In this case, when business communicators are trying to be polite, they are only undermining their credibility, decreasing employee engagement, and decreasing their influence. The question, “Will you do me a favor?” isn’t as polite as you think.

When we ask someone to “do us a favor” we are making the professional… personal.

Even though us business professionals aim to be polite and gracious, we often are sending a message that is less than powerful and confident.  When we ask a colleague to “do us a favor” we run the very real risk that they will not take our request as seriously as we would like them to.  Even worse, if we are in a leadership position and we ask those we lead to “do us a favor,” they may not feel very respected, appreciated and engaged.  You run the risk that your team members or employees might believe you only ask them to work on things that are small, trivial, and not very important.  They won’t feel as if you trust them with serious business issues.

Try these options instead to increase your credibility, increase your employee engagement, and increase your influence as a leader:

  • I’d like to partner with you on this project.  Are you open to that?  This is a very direct request and can reinforce your ability to be a team player.
  • I could use your expertise (insight, perspective).  Would you be willing to work with me on this?   (Note:  “work with,” not “help me”)  With this option you are asking someone to partner with you which can help them feel valued, respected, and will enhance engagement.
  • If you ____ (insert former “favor” here), I will ______ (insert what you will do for them here).  With this option you are negotiating, a powerful tool, and it is a great option to use with peers.

When leaders eliminate “will you do me a favor?” from their professional communication and replace it with a more powerful, confident, and respectful option they increase the likelihood that others will assist them and that they will be engaged in the process. 

Take action:

What are some phrases you could add to this list or “tweak” or adjust the language to fit your particular situation and your personal communication style?

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.