Favor Me

08.08.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course Scientifically proven ways to increase your influence by Vanessa Van Edwards


Benjamin Franklin was a major influencer in his lifetime. He was a politician, author, inventor, scholar, and businessman. And we can take a lesson from him on influence.

There is a famous story about Benjamin Franklin that lives on in legend. (Wake up brain, another story for you!)

During Benjamin Franklin’s first term in office, he made both friends and enemies. As his re-election approached, he worried he would not be able to garner the votes needed to win. One of his adversaries was highly influential, and Franklin knew he needed to sway this man to his side if he wanted to win.

Instead of trying to convince him, bribe him, or cajole him, Franklin sent him a letter asking for a favor. He asked if he could borrow a favorite rare book from his collection. The man was flattered and excited to find Franklin had a similar taste in books. He sent Franklin the book right away. Franklin read it and returned it with a thank-you note.

According to Franklin’s autobiography, the adversary approached Franklin during the next legislature meeting, and the two spoke congenially about the book and other common interests. Not only did the man stop speaking ill of Franklin, the two actually became close friends.

Franklin discovered that if you ask for a favor, you win a friend.


The Research

In one experiment, psychologists told participants they could win some money. While in the experiment, an actor pretended to be a researcher and treated participants rudely while demanding they complete the tests. At the end of the tests, the participants won a small amount of cash.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting:

• In trial one, the fake scientist asks for a favor. “Would you mind returning the cash? I’m funding the study with my own money!”

• In trial two, a secretary asked for the same favor.

• In trial three, the participants were able to keep their winnings.

Can you guess which of the trials’ students rated the rude scientist as the most likeable?

Just as the Franklin Effect predicted, the students who were asked a favor by the rude scientist also rated him as the most likeable.

Crazy, right?! Asking a favor from someone else actually makes them perceive you more positively.


The Solution

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This solution is NOT to ask favors of every person you meet, but I do want the Franklin Effect to show you that asking for help is not only OK but awesomely influence-building.



The Franklin Effect has HUGE benefits:

1. It gets people talking about their opinions.

2. It stimulates interesting and unique conversation.

3. This is an easy way to admit vulnerability (Episode #5) and the need for guidance.


Your Challenge

I challenge you to pinpoint your current goals and challenges.

Think about your goals for the coming month. Then figure out what your biggest challenges are and who you might be able to ask for help.

P.S. Need a little help with your goals? I want to teach you the science of goal-setting.


Recommended book

“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown


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