Sorry for the delay in posting the Agreements Workbook entries, folks! I got bogged down in a formatting issue. I’ve finally thrown in the towel temporarily, and I’m going to skip ahead a bit to the beginning of the next session. We’ll come back to the Relationship Continua Worksheet.
This section talks about Agreements, indirect vs. direct requests, and demands. It also lays out 4 guidelines for getting to YES.
Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.
Agreements begin with REQUESTS
A request is any communication where one party desires something (e.g., an object, or time on the calendar, or not to be bothered), and the other party can answer with:
Or a COUNTER-OFFER (we’ll get back to this)
If the answer ‘no’ is not a possible answer, then it’s not an Agreement; it’s a DEMAND.
So what’s a demand, then?
“I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means ‘no.’”
— Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003
A demand is any communication where one party desires something, and the other party or parties are required to acquiesce.
These also are called by many names, e.g., rules, hard limits, non-negotiable boundaries, vetoes, etc. In all cases, the answer ‘no’ is not an allowable response.
Please note that demands are not necessarily BAD. There are times when they’re perfectly appropriate. For instance, a Relationship Agreement might contain the statement “Abuse of any kind constitutes grounds for immediate termination of this Agreement.” That’s a hard limit that I have employed myself. I don’t negotiate around abuse.
Clear vs. Covert Requests
In general, it’s a really good idea to be as simple, straightforward, and clear as possible when making a request. Why? Because you’re more likely to get what you want that way. It’s hard for people to meet your needs or respond to your request if they don’t understand what you’re saying, or don’t understand that you’re making a request at all!
Four guidelines for getting to YES
As a general rule, you’re more likely to get your requests answered positively (and therefore get your needs met) if the following conditions apply:
- Your request is clear and understandable as a request
CLEAR: “Would you get me a drink of water from the kitchen?”
UNCLEAR: “Is it hot in here? Sure could use a drink. Hey, what did you think about that lemonade we had last week?”
- Your request is audible/visible/readable.
For instance, speak loudly enough to be heard, or use an appropriate size and style of font. Conversely, don’t shout, and don’t ask the same thing over and over and OVER again every five minutes. Both are annoying and tend to have people “shut you out.”
- The person you’re asking is able to focus on your request
While they’re in the middle of dealing with a child with an injured hand is not the best time to ask them if they’d be ok with you going out with your new sweetie tonight.
- They are both willing and able to do what you’re asking
Asking your extremely introverted partner to go with you to the Inaugural Ball isn’t likely to get a very positive response. Asking your partner with a bad back to give you a blow job might not work so well either. If they decline, it probably isn’t about you; both of these examples illustrate how a “no” could easily about their feelings and needs, not anything about what you did or did not say or do.
There’s an old “lightbulb joke” that illustrates indirect requests, also known as covert requests, or stealth requests.
Q: How many little old grandmothers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: “That’s OK, don’t you worry about me. I’ll just sit in the dark….”
Unfortunately, as this joke alludes to, some of us get into the habit of making indirect requests at least in part because it’s emotionally easier to hear nothing at all, than to hear “no.” [See _____ for the Radical Requests exercise, a game that can help reduce the “charge” around hearing ‘no’… or ‘yes!’]
In my experience, this sort of thing crops up more often around things with big potential downsides for a clear no, but that have few or light consequences for “stretching” the boundaries of the Agreement. For instance, a teen might mumble the request to borrow the car, not hear a ‘no,’ and then be able to later claim with a straight face “… but I asked!!”
The problem with this strategy of “asking for forgiveness, not permission,” is that it tends to erode trust between parties. It may seem like everything is fine “as long as you can get away with it,” but in my experience it’s detrimental to both parties. It will certainly interfere with the other person’s ability to trust that you will keep your word in any future Agreements.
Conversely, many of us have been taught that it’s impolite to state a request directly—for instance, in Japan, or in some areas in the southern United States, just to name a couple. Asking directly might cause embarrassment, a loss of face, or might cause one to incur a social debt. I’m not recommending that you blindly buck the social norms without reflection. At times that could be at least social suicide, and occasionally it could be downright physically dangerous. However, to the greatest degree possible within your own cultural context, stating your needs clearly and directly is likely to get you the most “yes” answers to your requests. After all, “the answer is always ‘no’ until you ask”!
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]
Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection. I’m updating these somewhere between 1 and 3 times per week, BTW.
[Next Entry: Agreements & Negotiation–Radical Requests Exercise ]