Agreements & Negotiation: Radical Requests Exercise

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.…. Aaaaaand, we’re back!  Here’s the next entry in the Agreements Workbook series.  Sorry for the delay.

This section talks about the three responses to a request: Accept, Decline, and Counter-offer. The Radical Requests exercise is included as a way to practice speaking and hearing “yes,” “no,” and “yes, but with qualifications.”

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

Agreements and Negotiation: Accept, decline, counter-offer

A request always has three possible answers.  If any one of these is not a possible outcome of the request, then it was likely a demand (see previous section, Agreements & Requests: 4 guidelines to YES! ).

  • Accept/Yes
    Yes. I agree to your request, as is, with no changes or stipulations.
  • Decline/No
    No. I decline your request. Reasons may be offered, or not, but the answer is final.
  • Counter-offer/Negotiation
    Maybe. I am potentially willing to agree, but I need a change in one or more aspects before I can make the agreement.

I have found that many people in our culture (myself often included!) have some trouble making clear requests. Having been taught that our needs don’t matter (by family, or society, or an ex-partner, for instance), or not wanting to hear “no” (e.g., for social reasons), or even being afraid to year “yes,” it can be difficult to just ask.  Therefore I’ve found it useful to practice making requests. In a structured setting, I can “try on” how different responses “feel.”  I can check with all parts of myself: mind, heart/emotions, and body. In a “real” situation, it can sometimes feel like I’m too rushed, or I can forget to check in with myself. In an exercise such as “Radical Requests,” I can slow down and reflect. In a workshop situation, we usually don’t have time to do it more than once. However, if you yourself have difficulty making or hearing requests for any reason, you may want to do this exercise several times, and with different people.

Radical Requests — An Exercise

When covering the Agreements material in a workshop, I like to have people “try on” speaking and listening to different responses to a request.  Here’s how it goes.

Minimum number of participants: 2

In preparation for the exercise, have the group divide up into pairs. If there’s an odd person out, they may choose to do the exercise with the leader, or join another group of two. It’s best not to have groups larger than two, or three at the most.

NOTES: All offers, requests, and/or responses are null and void at the end of the exercise.  If you like what you hear, you’ll have to ask again later!

It’s OK to do this exercise with an existing partner, a friend, a co-worker, or someone you don’t know.  Each will yield valuable data. You may find some harder than others. Just make a note of that to think about at the end.

Part A: “Yes!”

1) Choose an Asker and a Responder.

2) The Asker will make a request of the Responder.  This can be as outrageous or as small a thing as you wish. Remember: This is only an exercise, and does not “count” in the real world! Be creative! Be daring! Now is your chance to actually hear a Yes to that question you’ve wanted to ask for years.

Some possible questions to try, or to use for inspiration:

Would you like to [go to dinner/have coffee/fly to Paris] with me tomorrow?

The doctors tell me I only have a month to live. Would you adopt my [pet/child/rare coin collection]?

Would you give me [$10/$5,000/all your money] so I can [fly to Paris/adopt a child/donate it to charity/create an art installation for Burning Man]?

Would you [take out the trash/wash the dishes/do my homework]?

3) The Responder can answer in only one way: with an audible and reasonably enthusiastic “Yes!” Responders, remember that even if you would never really do that in a million years, for this exercise, the answer is yes, and only yes.  There can
be no qualifications, no explanations, and no clarifying questions. The only exception is if you didn’t hear or understand what the Asker said, in which case you can ask for the question to be repeated.

4a) The Asker should really listen, imagine that this is true for a moment, and reflect on how it felt to hear an unqualified and enthusiastic “yes.”

Did you like it? Were you “secretly” hoping to hear more? Did you want to ask another question? Did you have any other internal responses? How did your body feel? Did you notice a reaction or tension anywhere?

4b) At the same time, the Responder reflects on how it felt to say a “yes” without qualifications or reservations.

Was it exciting? Scary? Did you have a hard time or an easy one not elaborating? Did you have any other internal responses? How did your body feel? Did you notice a reaction or tension anywhere? Did you feel guilty? Self-assured? Strong? Like a “pushover”?

5) Now reverse the polarity. The person who was the Asker becomes the Receiver, and the person who was the Receiver becomes the Asker.  Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4.

How did it feel to be on the other side of this exercise? Did you notice anything new? Which one was harder, and which easier, or were they about the same?

Part B: “No”

6) Now repeat the exercise as in Part A (steps 2 through 5), but instead of saying “yes,” this time the Responder can only say “no.” Again, there can be no qualifications, elaborations, or excuses, and the Asker can only ask to have the question repeated, but may not ask any other questions.

How was “no” different from “yes”? Was either one harder or easier to hear? Harder or easier to say?

Part C: “Yes, but with qualifications”

7) Repeat the exercise again as in Part A (steps 2 through 5). However, this time the answer must be ‘yes, but with qualifications.’ So in answer to: “Would you go to Morocco with me tomorrow?” the Responder might say “Yes, but I need to find childcare for my son first.”  In answer to “Would you give me all your money to donate to starving children?” the Responder might say “Yes, but I would like you to deliver it to each one personally.”

How does it feel to engage in some negotiation? Is it easier or harder to say or hear a yes, when there are stipulations or qualifications? Again, check in with your body as well as your thoughts.

Questions to ask

When everyone has completed all three variations as both Asker and Responder, first share results between partner/s, and then with the larger group (if any). How did people’s experiences vary? Were there noticeable trends in any groups (e.g., men and women, by age, by country or region of origin)? If you had a chance to do the exercise with more than one person, did it feel different with different partners? Or did it make a difference in how you felt if the person was a stranger, vs. your partner or your friend? What did you learn about yourself, and what did you learn about your partner/s?

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 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.

[Next Entry: Appendix A–A Model of Poly Relationship Dynamics]

[Previous Entry: Agreements & Requests: 4 guidelines to YES!]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series ]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

2 thoughts on “Agreements & Negotiation: Radical Requests Exercise

  1. Pingback: Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics — Uncharted Love

  2. Pingback: Agreements & Requests: 4 guidelines to YES! — Uncharted Love

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