Katharine:  When we read about requests, I saw I could use this.  I tried it last week when I was discussing with my roommate about the bills we had to pay.  I requested her half of the money, at a specific time, and reminded her I needed it in order for me to have enough money in my own bank account to cover the bills.  (O, the life of a poor college student!)



Observations are about what is happening out there now; requests are about what exactly we would like to see happening out there.





      1.  Get your attitude lined up before you speak

      2.  Share what needs would be met if the person were to do the thing you asked

      3.  Make positive requests for time-specific, concrete, and doable actions

      4.  Ask whether the other person wants to do this action



1.  Get your attitude lined up before you speak


Brad:  Last night, sometime after midnight, I poured my soul out to Marie explaining all the reasons I thought everything was the way it was in our relationship.  After about half an hour of me talking straight, I asked for a reflection.  She did not want to give me one.  I got frustrated and scolded her for not listening to me.  Of course, this triggered her defensiveness.  We ended the conversation annoyed and disconnected. 


Today, I read the chapter on making requests.  I see I picked a really bad time to get into a deep conversation.  Marie was very tired and just wanted to sleep.  Second, after I made the initial request for her to respond to what I said, and she refused, I began to demand, totally forgetting I wanted it to be a request.  Even though I was being nice and speaking in a gentle tone, it became clear I was demanding when she said “no.”


We are aspiring to indeed make a request and not a demand.  If we are accustomed to leaning on someone to get them to agree, this new attitude may result in less cooperation for a while.  It helps to recall we are building relationships wherein both people are free to be themselves and are encouraged to find ways to increase their own happiness. 


We want to remember that needs are a natural hunger for a quality of life and there are many strategies to meet each need.  If we lock onto one strategy, we will be tempted to assume that the other person has to behave in a particular way for us to find satisfaction, happiness, and peace. 


That would make us powerless and may tempt us to demand they act in the way we want.  Moreover, even if our words line up when we make a request, if we are thinking we want our own way and forgetting that we really want both sets of needs to be met, it may come out.  The tone of our voice, our body language, our vibes, and our response if they say “No” will likely shout out our secret intention.  If it was really a request, we will be okay if they say “No.” 

2.  Share what needs would be met if the person were to do the thing you asked


Joe:  I recently decided not to allow people to smoke cigarettes in my apartment.  In the past I had allowed it because both my roommate and I are smokers.  However, it became a problem when the smell in the apartment became unbearable.  A friend of mine came over the other day and when he walked in he was smoking.  When I saw the cigarette, I said, “Don’t smoke that cigarette in here.”  My demand with no explanation of my personal needs led my friend to become angry with me.  He thought I was picking on him because I had not explained to him why I stopped allowing smoking in the apartment.


A request is often experienced as a demand if we neglect to share the reasons behind it.  We relate to people’s needs and are more likely to feel motivated to help them when we know their needs.  We all have the same basic, human needs, so when a person shares their needs, it invites us to connect to their humanness and often inspires us to want to contribute to their happiness.  Joe had a need for comfort or health, which made him want to cut back on the amount of smoke in his environment.  He expressed this by making a demand, which, as he reports, was not well received. 



3.  Make positive requests for time-specific, concrete, and doable actions 


Making positive requests means talking about what we do want, not what we don’t want. 


  • I don’t want you to work so late.  à  I would enjoy you spending more evenings with me.
  • Don’t break the school windows.  à  If there is anything you are not happy about at                                                                     school, I would like you to tell me about it. 
  • I don’t need any more trouble now.  à  I want to wait and discuss this next week.
  • Stop being such a nag.  à  I would like for you to tell me your concerns only once.


Time-specific actions mean ones anchored in a specific time frame.


I would like you to:  

  • talk with me about a new car.  à  talk with me, today or tomorrow, about a new car.
  • help me with my paper.  à  help me with my paper this weekend.


Concrete actions mean carefully defined, specific behaviors. 


I would like you to:

  • clean your room.  à  make the bed, dust, and put your books in the bookcase.
  • grow up.  à  write down appointments and be there on time.
  • grow up.  à  tell the truth, even when it is hard to do so.


Doable actions mean actions that are realistic to do, not something grandiose, like a change of character or attitude or even feelings.  (To say “Don’t feel that way” is seldom helpful.) 


I would like you to:

  • be more outgoing.  à  say “hi” when I walk into the room.
  • love me more.  à  be more affectionate by holding my hand when we go for a walk.
  • miss me every moment while you are gone.  à  try to e-mail me a note each day.

4.  Ask whether the other person wants to do this action 


Requests include a question to find out if it fits for the other person.  This reminds both the speaker (us) and the listener that they have a choice and that there are many possible strategies that will meet our needs.  This is part of the attitude we worked on before starting our request. 


Would this fit for you?                                                 Does this interest you?

What do you think about this?                                     Are you willing to do this?

Do you want to do this?                                                           OK with you?

Would you be willing to fit this into your schedule?     Will that work for you?

Does that sound like something you would enjoy?      How does that sound to you?

Can you imagine doing that this week?                                   Are you up for that?



MAKING AN EFFECTIVE REQUEST:  Expand the following requests to include the above four components.  (Your attitude may not show up in the words.) 

Clarify these requests à


Complete requests

Yo, dude, clean up the mess.

Yo, dude.  My girlfriend is coming over.  Would you be willing to put your pizza boxes in the trash, run the vacuum and get the chairs back in place when this tv show is over?

All you do is talk.  You are so selfish.









Call if you are going to be late, huh?









Whatcha doing tonight?









I insist you stop ignoring me.