Okay, I will admit it, I am writing this with a tight jaw and clenched teeth, and possibly a weird tick with one of my eyelids.
As the title stated, I will explain how you can make sure that people will avoid you like the plague, and pretend they are deaf, mute and blind when you obliviously skip into their view again with your “requests.”
In this electronic age, we often send out requests for help for expertise, introductions or just for favors without any hesitations. Once we hit the send button, it conveniently becomes somebody else’s problem. We sit back and expect a neat little package of solution to magically appear in our inbox.
How many times have we really asked ourselves how we are perceived by the other party? Were our requests justified? Did we do enough of our own research and problem-solving before giving up and doodle out pleads for help? Did we consider the amount of inconvenience the other party will have to endure on our behalf? Did we place sufficient value on their time? Why did we even think we are entitled to their time? The questions can go on, and they can be answered very differently by different people. There are some factors to consider here.
How well do we know the person? If it’s someone you have personally worked with and have had face-to-face time, and the work relationship is cordial and you parted on good terms with a mention of keeping in touch etc, then this would be your best bet for help.
However, if it’s a random request sent via the likes of LinkedIn, then you should tread carefully. People you don’t know do not owe you the time of the day; you have not built a relationship or had professional interactions. Basically they couldn’t distinguish you from a bar of soap if needed to save the life of a doe-eyed puppy.
I’ve recently received multiple emails from some people who requested introductions and expertise help, which I was happy to oblige… at first. After the a few emails of complying with their long list of requests/questions and only getting belated, one-liner emails back, with no greetings (how rude! My mama did give me a name at birth, so I am not nameless), I decided that youth on their part was no longer a valid excuse for the lack of professional courtesy and absence of good manners.
When you receive help or a response from people you’ve reached out to, whether their response was helpful, in your opinion, always, always thank them for their time and generosity in helping you, they took time to read your requests, and spent time composing a response for you, most likely with a genuine desire to help, so you owe them a sincere gratitude.
In terms of the request itself, was your request suitable? Did the person have the appropriate resource to help you? Were they the right person to seek help from? Should they help you? Again, this is from personal experience, I received multiple emails from an acquaintance who is in the job market.
I feel for this person, I really do, because the current market is not great for this person’s skill set. He had applied for a job advertised by one of my former employers, so he insisted that I write personal emails to the hiring manager and director to favor his application. Although I was happy to help him out, I felt it wasn’t appropriate for me to write directly to the people involved, without being asked by the hiring manager or before the confirmation of his application.
But I caved and wrote a quick recommendation for him to the head of the program. Not long after, he perused my LinkedIn profile and proceeded to ask me to write to another former employer on his behalf for job opportunities. This was bordering on pestering, as he did not state which position he was suitable for, which of his skills were applicable, were there any openings advertised by the company?
Just the insistence that I should write on his behalf, even though this company is multi-national and the department I had worked for was unrelated to his skill set. I had to explain to him that although I would like to help him, I did not personally know anyone from the department who might have use for his expertise and my own work (modeling and simulation of clinical data) was conducted remotely, so I actually haven’t met most of my former colleagues.
This did not sit well with him. He replied with a curt one-liner. Not long after, he wrote me an email about another one of my former employers (he must be going down on a list), to ask me to write to the person whose laboratory he was interested in, whom I have never heard of and probably don’t care to hear from me either.
So, you can guess how that one ended. Anyway, that was long-winded, but what it boils down to is that there is asking politely for small favors, then there is shoving a demand in someone’s face. We are all humans and most of us do genuinely want to be helpful, but when we feel we are being used or treated unfairly, our instinct is to postpone (may be indefinitely) our response, simply because we feel it’s beyond our limit or it paints us in a negative light to ourselves and others. So, next time when you feel the urge to fire off a “help me” request, please think to yourself, is this request fair? Can the person fulfill the request without unfair burden on their time and resources? Is there another way I can help myself?
But most of all, when you do receive a response, whether it’s to your liking or not, please be courteous, show your gratitude and alleviate any feelings of guilt or obligation the other party might feel for not being able to help you. Believe me, they already feel subpar about it. Just remember, if you are a delight to help then people will be delighted to help you.