Here’s a proposed resolution that might strike you as counter-intuitive: Ask for a favor.
A line often attributed to Benjamin Franklin — though I can’t locate the actual source, so it may be apocryphal — is “If you want to make a friend, let someone do you a favor.” Whether or not it was Franklin who actually made this suggestion, it’s sound advice.
Ask for help, for advice, for suggestions. By doing so, you place yourself under obligation to your favor-givers – which makes them feel kindly toward you. Studies show that for happiness, providing support is just as important as getting support. When people provide support, they feel good about themselves and about you.
And on your side, asking for a favor is a sign of intimacy and trust. The fact that you’ve asked for a favor shows that you feel comfortable being indebted to someone — and that suggests a special rapport. I remember a friend at work telling me, “I never liked that guy until he asked to borrow $30. Then I realized he must consider me a friend, and presto! I started liking him.”
So asking, and receiving, a favor generates good feelings on both sides.
Obviously, there are small favors and big favors. You don’t want to ask someone to take care of your dog while you’re on vacation unless that person is already a close friend. But asking for a recommendation for a good dentist isn’t burdensome.
One of my most helpful Secrets of Adulthood is “It’s okay to ask for help.” Asking for help is a very useful way of asking for a favor. I’m absolutely mystified by asking for help is so hard for me. So often, I can just solve a problem by asking for help — which is almost always freely and cheerfully given.
Happiness paradoxes: It can be selfless to be selfish, and you can be generous by taking.
Have you ever been in a situation where asking for a favor helped you draw closer to someone?
I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
* Lots of interesting, fun material on Gimundo — “good news…served daily.”
* If you’d like to volunteer as a Super-Fan, from time to time, I’ll ask for your help. Nothing onerous, I promise! Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. Just write “super-fan” in the subject line, and I’ll add you to the list.