My girlfriend was telling me a story about her friend while we were driving in the car today. Some unknown person asked the friend for a favor, which she granted. “What an awesome thing to do!” I said.
In this case, the favor wasn’t a “give me your kidney” favor, or even a “can I borrow a hundred bucks” favor, but it was definitely a small inconvenience and a nice thing to do.
As I was thinking about the favor, especially in light of yesterday’s post about the benefits helping others and showing appreciation, I thought about what would have happened if the friend had done the opposite. What if she had refused to perform the favor for the person she didn’t even know?
Well, she’d be a bit of a dick. Again, this favor took a little bit of effort, but it wasn’t that big a deal. By thinking about the opposite reaction, it became immediately clear that what the friend did wasn’t so much an awesome thing to do, but merely the decent thing to do. The thing that should have been done. The right thing to do.
So, new heuristic: when asked for a favor, think about how an objective third party would view your refusal to perform that favor. If he would think you’re a dick for refusing, it’s not a favor at all: it’s something you should do without hesitation.