Afraid of requesting something from others?
Here's a gentle 4-step guide.
Learning how to make a request is a necessary step to taking care of yourself.
But yes I get it, this doesn't come easy for a lot of us. There might even be a sense of anxiety or fear in wanting to "ask" something from others too.
Asking for directions, asking to change tables at a restaurant, asking someone who's cut your queue at a food stall and telling them that that's not very nice - these requests are all about speaking up for yourself and improving your quality of life.
Then there are requests we need to make to people we see often - like our colleagues or our loved ones or family and friends.
And depending on your personality and upbringing, some of us might find this even harder to do than with strangers.
Take a simple work situation for example, you have a colleague that keeps crossing your boundaries and you want to request them to stop.
At this part, some of us might begin to have thoughts like the below:
"Maybe I should ask a colleague to stop it. BUT what if they don't react well and think I'm being sensitive?"
So you keep mum and try to tolerate it a while more. But then time ticks on by and this colleague does it again and again.
Without being able to make a request, we start to feel helpless, even anxious about the next they do the same thing.
We might start to feel resentful too.
Learning to make requests is a must-know skill - it keeps us psychologically and emotionally healthy.
So here's the four components of making a gentle request.
1. A brief Justification (Optional)
Explain in one sentence what the problem is.
“It’s a little bit noisy and I can't concentrate …"
"This table is too close to the toilet bags are heavy…"
"Hi there, I was actually queuing up before you came in front of me"
To the colleague above, maybe share your feelings: "I feel uncomfortable everything you do come over and say that to me. It makes me feel lousy about myself."
Many situations don’t need any justification; but when they do, keep it simple and share how you feel.
2. A softening Statement
This is an important piece because it establishes you as a reasonable person who’s polite and non-demanding. Softening statements often start like this.
“Would you mind if …”
“It would be helpful if you could …”
“I’d appreciate it if you would …”
(Said with a smile) “Could I have …”
“Hi, I was wondering if …”
Do use the right opener for the right situation. For example with the colleague, you probably wouldn't want to start with a smile - it's not congruent with how you are feeling!
But notice that these openers are meant to be dis-arming. They help to reduce resistance to what you are asking for.
3. A direct, specific question
Say what you want to say and do it clearly and exactly. Do think about what you want from the other person before requesting it.
Remind yourself again that you're doing this for you. Know that what you're requesting is normal and reasonable - that what you are asking for is important to you and you would be thankful if the other person can accomdate.
Keep the question to one sentence if you can - you don't need to over-explain! The more you over-explain, the more it appears defensive and the more resistance you'll tend to run into.
"Would you mind if I requested that you stopped asking me about..."
4. An appreciation statement
Again, this to show that you are not being over-demanding and are hoping to be reasonable. That you also value them listening to this gentle request of yours.
Ever heard of positive reinforcement? This is one way to reinforce the behavior of the other person saying yes to you. They are rewarded with a "THANK YOU" if they stopped or helped you out!
“This will really help me out.”
“Thanks for your effort with this.”
“This will make a real difference.”
“This is much appreciated.”
Putting it altogether:
"Hey, I feel a little uncomfortable every time you come to me and make a comment about what I'm wearing (emotional justification). Would you mind (softening) if you stopped making such comments (direct question). I would really appreciate that and it would make me feel more comfortable too (reinforce the crap out of this).
Got a question? Pop it in the comments below.