Making Requests, not Demands

Letting others know what we want


re•quest [ri-kwest] From
1. the act of asking for something to be given or done, especially as a favor or courtesy; solicitation orpetition: At his request, they left.
2. an instance of this: There have been many requests for the product.
3. a written statement of petition: If you need supplies, send in a request.
4. something asked for: to obtain one's request.
5. the state of being asked for; demand.
verb (used with object)
6. to ask for, especially politely or formally: He requested permission to speak.
7. to ask or beg; bid (usually followed by a clause or an infinitive): to request that he leave; to request to be excused.
8. to ask or beg (someone) to do something: He requested me to go.
9. by request, in response or accession to a request: The orchestra played numbers by request.

What is important about making clear positive action requests? IF we are not clear how can we expect anyone to understand what we want? For example, say I want fairness. In my opinion I work hard and my coworker doesn't. We both get the same raise. I tell the supervisor about it and say I want fairness. The supervisor agrees and says he wants fairness too. What do you think the odds are that my supervisor and I have the same vision of what fairness is?

In the book Nonviolent Communication, Marshall tells a humorous story (funny to those not involved) about a woman who told her husband that she wants him to spend less time at work. The husband agrees and three weeks later tells the wife he has signed up for a golf tournament. The woman tells Marshall she wishes had been a bit clearer with her request. She wanted to request that he spend one night a week with the children.

An important component of a request is that it be received as a request instead of a demand. What are some things that lead to being heard as a demand. If there is any should energy involved it will probably be perceived as a demand. If the requester is an authority figure or has more power in the situation it will most likely create resistance.

  1. A request may be heard as demand if:
    1. Use of should thoughts
    2. Supposed to do as I ask
    3. Deserve language
    4. Punishment or blame for a no response
    5. Justification
    6. If the requestor is in an authoritarian position
      1. Teacher
      2. Boss
      3. Parent
      4. Police Officer
  2. A request is a request if:
    1. No is an acceptable answer
    2. Empathize with the no, when a no is received
    3. Intent is to connect not get compliance

Keys to Making Clear Requests.

1. Distinguishing between positive and negative (what we don't want) requests.



  1. I want you to stop smoking.

  2. I want you to stop talking so much.
  3. I don't want my son listening to mp3 player while I am talking.
  1. I would like you to tell what needs are being met by smoking and discuss other ways of meeting those needs.
  2. I want you to sit quietly while I am studying.
  3. I would like to be heard. Would you take the earbuds out of your ears while I am talking?

2. Being specific versus being vague.



  1. I would like you to understand me.
  2. I want you to show some appreciation for me.
  3. I want you to show me that you love.
  1. I would like you to tell me what you heard me say.
  2. Tell me one thing you appreciate about me.
  3. I want you to kiss me before you leave the house?

3. Requesting feedback.



  1. Can you tell me what I said?
  2. Same as above
  3. Would you tell me what you think about what I just said?
  1. Would you tell me what you heard me say?
  2. How do you feel having heard me say that?
  3. Do you think my idea I just suggested will work, if not why?
Vague or Negative Requests Specific, Positive Action Requests
Would you be more organized?
I would like to be listened to.
I would like to be talked to in a respectful way.
I would like the dishes to be cleaned.
I would like for people to pick up after themselves

Where to go from here? Test your ability to recognize clear expressions of requests with the requests challenge. After requests, the next part is Honesty.

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