There are three ways to request anything from anyone. All are useful at different times and have different purposes. Learning to communicate from each will improve the likelihood of getting your request honored.

1. Indirect request.

Use an indirect request when you want to give someone an option to help you and participate in satisfying your desire. It is like giving someone an opportunity to earn bonus points with you if they choose to. By virtue of the way the request is made, indirectly, no one is offended if the request is not acted upon.

If they follow through on your request, then they, the requested, has an opportunity to feel all of your good graces and appreciation that come from their own generosity. If they don’t, no problem, cause the request was indirect and no feelings would be hurt.

An indirect request is a stated desire minus any expectant agenda.  It goes something like this. “I sure am thirsty.” or “It would be nice to have a ride to work.”,  or “I will be happy when the sink is working again!” These are all desires with no expectant agenda as to what happens next or when.

The indirect request works best when you are giving people a chance to be altruistic and to win with you. Women often speak in indirect ways and make many indirect requests.  Use this type of request to empower and encourage your partner to do loving exploits on your behalf. However, you must drop all expectancy. Partners can feel agenda and people universally resist another’s unspoken (indirect) agenda’s.

2. Direct Request

“Can you go to the movies with me, tomorrow at 7pm?”;  “Will you pick up the dry cleaning on Wednesday?”; “Are you available to go to dinner sunday at 7:30?”;  “Will you scratch my back for a few minutes?” ; “Can you wait right here, for 5 minutes?” . These are all examples of a direct request.

A direct request is also made without demand and with the knowledge that the other party has a right to say “no” to the request. What makes a request direct is that all of the expectations of the the requested party are stated within the request.  The clarity of the request is where the power of connection lies.

There is no unspoken or hidden agenda in a direct request. In it is the "what, where and when" of your expectations. All is included in the direct request.  A poor direct request will not tell the requested all that is required to meet the request. “Will you do the dishes?” is a poor request and it feels annoying to both the person requesting and receiving the request. It simply feels like nagging. “Will you do the dishes before you leave in the morning?”  is a clean direct reques, what, where and when is included in this request. 

However, remember any request can be answered with a “no” or a "yes".  So if you have an expectation around the dishes you might use an indirect request for best results… “It would be nice to wake up to a clean sink in the morning!” may work better.  Remember any request can be denied by the person being asked.

A direct request is a good way to request help with things that have an expiration date like bills, or the dry cleaning you need for a Friday night party. People are often shocked at the specificity of a direct request, but feel relieved at how easy it is to say “yes” or “no” to a cleanly delivereddirect request.  It is the specific, that makes it easier to give a real “yes” or “no” to the requester.  Believe me this is much better than a half “yes” or “no”. A half hearted yes or no will eventually breed resentment and anger.

Will you help me clean the house? is neither an indirect request nor a good direct request. There is no expiration date on the request. It is too open ended and the person being requested to act can feel obligated, without having the benefits of the time constraints. People have a tendency to feel resentful at requests that can be too time consuming and feel disrespected by requests that seem to have an open ended timeframe.

3. The Combination Request

This request is a direct request that gives the person being requested some of the say in how the request is to be fulfilled. It leaves people with the feeling of collaboration and cooperation with the requester.  A combination request is perfect for creating a team like environment around the requested action.

A combination request goes something like this:  “Would you be available to go the movies on Thursday or saturday?” ;“Can we eat pizza at Joe’s, what time works for you?”;  “Would you be willing to pick up the dry cleaning at Annie’s Cleaners on market, or would it be more convenient to pick up bread and milk from Whole Foods?” ; “Would you like to vacuum the house or clean the bathroom?”.

The combination request has the drawback of being assumptive.  To have choice in the request, the assumption is that the person will be available for one of the spoken choices.  For example “Would you go to the movies with me on Thursday or Saturday?” assumes that one of those days will work for the other party.  A response like “I am not available for a movie on Thursday or Saturday” is a possibility!   Corralling people with assumptive questions can feel a little restrictive and controlling. On the other hand,  giving someone a choice in how a request if fulfilled gives your partner freedom to act and empowering options. We all like having choice and options in our relationships.

Try on all the styles of requests. Just remember that “no” is an acceptable answer.

George Streeter is a Relationship Life Coach

(415 )766-0397