How To Ask A Favor From A Stranger — Yes, Even Online!

Akshata Shanbhag 26-06-2014

Help will be on the way, if you do a good job of asking for it.


Big favors and small, all of us need them at some time or the other. Friends and family members often extend a helping hand without needing to be asked. But sometimes, it’s a stranger who holds the solution to your problem. For all you know, that stranger might be sitting an ocean away from you, or he might have just passed you by on the street. Thanks to the Web, you can ask the stranger to help you out just as you would offline. As you will read below, the same rules apply, topped with a heartfelt please.


Ask Yourself First

Have you ever asked someone to help you with a problem only to solve it yourself immediately after? That’s an unspoken strike against you, because the other person is left feeling superfluous to proceedings through no fault of his own. He might be a little wary the next time you ask for a favor. In short, that was one favor you could have saved for another day and a tougher problem.

To avoid such a scenario, whenever you’re hit with a problem, first turn to yourself for a solution. The Web has all the knowledge you need and some more. Start there and go through every possibility one by one till you find an answer. Only after all else fails, bring another person into the picture. Of course, none of this applies if you’re seeking help for a health-related condition, such as depression. In that case, ask for help Depression & The Internet: Welcome To Your Temporary Support Group Talking is important, and sometimes the Internet is a good substitute when your real life friends aren't around. Here are three sites I recommend for less formal depression-focused conversations. Read More and do it fast.



When you do ask a stranger for a favor, it reassures them to know that you have done all you can before approaching them. If they realize that you’re taking the easy way out and asking them to do your dirty work for you, your answer is likely to be a firm no. If your need is genuine and something people can relate to, the chances of your call for help being answered are high.

Do Your Homework

If you have come to the point where your problem cannot be solved without someone else’s intervention, don’t rush to ask just anyone for a favor at random. Do a little preparation first. See who is in the best position to help you. Narrow down the ideal channels to get in touch with them.


Taking your request to an online hub that is specifically meant to help people in some way is a good place to start. To know what I’m talking about, check out these three assistance subreddits 3 Ways Reddit Can Help Those In Need Reddit is a miraculous little site that yields the potential to either make or break the Internet but when its users are not spreading memes like a disease, they are caring for people that are... Read More . Weigh the pros and cons of approaching one stranger privately versus approaching thousands of them publicly. For example, the second option will help you appeal to many people 10 Successful Kickstarter Projects In 2013 For Our Everyday Lives 10 of our favourite Kickstarter gadgets that are affordable, and that can make a difference in your everyday lives. These are the success stories from Kickstarter this year. Read More at once and might solve your problem faster, but if your plea is turned down, that will also be in public.


Steer clear of bribes, as they will come across as demeaning. Instead find out if there is some positive way that you can return the favor. Address a need or suggest a solution that you’re sure you can pull off. Learning more about the person you’re planning to ask for a favor will help you create a win-win situation, and motivate the other person to say yes to your request. In any case, make it clear that you are the one seeking the favor.

Be Direct

When Matthew Inman, creator of the comic The Oatmeal, asked Elon Musk for a donation of eight million dollars to help build the Tesla Museum, the latter replied with a “I would be happy to help”. tesla-donation-tweet

Whatever the debate surrounding Inman, Tesla, and the appeal to Musk, the direct approach taken by Inman to ask for a donation is something we can all learn from, because it earned a positive response, and on a public platform no less.



Want someone to help you? Say it’s so. Don’t hide your request beneath a pile of pleasantries or conversations, awkward or otherwise. Get to the point and be clear about what you want. Anything less than direct might make the other person feel that you’re tricking them by asking for a favor obliquely, or worse, putting them under an obligation to offer you one. A devious request is more likely to be rejected than a straightforward one, because the former smacks of insincerity or manipulation.


If you can charm and entertain by pairing your request with an interesting story or by adding a dash of humor, the other person will want to help you in any way he can. A touch of impishness can also work in your favor, as long as you know who your audience is and where to draw the line. Take notes from these nine persuasion lessons from a four-year-old, where Jarom Adair demonstrates his son’s adeptness at getting people to do what he wants them to do. Look at the image below to see a sample of how the four-year-old works his magic.



Pay It Back, Pay It Forward

If you have helped someone only to find that they have disappeared soon after without so much as a word of thanks, you know how irritating such behavior can be. Don’t be that jerk who does not have the courtesy to acknowledge and appreciate a favor after having received it. You don’t have to write paeans to say thank you. Responding with a few lines of heartfelt gratitude and precisely the words thank you would be nice. Sending a thoughtful gift is even better. Offering to return the favor and doing so when the opportunity arises is the best.


Go a step ahead and play the benefactor to someone else who needs help. Paying it forward earns as much good karma as paying back does. Don’t let formality get in the way of helping someone out. On the other hand, know when to step back and let people help themselves.


Handle Rejection With Grace

Okay, so your request was rejected. There’s no need to throw a tantrum or go into a sulk because you didn’t get what you asked for. Giving the cold shoulder to the person who refused to do you a favor is also not the adult thing to do. Picture yourself in their shoes. They might have had a valid reason to say no, and even if they didn’t, it was still their prerogative to decide. Accept the rejection gracefully and approach someone else. If you react with anger or malice, the loss is still yours, and you have lost a potential friend with your thoughtless behavior.

Frame Your Request Right

There is no single right way to ask for a favor, but there are several wrong ones. Your words are not the only things that matter here. The intention, the sincerity, and the tone underlying them are also important, and come through loud and clear. Keep that in mind when you’re about to ask someone to help you out, whether it’s online or offline.

Do you have any tips or anecdotes to share from when you got the favor you asked for? Share them in the comments.

Image Credits: LordFerguson via Compfight cc, ansik via Compfight cc, “CAVE CANEM” via Compfight cc, Juanedc via Compfight cc, ogimogi via Compfight cc // All images are derivatives of the originals

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  1. MARIA
    June 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm


  2. Heather
    January 15, 2016 at 5:04 am

    There is also 2 Hands. Org
    I once asked for and found help there and then helped 2 families this last Christmas.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      January 16, 2016 at 3:14 am

      Sounds really useful. Thank you for sharing the link, Heather.

    • flo
      September 22, 2018 at 2:52 am


    • flo
      September 22, 2018 at 3:35 am

      hello there

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    June 28, 2014 at 10:44 am

    PCWORLD ANSWER LINE Forum Used To Be The Perfect Stage For This Two Way Street Kind Of Engagement, At Least On The Tech Side.

    Unfortunately, No More.