We have been spending some time on exploring the depths of promise.
Today, we take a look at the companion to promise, and that is “request.” Some say that promise and request are the only two “conversations” that generate action in life. Whether this is technically true or not, they certainly are bedrock “speech acts” for generating committed action.
I believe that “request” is the most underutilized conversation for action in our culture today. A simple definition of request is “The expression of desire to some person for something to be done.” (Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). A request creates an opportunity for something to happen. A request invites an act of promise from another.
A powerful request requires four elements:
- The speaker
- The listener
- A set of conditions
- A deadline
It is easy to get involved in responsibilities and then find ourselves outside our depth or over-committed. Or we make a promise and then run into situations where we are not sure how to actually fulfill it.
Here are three examples of how this can play out:
1. For example, I can promise to love and cherish my wife, Katie, but over the thirty-six years we have been married, I have often found that I was not clear on how to accomplish that in the moment. How many times have you run into a situation where you are not only unclear on how to love another, but, at that point in time, you really have no interest in creating an experience of love with them? You would rather make them pay, or ignore them, or make them wrong, or withdraw and sulk? More than likely, we’ve all been there. Request can play a powerful part in reversing that situation into one which includes healthy, effective action.
2. As another example, how many times have you been in a situation where you have responsibilities to be fulfilled and are overwhelmed such that you are very clear you are not going to get them all done? Something is going to bet missed? So, you do the best you can and try to make amends for what didn’t get done.
3. Or, how many times have you taken on a project or commitment and then found that you are out of your depth-you become aware that you are not clear on how to pull it off? So, you saddle up and go after it anyway, and do the best you know how, even though that may not be sufficient to accomplish what you had committed to?
Think of specific situations in your life where this has happened. I know all these things have happened to me multiple times.
What is so fascinating to me is how limited our vision of what’s possible can be in any given moment. We see what we see in terms of what’s possible and really don’t see much of anything beyond that.
Request breaks that all up. In our “self made person” culture, with our individualistic mantra, it is easy to forget that we are in a community with other people with abilities, different perspectives, and often, a desire to collaborate, participate and connect. A request opens the door to tapping all of these resources, quickly and efficiently.
And, most importantly, a request is a celebration of the gift others are in our life. It also is an expression of honest need. It requires we embrace vulnerability, at least to a point. It often requires humility. It requires we recognize the personhood of another-as a potential active participant in whatever we are doing, and as a worthy contributor to us.
So, to apply the resource of request to the above mentioned three scenarios (there are dozens of ways you could use request to advance each one of the three scenarios. I am just suggesting one or two each here.)
1. With my wife, I could actually make requests about understanding what is going on for her…asking her to help me see what I am not seeing. I can ask questions about details regarding whatever she is communicating to me in the moment, essentially requesting she elaborate so I can connect to what is going on for her more effectively. I can make a request for additional feedback from her as to how I am showing up. There are dozens of requests I could make.
2. When overwhelmed, I could make a request for help. I could request someone give me input on how to better handle things or ask them to help with some of the projects.
3. When I am over my head and not sure how to accomplish something, I can ask for help, instruction, advice, feedback and a host of other things.
All these invite someone else to the party. They acknowledge the value the other brings, and require openness to the other’s contribution. They interrupt our often-felt-need to handle it all.
Being an adept at making requests is a game changer when it comes to effective action that produces results. It is part of the secret sauce of most people who make significant impacts in their life.