Third party recommendations and first hand requests

I recently made a request from a friend. The request is in his interest, as well as mine. However, he decided not to act on it. Instead, he suggested an alternative. While his alternative proposal doesn’t change the outcome for him, it produces a strictly worse outcome for me relative to my original request. I therefore decided to let go of pursuing the request.

A few weeks later, when we were together in the company of a mutual friend, our mutual friend recommended that we work together in the same way as my original request. He was unaware of my original request and, to my surprise, this time my friend accepted.

In both cases, the content of what was being proposed was the same. However, in the first case I was requesting something from my friend. This likely made him think that I would be getting more from the request than he would. Rather than think through the merits of the content of the request in detail, he used a mental shortcut to dismiss it.

However, when the same recommendation came from our mutual friend, he viewed it as an unbiased proposal. The mental shortcut now suggested that the proposal could indeed be in both of our interests.

Sometimes the content of a request matters less than the fact that it’s recommended by a third party rather than requested first hand by you.

Also published on Medium.