The Two Rewards of Low-Cost High-Gain Favors

Could you do me a favor?  It’s a common phrase, but it’s packed with meaning.

Most of us like to do favors.  But we’re often uncomfortable asking for favors.

I had to ask a favor recently, from someone I didn’t know.  It got me thinking about how asking and granting favors affects our brains.

I was shooting video courses for LinkedIn Learning.  We’d chosen my wardrobe earlier in the week, but now, the jacket we’d planned for the second course didn’t work on camera.  The shine threw off the lighting.  All of my other jackets were back at the hotel.  We’d have to shut down the shoot for an hour for me to get another jacket.

But, I’d noticed a whole slew of great jackets in my dressing room.  They belonged to another author also shooting videos.  I didn’t know her, but she was an HR expert, and looked nice, so I decided to ask a favor.  I found her studio, explained the problem, and asked, “Can I please borrow a jacket for the day?”

She couldn’t have been more gracious.  “Of course” she said, “I brought extras, take the blue one, it will look great on you.”  She had about 10 jackets, it was an easy favor for her to grant.  But it meant the world to me, and an hour of set time to the team.

Afterwards, we were laughing about it.  She said, “I totally get it.  Last time I was here, I almost ran out of jackets, I was panicked.  This time, I brought my whole closet, so I’m happy to help you.”

This what I call the super easy, high gain favor.  It was not a big deal to her, but everything for us.  We should all look for opportunities to do these kinds of favors.  Not just because you want to be a good person, which I’m sure you do and are.  But also because you get three huge benefits:

1. Elevated mood

When people sincerely thank you, the interaction creates a cascade of positive chemicals flowing in through your brain. Your body responds to their gratitude with serotonin, a feel good hormone that lifts your mood immediately.

2. Improved performance

In addition to feeling better, you also perform better.  Professor Norihiro Sadato, from the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, and who published a study on the phenomenon says, “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money.  We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise.”  It’s likely when my fellow author continued her afternoon shoot she did so with renewed energy and delight.

3. Increased social capital

My fellow author didn’t loan me a jacket hoping to garner anything from me. She was being genuinely nice.  But now I’m invested in her.  If she sends me a copy of her next book, I’m excited to discuss it.  If she ever gets stranded in my city, I’ll happily help her.  Doing easy favors increases your social capital in a completely authentic organic way.

Next time someone asks you for a favor, if it’s easy, say yes immediately.  You’ll get more benefits than you realize.
Special shout-out to Barb Bruno, CEO of Good As Gold Training, Inc. and HR Search Inc, a rock star recruiting and staffing expert who is both a gracious leader and a fabulous dresser.