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Techniques General persuasion > Ingratiation > Favors

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Doing a person favors involves doing things that you are not obliged to do and which they should appreciate. The favor may be requested by them or may be done spontaneously by you.

The power of favors increases not only with how valuable they find your action but also how much you put yourself out to help them. When the favor takes longer, when it costs you more or inconveniences you in some way, then they should be more grateful.

They need to know this, but be careful of causing reactance by over-stating the effort you have made. Also beware of appearing too compliant as this can lead to them taking you for granted and so reducing their gratitude. The best person to point out what you have done for them is someone else they respect (although if necessary you may subtly point out what you have done for them).


Sure. I'm a bit busy but I'll do that for you today.

I'm going to town. Want a ride?


Favors use the principle of 'social capital', where they acts almost like money. When you do favours for them, you gain social capital and theirs decreases. When they do favors for you, the effect is reversed. Doing favors hence allows you to then ask favors from them at a later time or date.

We generally tend to  work on the principle of having a stable social capital that is a little positive so we can call on the help of others when we need it. If others owe us too much, then they may feel uncomfortable and blame us for this imbalance.

Doing others favors can cause problems when:

  • They do not value what you do for them (but still feel they owe you).
  • You do them so many favors they get annoyed because they start to feel they cannot pay you back.
  • They note that what you do costs you little, but that you tend to ask for much in return.
  • They think you are trying to manipulate them.

See also

Social Engineering, Exchange principle

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