the practice of graceful requests

photo courtesy Ann Thorniley
Be careful what you ask for. And how you answer those who ask.

A Guest Post from Amy

A dear friend and avid reader commented last week on my Friendly Coercion post with some suggestions that were so good that I felt they merited their own post.

Amy Law from Seattle has developed her own particular set of protocols for both hearing and expressing requests. Personally, I think it would be great if we had little cheat-cards we could pull out and use to help remember the steps.

When receiving a request:

  1. Hear the request: It’s a request. Not a demand, not a threat, not a need only I can fill, and probably not something I only get one chance at.
  2. Clarify what I heard: In whatever manner is appropriate to the situation (verbose, succinct, non-verbal, pictogram…) try to communicate back what I think they’re asking for. When that is totally clear, then…
  3. Wait for my response in that moment. Don’t “default” to a response
    • because it’s what I said last time,
    • because it’s what they expect/need,
    • because I was angry five minutes ago when I thought they were asking for something else.

      Just take a moment and find out what’s in my integrity in this moment.

  4. Remember that my response can be an invitation to intimacy. I’m more than a Magic 8-ball. What other information or point of connection can I offer in this response? This isn’t about softening a “no.” This is about sharing the vulnerability. (And in my case sometimes it is about encouraging myself to be more enthusiastic in my “yes.”)
  5. Respond and stick around to see what happens next. Cultivate generous curiosity. In general this is a reminder to refrain from mentally running off into story land (aka “narrative fallacy”), but if storyland is what happens be willing to observe (not analyze) that too.

When making the request:

  1. Notice the desire.
  2. Am I happy to accept a no? If I pause when answering that question, then I pause before making the request. I take the time to tease out what’s so important. What does this request mean to me? Can I be more direct in asking for the core of what I want?
  3. Notice the environment. Not just physical location, but the emotional and physiological states of everyone involved.
  4. Make the request: In whatever manner seems appropriate to the situation (verbose, succinct, non-verbal, pictogram…)
  5. Stick around to see what happens next. (see above)

Got feedback for Amy or Gray? What are your techniques for asking and receiving things well? 

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