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You should ask your friends for help more. Here’s why


Need a ride to the airport? Or help hanging your curtain rod? These pesky tasks are often made easier by asking a friend for help, but many of us are reluctant to do so.

People consistently underestimate others’ willingness to lend them a hand, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

Help-seekers also overestimate how inconvenienced the person they are asking for a favor will feel.

“It can be nerve-wracking to ask a stranger for help,” says. Xuan Zhao, a social science research scholar at Stanford University who co-authored the study with Nicholas Epley, a social cognition professor at the University of Chicago.

“In our research we found people underestimate both strangers’ and friends’ [desire to help].”

‘We are a pro-social and collaborative society’

Throughout history, there has been a debate about whether we live in a selfish society or a collaborative society, Zhao says.

 “Over the past few recent decades, there has been more and more evidence that we are a pro-social and collaborative society,” she says. “That’s part of our winning strategy of evolution.”

If you think about how you feel when you’ve helped out a friend, it might start to make sense.  

“Helping other people makes you feel good because it creates a moment of social connection,” she says. “It makes you feel valued and needed by other people and if you are successful at helping them it makes you feel competent, and everyone likes feeling competent.”

Helping other people makes you feel good because it creates a moment of social connection.

Xuan Zhao

Stanford Researcher

‘People are taught to be self-sufficient’

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