Brain power

Making requests is better in person than over Zoom

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have become a feature of most modern workplaces during the Covid pandemic.  As we consider what the post-Covid world might look like, there are explorations into the kind of work such platforms are best suited to.

Research1 from Cornell suggests that when it comes to asking for help, we might be better off doing it in person.  The researchers found that asking for help in person gives us a much better chance of getting a “yes” response, with email the least effective method, and telephone and video calling in between.

“If you really need a ‘yes,’ it’s best to ask in person,” the researchers say.

Getting to yes

The researchers asked volunteers to try and solicit help proofreading a small piece of text around half a page long.  The results of their requests were compared with the actual offers received to understand which were the most effective channels.

The study found that we tend to consistently underestimate the advantage we have when we ask for help in person.  People would generally assume that when asking for help, the message is what matters rather than the medium.

“We tend to think people will weigh the costs and benefits and make a measured decision about whether to agree to something, saying ‘yes’ only if they really want to,” the researchers explain. “But in fact, people agree to all sorts of things, even things they’d rather not do, because they feel bad saying ‘no’ in the moment.”

In other words, people often miss out on help because they ask in a way that reduces their chances of actually receiving it, in large part because we underestimate the importance of audio-visual aspects of our request.

This may also be due to the preference we have for convenience, which makes it easier to fire off an email request rather than ask in person.  Of course, the risk of being rejected is also perhaps softened by making our request virtually rather than face to face.

“Help-seekers also underestimated the relative advantage of asking through richer media channels compared to email,” the researchers conclude. In other words, if a face-to-face ask isn’t possible, ask by Zoom or phone versus email or text.

Article source: Making Requests Is Better In Person Than Over Zoom.

Header image source: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay, Public Domain.


  1. Roghanizad, M. M., & Bohns, V. K. (2021). Should I Ask Over Zoom, Phone, Email, or In-Person? Communication Channel and Predicted Versus Actual Compliance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 19485506211063259.
Rate this post

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

Related Articles

Back to top button