Author Simon Sinek argued in his book, Start with Why, that the order in which you do or say things matters. As he puts it, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it—so talk about why before you talk about what (see his TED Talk for Sinek’s full explanation).
And in this video, he gives another example of an instance where the order matters—when asking for a favor.
Have you ever gotten an email from someone out of the blue that makes a paragraph of small talk and then hits you with a request for a favor, like (I’m borrowing Sinek’s example here):
Haven’t seen you in years. Hope you’re well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. It’s really amazing. We should get coffee sometime. If you could do me a favor, if you could vote for me on this website, I’m hoping to win a thousand dollar prize for my new design…blah…blah…blah. Hope you’re well- Kenny
The pleasantries in the beginning aren’t effective because we know we’re being buttered up. And that’s why these kinds of emails often get deleted.
But what if the writer changed the order? What if he or she came right out and just asked for the favor, and then said the nice things?
I’m hoping you could vote for me on this website—I’m trying to win a thousand dollar prize for my design. I haven’t seen you in years. I hope you’re well. Congratulations on all you’ve been doing. We should get coffee sometime. Thanks, Kenny
If you come right out and ask for what you want, the pleasantries come across with a lot more sincerity.
You can watch the full video here (the portion about asking for favors starts at 25:30).