How to get back on those “friendly favors”

ithaca hours

Here I am again spending my Sunday evening fixing a friend’s flakey PC laptop. After this, I’ll be receiving another critically infected laptop to reformat and one more for minor troubleshooting with Symantec Anti-virus not updating properly. For the record, I also have two Xboxes to mod for my younger gaming friends (this WILL be lower priority). Talk about busy, and I’ve got papers to write at the same time. Thanks to the “now” culture of the Internet, people expect things done quick and mostly free. Oh joy.

Spywares, viruses and plain Windows annoyances make PCs such a sick platform, I really spend most of my time fixing PCs although I specialize more on the Mac OS. If you’re not in the higher echelon of “fix-it-yourself” PC users, most people don’t know how to maintain their PC for nuts. I don’t blame them… the PC world is so cluttered with malware and riddled with security holes, to me, Macs are seriously a breath of fresh air. Please, if you don’t know what you’re doing, please don’t buy trouble by buying a PC. Get a Mac and get your work done.

Enough of my groveling… I really like helping, but don’t want to be taken advantage of. I started to think about how much I do for friends and the “return of investment” I get from them. Seriously, how does one keep track of friendly favors?

The Chinese have this thing called “Guanxi“, which involves doing favors to maintain relationships. The Americans have this concept called Social Capital which according to Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, “refers to the collective value of all ‘social networks’ and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other”. Well, all said and done, how much time do we need to spend on favors to be considered enough for a kickback? After doing favors for so long, I feel like I’m not getting back as much as I should!

Via Prof. Halavias, a novel idea came in the form of Ithaca Hours. Instead of money, the local currency for this community project is “HOURS” because this encourages us to think about the value of everyone’s time. The name reminds us that the real source of money’s value is created by people — their time, skills, and energy. How I wish something like that can be applied worldwide via the Internet, like a new kind of Paypal with a time bank instead of cash.

For now, I recall a tip my friend told me from her marketing class: When someone says thank you, don’t just say “your welcome” and take off. Instead, say “I’m sure if I needed help, you’d do the same for me too”. This way, the beneficiary gets reminded to do his/her part.

Do you have any tips and tricks to getting the most back out of doing favors?

7 thoughts on “How to get back on those “friendly favors”

  1. Hi Kevin, I don’t have tips or tricks to “get the most back” from doing favours. My philosophy is is this: If I help, I do it because I want to; Not in expectation of something in return. I don’t always manage to practice what I preach, but I try.

    If I get something back, it’s a bonus. If I’m considering doing a favour that I don’t really want to, but anticipate some potential return, most times I don’t do it. Then I don’t worry about whether that favour is returned or not, or start being calculative. Actually, when I look back, I realise people return favours more times than when if I’d been calculative.

    W.H. Murray wrote: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness… that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too… A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

    I’d say it applies to doing favours (as supposed to granting them). Sorry for the long post! ~Ivan

    p.s. I’m reminded of Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. He talks about “Emotional Bank Accounts”. Google for “covey emotional bank account”.

  2. I like the idea of emotional bank accounts as you mentioned, more importantly on how it can happen independent of the beneficiary’s attitude.

    However, there are some favors that borders on “do or do not”, especially those that require bigger sacrifices. If you do it for yourself then fine, but if you’re doing favors constantly for other people, how do you tell if something’s worth doing if most people don’t know how to reciprocate?

  3. Hey Kevin,

    like Ivan I do what I can and don’t expect a return but when managing others, ensure they get enough acknowledgement and are not taken for granted.

    As for fixing PCs, I decided a few years ago I wasn’t going to fix ’em anymore. I simply could not bear working with them and drew a line against torturing mysef. It’s freed up time to enhance mac-use.


  4. Hi Kevin, — “how do you tell if something’s worth doing if most people don’t know how to reciprocate?” — maybe if you feel others are not reciprocating (when you sort of expect them to), then it’s probably not worth doing based on your own value system. Right? : ) If we do a favour because we want to and/ or simply because we can, then the question is moot.

    I don’t know you other than the few email exchanges. Hazard a guess here — I think basically you want to help others. But your doing so is in conflict of your own time. You feel bad about not helping. So you are trying to justify is why you should NOT help them, as a way to ease your ‘guilt’. You’re having this, “I want to help but I can’t, but I feel bad if I don’t, so how can I say no?” dilemmia.

    That’s my take anyway.

  5. Ivan (the Psychologist), you’re on the mark. Thinking about it, i guess the idea does become moot if you’re doing it on your own accord. Indeed, I feel committed once I agree to anything, so there’s an inherent pressure to do well and spend a good deal of time to make sure things work out right. I’ve to learn to say no, even if I don’t want to. 🙂

  6. Kevin, I went for this Learning Organisations course and one invaluable lesson was that we don’t really speak our minds. Tha’t’s not to say we are tactless when we speak out. I think it means being honest with ourselves and the other person. I’m in my early 30s. It took me almost that long to be comfortable saying “I want to, but I can’t”.

    One day, I said that to a colleague who asked for favour. I listened to her request, and then said why I like to help, how I would help, but why I can’t. She was taken aback bec. I’m know to always say yes. Then she said something that made me feel good. She said, “I didn’t expect you to say, No. But I’m glad you are honest. You’ve grown up”.

    I’ve not had time to search, but wonder if they’ve books like “How to say No, and still keep your friends”. Must have some out there.

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