your reputation by speaking ill of you.

Comment author: Arran_Stirton 27 March 2013 08:57:16AM 6 points [-]

Preemptive Solution: Leave a line of retreat, make sure that there is little/no cost for them if they choose to refuse; thus reducing the likelihood that they will help you out of compulsion.

Comment author: MixedNuts 27 March 2013 04:36:54PM 3 points [-]

How do you do that?

Comment author: Arran_Stirton 30 March 2013 07:40:30AM 8 points [-]

As far as I know there's no single sure-fire way of making sure that asking them won't put them in a position where refusal will gain them negative utility (for example, their utility function could penalize refusing requests as a matter of course) . However general strategies could include:

  • Not asking in-front of others, particularly members of their social group. (Thus refusal won't impact upon their reputation.)

  • Conditioning the request on it being convenient for them (i.e. using phrasing such as "If you've got some free time would you mind...")

  • Don't give the impression that their help is make or break for your goals (i.e. don't say "As you're the only person I know who can do [such&such], could you do [so&so] for me?")

  • If possible do something nice for them in return, it need not be full reciprocation but it's much harder to resent someone who gave you tea and biscuits, even if you were doing a favor for them at the time.

Of course there's no substitute for good judgement.

Comment author: Joshua_Blaine 06 June 2014 09:58:37PM 1 point [-]

Connected to this: A preemptive favor is more likely to result in later requests (even if larger than the initial favor) being fulfilled, but the end result may or may not be a more positive opinion of you. The abstract of this paper seems to indicate increased liking of a stranger that does this, but paywalls and general laziness prevent me from getting a more comprehensive idea of what can happen.