By Anna Chui
Having haters is a part of life. Hate comes in a variety of forms and can come from friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, associates and even random internet trolls.
Haters are the ugly side of success. If you have anything going for yourself, you’ve experienced hate. Whether you are intelligent, thin, curvy, in a relationship, single, have kids, or love your job, you are going to have haters. You hear the snide comments, see the random side-eyes, read the hateful comments under a social media post. You feel the tension when you try to discuss a recent win with a friend and then you find out that there are people dogging you behind your back.
Most people will tell you to just ignore your haters. They say that it’s just a part of life that you have to learn to deal with especially if you plan to do big things. And while that is accurate and sound advice, there is a way to turn some of your haters into friends.
The magic of asking for a favor
The quickest and easiest way to turn a hater into a friend is to ask them for a favor. It’s a well researched psychology technique called the Ben Franklin Effect1. When you ask people who dislike you to help you out, it shifts their perception of the relationship and makes them view you as a friend instead of a foe.
Favors are for friends. You don’t usually do a favor for an enemy or someone you deeply dislike. It all has to do with cognitive dissonance. According to cognitive dissonance theory,2 there exists a tendency for people to establish consistency in their beliefs, values and opinions. When attitudes and behaviors become inconsistent, dissonance occurs.
The brain needs to eliminate the dissonance. The brain behaves as an outside observer. It continually watches and evaluates your actions and then contrives explanations for why you do what you do. Dissonance occurs most often in situations where an individual must choose between two incompatible beliefs or actions. So, in this case the reasonable belief is that favors are for friends. When you ask a hater for a favor, you create dissonance and the hater has to change their perception of you in order to perform the ask and eliminate the inconsistency.
Asking for a favor is also a subtle form of flattery. Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People suggests that requesting a favor allows the hater to feel that they have something we don’t. It levels the playing field in their mind. It also makes the hater feel admired and respected. They then not only want to help you but will also begin to see you differently. The hate dissipates.
Asking a hater for a favor requires humility and a bit of thought. The favor should be something small enough that it is easily performed but not so trivial that it seems more of an insult than a favor. This means that you should consider the strengths, weaknesses, intellect and ability level of the person you are asking.
If it’s someone you don’t know, keep the ask simple. Borrowing some change at the vending machine or some other small item, asking them for assistance with an app on your smartphone or asking them to recommend a restaurant or other establishment are all great favors to ask for.
When you make your request, remember to ensure it sounds like you really need the favor and value the person’s help. Keep your tone humble and your body language open. And be sure you express your appreciation and gratitude for their help.
This technique is not just for haters. It works well with people you may not know well such as a colleague, mild acquaintance and even your secret crush. The simple action–making a small and reasonable request–can be the catalyst that transform a hater into a friend.
Experiencing hate as you work to become your best self is inevitable. Turning every hater into a friend isn’t a practical goal but you can befriend some. Simply humbling yourself, and asking for assistance in the form of a favor, is the first step in changing them from foe to friend.