It’s common for people to think they are making requests when what they are really doing is lecturing or venting (yep, complaining). When we take an informed look at the opportunity complaining leaves on the table, we often find we’re just not that great at making requests.
- A big part of the problem is this: we’re not great at being clear in our own minds about what we want or need in the first place.
And if we don’t even know in our own minds what we want, then naturally, we will have trouble being clear with others about what needs to happen to address the thing we’re complaining about. It’s bad enough when we do that to ourselves, and especially so when we do it to others. I mean, how can the people in your life satisfy something that you were just saying was such an obvious need when you haven’t even crisply identified what it is?
If you are thinking, that’s not a problem I have, maybe you are right. You might even be a long way there if you have already eliminated complaining from your vocabulary. Even so, it’s possible you have an opportunity to tune your approach. So, let’s say you are already making requests. And let’s say one objective you have been driving at in your team is getting better at collaboration and seeing more teamwork. Because the department mission statement includes the concept of teamwork; because you have been letting your team know you want to see more team work; and because you have added teamwork and collaboration questions to your interview process for new hires, you can’t understand why you aren’t seeing more teamwork.
What’s missing? Even if you have a clear picture in your own mind around what “more teamwork” would look like, if you haven’t shared that vision with any degree of specificity, then you are relying on telepathic power to create this result. That’s leaving a lot to chance.
“The clearer we are about what we want, the more likely it is that we’ll get it.”
–Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Life
The following is a real-life case note:
I recall a client of mine sitting in my office one afternoon, so angry that her husband wouldn’t give her what she wanted. She relayed in tears how she had told him again and again that she wanted him to be more nurturing. I asked her what that would look like, and if she would recognize it when he tried. She gave me a blank stare and was silent a while before admitting she had no idea what it would mean or look like for her husband to be “more nurturing”. Of course, from there, it was easy for my client to see that if she didn’t have a clue what she wanted, then clearly her husband couldn’t be expected to know either… much less do it! She was moved by this realization to work on her own to gain more clarity so that she could make a specific, actionable request about what she wanted to see happen.
How can you make a clear request if you aren’t aware of what you need or want?
Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to make powerful and effective requests in the next Topic.