The crucial asking a favor etiquette rules. The appropriate behavior for asking a favor from other people in a polite way.

What asking for favor etiquette is

Asking for favor etiquette is the set of rules to properly ask for a favor from other people. Such rules include:

  • How to make an appropriate request.
  • The behaviors to avoid when asking for a favor.
  • How to deal with difficult people.

If you need to ask for a favor, respect asking for favor etiquette to avoid offending others, and increase the chances of making a successful request.

If someone asks you for a favor, follow asking for favor etiquette to politely deal with difficult situations or requests.

General asking for favor etiquette principles

Asking for favor etiquette is based on two main principles.

  • Avoid making the other person feel used.
  • Not being perceived as entitled or aggressive when asking for a favor.
rules for asking for a favor from someone

Asking for favor etiquette rules

1) Ask the right person

Choose the right person to ask for a favor. The ideal person to ask depends on the nature of your request. Ideally, the right person can grant you the favor without a large effort or investment. Before asking for a favor from someone, assess what you can or cannot ask them.

Understand the limit of what you can ask. If a person normally gets paid for what you are asking for, such as giving a legal opinion, you cannot abuse their willingness to help. For example, a lawyer friend may be open to giving you a legal opinion for free. However, there is a limit to how many legal opinions they can give for free. Otherwise, they would not have a job.

Choose persons you have had a good or neutral relationship with. It is poor etiquette to ask for a favor from someone you treated poorly in the past.

Identify a few persons you can ask for the same favor. Even if you have a preferred person to ask, it is best to have a couple of options.

2) Choose the right time for asking for a favor

The success of your request largely depends on the timing. Asking for a favor at the right time significantly increases the chances of success. While asking for a favor at the wrong time results in almost certain rejection.

Ask for favor as soon as possible. If you ask for a favor close to a deadline, the chances of success are lower. First, the other person can think that you are asking them only because you have no other options, and thus may feel offended. Second, the person may not have the time to fulfill your request. On the contrary, if you ask well in advance the other person will feel flattered, as you are asking for a favor even though you still have many options open. Furthermore, the person will have plenty of time to organize and fulfill your request.

Ask for a favor in a private setting. Asking for a favor in public is a serious etiquette breach, as you would put the person in an embarrassing spot. Thus, you seriously risk harming the relationship.

3) Be clear and appropriate when asking for a favor

Before asking for a favor, you should do everything that you can to avoid the need for asking. Once you ask someone for a favor, it is good etiquette to share the efforts that you made before asking them. You do not want the other person to feel like your last resort, but you do not want to appear lazy or abusive.

Start by making your intentions clear. Do not pretend that you are meeting someone casually when you have a favor to ask them. State what you need. Make your request precise, with the exact steps that you wish the person to take. Keep a positive tone of voice and positive body language.

Finally, state why you are asking them. It is polite to use some light flattery, but do not exceed it. After asking for a favor, it is polite to ask whether the person has other suggestions in that regard.

Always ask for a favor in person. If you are asking for a light and trivial favor, you can also ask over the phone. Avoid text messages, voice messages, or email, as they look impersonal and can be misinterpreted.

4) Explain the reasons behind your request

When asking for a favor, state the reasons behind your request. If the favor you are asking for is important, let the other person know. If you are in a bad spot, it is best to state it. Be honest and open. Never hide the reasons for your request. Otherwise, you risk losing trust.

5) Allow the other person to refuse

Always offer the person an easy way out. Leave them the option to refuse the favor without embarrassment. Do not make them perceive you as entitled or arrogant.

After asking for a favor, it is sufficient to say something like “if you do not have time in the next weeks, no worries” or “if you are not comfortable doing it, no worries, I understand”.

6) Trading favors is against etiquette

It is not polite to expect someone to owe us a favor. Even if you helped someone in the past, you cannot use it as a reason for asking them for a favor.

Similarly, it is not polite to grant a favor in exchange for something. However, when you ask for a favor, you should let the person know that you are willing to reciprocate.

7) Respect a negative answer

If the person does not accept, you should respect their answer.

Do not ask why they are rejecting your request. The person who is rejecting your request should provide some explanation. Refusing without providing any reason is unpolite. If that happens, take it as a cue. It means that the relationship that you have with that person is not as good as you thought.

If the person refuses and provides you only a vague excuse, accept it. Do not ask other questions. The person may be experiencing difficulties at that time, and you risk embarrassing them by asking probing questions.

8) Express gratitude if someone grants you a favor

Be grateful to someone who grants you a favor. Thank them. It is polite to write a personal thank you note. If you can, buy the person a gift. Ideally, the gift should be equal in value to the favor that you asked for.

Asking for favor etiquette: deal with particular situations

How to deal with someone who does not grant you a favor

If someone does not accept your request, respect their answer. Respect their reasons and do not ask for anything else. Do not insist on your request, or ask them the same favor sometime later. In your future interactions with the person, do not hold a grudge.

How to deal with someone who asks something in exchange for a favor

Trading favors is not good etiquette. However, if someone accepts your request but asks for something in exchange, be open to evaluating their request. If the request is appropriate and proportional to the favor you are asking for, you can accept. Otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable to refuse the trade.

How to deal with someone who continuously asks for favors

Somebody may abuse your willingness to help by making continuous requests. If someone endlessly asks you for favors, it is perfect etiquette to set a limit and start refusing their requests. You do not need to fully explain your reasons. It is sufficient to say something like “I cannot help you on this at this time” or make up a vague excuse.

How to deal with someone who does not accept your “no”

Sometimes, someone asks you for a favor but does not accept your “no”. They keep asking you why and challenging your answers. You do not need to provide additional detail. Stick to your original answer, such as “I cannot help you on this at this time”. You can add “I am sorry, but I cannot provide you with more details”. If the person insists, cut the discussion by saying something like “perhaps we should discuss this another time”.

Asking for a favor etiquette at work

When asking for a favor at work, it is especially important to make a request that is appropriate and not look lazy or abusive.

At work, limit your request to the professional sphere. Never ask for a personal favor at work. Similarly, ask a favor that is connected to someone’s job. It is not appropriate to ask someone to perform a task that is far from their job description or competencies.

When asking for a favor at work, you should show that you made a significant effort on your own before asking for the favor. Otherwise, your coworkers or managers may perceive you as lazy or abusive.

asking for a favor etiquette worst mistakes

Asking for favor etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst asking for favor etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Asking for a favor in public.
  • 9/10. Not thanking someone who granted you a favor.
  • 8/10. Asking too many favors.
  • 8/10. Asking too large favors.
  • 8/10. Not accepting a “no”. 
  • 7/10. Trading favors.


  • How to Ask for a Favor: A Case Study on the Success of Altruistic Requests: