Ineffective Requests

Not receiving needed help is costly. It therefore stands to reason that help-seekers would want to maximize their chances of getting a “yes.” In two experiments, we found that seeking help in-person was far superior to seeking help through any form of mediated communication channel—including seeking help over synchronous, with- face video channels. Nonetheless, we found that richer media channels do still offer an advantage over text-based channels. Yet, importantly, help-seekers appear largely unaware of both these facts. These findings suggest that people may miss out on receiving needed help by asking for it in suboptimal ways.

That’s the conclusion from a study Should I Ask Over Zoom, Phone, Email, or In-Person? Communication Channel and Predicted Versus Actual Compliance, by M. Mahdi Roghanizad (Ryerson University), and Vanessa K. Bohns (Cornell University), published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

There’s a lesson for family history/genealogy societies that believe repeated pleading to the society membership for volunteers at meetings and in newsletters is an effective way to recruit the people they want.

2 Replies to “Ineffective Requests”

  1. I would disagree with the statement that “…help-seekers appear largely unaware of both these facts.” I think that anybody who has seriously tried to recruit volunteers knows this to be true… from painful experience. The irony is, of course, that it takes more volunteer time to recruit people in-person. A bit of a vicious circle…

  2. Anyone who has tried to recruit volunteers for an organization knows that face-to-face appeals work better than any other method. It is more difficult for someone to say ‘no’ to a person facing them, particularly when that person is a volunteer themselves. Covid has made face-to-face appeals impossible and there is no way to force people to attend a meeting so you can talk to them directly. The society I am involved with spends a lot of volunteer time trying to figure out how to get more volunteers instead of doing the business of running the society. We have tried all kinds of approaches; none of them work – except on very rare occasions – and it is very disheartening.

    Personally, I don’t understand how so many people can be members of societies and expect to not participate in the running of that society, if only in a small way. Members know they belong to a volunteer-run organization yet they somehow think that doesn’t apply to them. I’d like to see a study on why people think they can leave the work of a community organization – which is what genealogical societies are – to the few, over-worked people who take on more than their fair share of the responsibility.

    As they say, many hands make light work. I challenge all of your readers who belong to a genealogical society to look at what they have done lately to help their society continue to operate. If more people don’t come forward, members may just find that they no longer have a society to belong to. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

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