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Arran_Stirton comments on Boring Advice Repository - Less Wrong

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

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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.