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Requests - Giving the Gift of Your Needs

You are clear on what happened (observation) that didn't work for you. You can identify the feelings and needs that came up for you at the time and are still up now.   Now you'd like to make a request of your partner so that your needs will be met in a future similiar situation. Suddenly you are at a loss.

What gets in your way of coming up with a request?

At a basic level, making effective requests requires clarity and connection with the feelings and needs alive in you and the specific context in which they arose. Brainstorming requests also requires a sense of flexibility or openness to a variety of ways in which your needs could be met.

I notice that even when students of Compassionate Communication really get this, they still have difficulty making requests.

There is often jackal voices getting in the way. Take a look at the list below and see if you have said any of these things to yourself.

"I don't want to be a burden for others."

"What if I ask for something and then it actually doesn't meet my needs? I want to make the right request."

"It's not okay for me to want what I want."

"I can't have everything. I should just be happy with what is."

"I don't trust that this person would really want to help me."

"They won't care about my needs."

"I should be able to do it on my own."

"It's too much to ask."

"I don't want to be selfish."

Sound familiar?

In working with these voices you might first offer self-empathy.

For example, hearing yourself say, "It's not okay for me to want what I want." You might be feeling tense and needing self-acceptance. Like all of us, you have likely received a lot of messages that it's not okay to have needs. You may want to spend a few moments each day looking at the needs list and affirming that having and acknowledging needs is part of being fully human.

Hearing yourself say, "It's too much to ask." You might be feeling concern because it's important to you to consider the needs of others as well as your own. When you make a request you may want to let the other person know how important it is to you that they say yes to your request only if it really works for them.

Another important point in working with these obstacles is to remember that the single most fun thing for humans to do is to contribute to life. You might be saying, "If that's the case, why doesn't my daughter help around the house?"

People love to contribute when the need and request are clear and when they know they are freely choosing to do so.

This became very clear to me when I broke my leg. A cast and crutches were very clear indicators about the needs that were up for me. The actions that would help me were also pretty obvious. This made it fun and easy for people to give. I had almost constant help and support. It really showed me how much people love giving.

Your needs and requests are a gift to others. When you allow others to give to you, you help meet their need for contribution – the joy of giving.


Challenge yourself to make three requests this week. And of course remember the basics about effective requests:

  • Clearly connected to needs
  • Do-able: a request answers these questions – What? Who? Where? When? How long? How often?
  • Ask for what you want rather than what you don't want. For example, "I'm needing consideration and predictability. Would you be willing to call if you are going to be more than five minutes late for future meetings?" Rather than, "Please don't be late to our meetings."
  • Let the other person know that you would like them to say yes to your request only if it is in harmony with their own needs.

Feel free to start your request practice with little ones that are easier for you to make.


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4 Responses

  1. Oct 12, 2011

    Hi LaShelle,
    I've been working on this exact thing in regards to my feelings of insecurity with my partner. My question is - what do you do when you've named your reaction / feelings (without blaming or judging the actions of your partner), and requested something specific (in my case a simple loving response of reassurance like giving me a kiss or cuddle and telling me he loves me and is committed to me, in that moment), but your partner is unwilling to do it? Instead gets angry at the request, tells you 'it's your problem, deal with it yourself.'

    Any ideas?

  2. Oct 13, 2011

    Requests are always the beginning of a negotiation. When someone says no to a request they are imagining that fulfilling the request would cost needs of their own. So when you hear no to a request you can ask what about the request doesn't work for them, that is what needs do they imagine will be at cost. As mutual understanding is created and whole new request may emerge.

  3. Apr 30, 2013

    "I don't trust that this person would really want to help me."
    "They won't care about my needs."

    Starting here makes it really difficult to ask for (or discuss) anything. The only solution I've found in my case is to talk myself out of the reaction I feel, try to avoid building resentment (which happens anyway)over a period of time, and trying to understand (empathize) where she's coming from that causes her action/reaction. I find myself wrestling with how to phrase a request and usually wind up not saying anything "keeping the peace".

  4. Apr 30, 2013

    This may be too simplistic. But one way around this jackal, might be something like this:

    "I am looking for some help brainstorming about this concert project. I was going to ask my friend Bob, but if it's alive for you to be involved I would enjoy brainstorming with you. Are you interested?"

    In this example you have the self-reassurance of having another option for support so perhaps it will feel easier to check in with the other person about their aliveness without hearing their answer as a reflection of caring or not caring about you.

    Does this help?

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