Whenever we seek to coordinate action with one another, it often involves making a request. “Would you be able to have this report on my desk by Friday?”. “Could you please move over so I can get by?” “Can you bring the laundry basket upstairs?”
I have learned a lot about rquests over the past few years. The picture above is the result of a very ineffective request that I made to my two daughters when they were young. I asked them to please pick up their room. This, unfortunately, was the result. Clearly, something was missing in this exchange…
Effective requests include a number of specific elements
- A commited speaker – one who takes the actions needed to generate a committed listener! Eye contact, intentional tone, putting your body into it
- A committed listener – is someone who is present and aware, not actively engaged in something else
- Clearly stated ‘conditions of satisfaction’ – where we share what we want the listener to do and the standards that we are applying to the request.
- Timeframe – being clear about the time within which you wish your request to be completed. (“When you get a chance” or “in a timely fashion” are very much up for interpretation)
- The Mood of the Request – refers to the emotional space that the speaker and the listener happen to be in. The right request made in the wrong mood often results in a different outcome than the one we hoped for.
- Context – informing the listener of what else is going on in the background, or what has occurred in the past, gives the listener a more broad perspective relative to what the request means and how it fits into the bigger picture
Is there a request you would like to make, that you have been putting off making? Try designing it so that it includes all of the elements above. Maybe practice saying it ahead of time, so that your body gets used to it.
How does that feel? Can you give it a try? If not, there is value in simply asking yourself – ‘why not’?