The Ben Franklin Effect

“This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography


The Ben Franklin Effect


Benjamin Franklin’s maxim above speaks of the strange paradox called “The Ben Franklin Effect”. When you do someone a favor, they tend to resent you, but if you ask a favor from someone else, you can expect to be friends forever. As counter-intuitive as this is, it makes sense in a way; to ask a favor well is to show the best side of yourself.

When you ask for a favor, you share your vulnerability. When you accept that favor with gratitude, you show that you can truly appreciate the gift of friendship you ultimately hope to gain. Humility is one of the main ingredients in friendship, and asking for help shows that you are open to it. You have killed pride and have more room in your heart for love.


I find the Ben Franklin Effect even more interesting from the other direction. Think of yourself now as the person who has been asked for a favor. Even if you don’t like the favor-seeker, it is hard to refuse a direct plea for help, especially since he is showing his best face.

Something I’ve noticed even more, though, is the love that flows from you when you do decide to grant a favor; the bigger the better! Once you have sacrificed for someone, you have a stake in his welfare, an investment in his success. You can no longer be impartial towards him, nor do you want to be.


If you’re feeling dry in a relationship, you probably need to sacrifice more. If you want to love where you are or whomever you’re with, put some work into it!

If you sacrifice for the world more, you will love the world more.

And of course, don’t be afraid to ask for more favors.

One thought on “The Ben Franklin Effect

  1. Pingback: Self-Pity | A Grain of Salt

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