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Why emotionally intelligent people embrace the BYAF rule when they need to ask for help

You need help. You need a little cooperation. You need a favor.

So you stiffen your spine, sum up your courage, and ask.

And get turned down.

Even though you stressed the importance of the request. Even though you described the difference the other person could make for you. Even though you showed, verbally and nonverbally, the critical importance of your request.

Shoot: You basically begged.

Which, according to a 2013 review of more than 40 studies published in Communication Studies, is where you went wrong.

How BYAF works

If you’re like most people, you don’t like to feel put on the spot. When that happens, you naturally get defensive. Your walls go up.

The more you feel like you can’t say no? The less you focus on evaluating the actual request, and the more you focus on figuring out some way to say no.

The “but you are free” (BYAF) rule avoids that problem by instantly giving the other person an out.

All you have to do, the researchers write, is “weaken the target’s perception that her or his freedom to say no is being threatened.”

Or in non-researcher-speak, always give the other person an explicit out by including some version of “but you are free to say no”:

“We’re looking for volunteers, but you are free to say no.”

“Could you give me a hand? I know you’re busy, so please don’t feel like you have to.”

“I completely understand if you don’t have time, but could you … ?”

According to the researchers, simply include a statement that lessens the possibility the other person feels like they don’t have a choice and that person is more than twice as likely to say yes to your request.

How to apply the BYAF rule

First, recognize that your wants or needs are important. But only to you. (As plenty of coffee mugs say, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me.”)

The severity of your problems and challenges — or, on the flip side, the extent of your goalsand dreams — does not mean other people should be feel more obligated or willing to help you.

Because everyone has problems. And everyone has dreams.

Be emotionally intelligent enough to realize that.

Then be emotionally intelligent enough to realize that other people are more likely to offer help when they feel personally compelled rather than obligated. We all like to feel generous. We all like to feel helpful. We all like to feel we make a difference.

Especially when it feels like we decided to step in, step up, and lend a helping hand.

By giving the other person an out by including a sincere version of “but you are free,” you let the other person decide.

The more you make it easier for the person to say no, the more likely they will be to say yes — and, more important, the better they will feel about saying yes.

Because we all like to feel our time and effort has made a difference.

Which makes the BYAF rule a definite win-win.


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