If well-formed, requests have the power to influence others, bring about more alignment, and compel action in service of a desired result, even when you don’t have authority in the organizational sense. Here are some tips on forming powerful and effective requests that will help you do just that:
- Clarity. Get clear about what you want. Have a specific goal in mind before you make a request.
- Direction. Request a positive action, as opposed to a negative action; do so by using action language (i.e., rather than telling someone what you don’t want them to do, tell them what you do want them to do.)
- Precision. Make precise asks that involve concrete actions.
- Reasonableness. Request, don’t demand. This means that the person receiving your request is able to say “no” and life will go on.
- Language. Use request language (e.g., “it would help me if ___” or “could you ___ so that ___”); avoid complaint language (e.g., “why___,” “don’t ___,” “you [or someone else] should ___”)
Once you’ve made your request, it’s a good idea to get a clear commitment from the other person that they will perform your request. Without it, you can’t be sure your request has landed.
Pro tip: make sure your requests are do-able. Good requests tend to be future-focused and specific (i.e., actionable), whereas complaints are typically focused on the past and more general. Watch out for areas where you think you are making a request but where it isn’t actually possible to perform what you’re talking about because everything is in the past or too many details are missing.