Writing about making requests has proven hard and really shows me I am severely lacking in this skill.
Last week’s post took me several attempts and this one has taken a long time too.
To be honest, I wish I had kept my mouth shut about making requests. All they do is confuse me and just writing about them makes me cranky.
I know that solving this request issue is valuable as I do see that I need this skill if I want to spread my wings and yet my aversion to tackle this issue is huge.
Requests for me are big scary beasts.
After all my aborted attempts to write sensibly about this topic, I have now decided to let all my emotional stuff around requests simmer for a while to see if I can unravel this issue one small step at the time. So this time I am going for a semantic approach. To remain clear about what it takes to make requests I will repeat what WomenLikeMe has to say on the subject;
“Before anything happens there is a conversation that precedes the action that sets up, two or more people to effectively act together.
A request is therefore one of the first steps in the coordination of action.”
(WomenLikeMe on How We Create Our World through Conversation)
Without effectively making requests there will be little effective action by base camp, right!
Okay, I get that making requests has to do with action and in order for me to do the actions that are too big for me, I need to acquire sponsorship by asking for it.
So far all this is making sense.
The next step is where it gets interesting for me.
To quote again from WomenLikeMe;
“There are three possible in-integrity ways to respond to a request.
2. Respond with a counter offer
3. You can choose to DECLINE”
I can choose to decline, I can choose to respond with a counter offer, can I?
I have a CHOICE; I have freewill around requests?
I have a ‘right of refusal’?
AND that is the first thing I have to untangle.
For me it’s where making requests has gone awry.
For me ’right of refusal’ does not exist.
My mind won’t allow me to say ’No’, actually nothing in me will allow a ‘No’ and I never ever considered that a ‘right of refusal’ existed.
I cannot say ’No’ without excuses, fear of the consequences or without feelings of guilt.
On the other side of the coin I also do not know how to accept ’No’ from someone else without feeling rejected. I even make myself wrong for asking in the first place.
Making requests is hampered by out-of-integrity issues and that is what is confusing me.
When you look at it this way it is no wonder that I am feeling as I do and that I am not alone in this.
There is actually very little integrity around requests in the world full stop.
Not that we are deliberately dishonest but having lost sight of our right of refusal, we often -instead of saying a clear ‘No’- wriggle our way out of a clear response.
We make vague promises, we mumble a ‘Yes’ with no intention to do anything or we say nothing at all and hope it all will go away.
Let’s have a look at a simple scenario to illustrate this.
“Can you put all your dirty cups on the kitchen bench, please? I have asked nicely for the umpteenth time so please can you listen for once? I have requested over and over again that you gather up all your used cups so why on earth are you not doing it?”
This is a simple, yet often recurring problem around requests that has never failed to stump me.
I often had no idea what was going on here and who had the right of way?
This request to coordinate action obviously did not have the desired action of putting those dirty cups in the kitchen, so now what?
When looking at the possible responses to requests, the action shows that the response is obviously a clear ‘No’ and . . .
that the person who is requesting the action is clearly not aware of nor accepting the other party’s right of refusal.
Thus this is not a request at all but a command.
So to get back into-integrity, the person who makes the request needs to accept a ‘No’ response as part of honoring the right of refusal,
or . . .
they need to determine if they’re actually in a position of authority to be commanding and then if their command is not being followed, they need to decide what to do about it.
Either way, they need to deal with this lack of action in an in-integrity way.
They either accept the ‘right of refusal’ and stop nagging about the cups or . . .
they can check if they have any authority to make commands and if they do, then take their right to command clearly what they want to have happen with those dirty cups and then enforce it.
And if they do not choose to enforce the command, they then have a choice to change their command into a request and then they have to accept and honor the other person’s ‘right of refusal’!
THAT is what being in-integrity around making requests is all about.
Well, talk about simple!
I cannot tell you how much this ’simple’ unraveling took me.
I can see that commanding around kids to get them to do things is quite acceptable AND clear.
We all know that clean your room is NOT a request with right of refusal but a command of do as you are told or else.
As a parent you know that requests are NOT the way to coordinate action around the house, homework or other things that have to be done and it is clear to all involved when someone is in- or out-of-integrity.
When they are teenagers it becomes more complicated as the right of refusal for certain things is okay but for others it is not.
Making requests and giving commands can easily get mixed up and confuse things.
This is probably where the confusion starts for most of us.
One minute we coordinate action via requests and the next minute we are commanded to do things.
What the heck . . . where has my ‘right of refusal’ gone?
Then we enter the world of work and again the boundaries around requests and commands become blurred big time.
We are told we have a right to decline however when we assert them all is not well.
So when asked by the manager at work to do them a favor and finish off their task or do a task outside your job description, did you feel at that moment that you had a right to refuse?
Then when we live with a partner or flat-mates this whole matter of requests and commands becomes really interesting!
Well by then most of us are constantly getting into trouble as a result of having lost this distinction between requests to which you can say ‘No’ and commands that expect you to do as you’re told.
The collapse of these distinctions has been a real issue.
Many commands disguised as requests had me wonder what the heck was going on.
It certainly hasn’t helped to get clarity around refusals, let alone help us to understand that there was something like ‘a right of refusal’ at all.
No wonder we were all sliding in-and out-of-integrity around requests.
How was I to know when I had the right to openly refuse a request or when I was trying to fight off a request, that wasn’t a request at all but an unauthorized command by someone who was just as confused as I was?
And how was I to know if my ‘No’ was received by someone who honored and accepted it or if it was met with nasty threads or passive aggressiveness by a confused operator?
I now can see how I have gotten into a muddle around requests; all this unravelling has certainly been an interesting and very worthwhile. It lifted a lot of fog. Now all is left is practice, eeek.
P.S. The photo is of blind George who is a master at making requests. I wrote about him in my last post.