How to ask for what you want and get it. It's fast, it's simple, and it works!
It is truly amazing that, in a world full of words, we are baffled by communication problems in our homes. But here is one skill you can
learn and use today that will solve your communication issues: “The Direct Request Method.” Negotiating for what we want is a thoroughly learnable skill, and with practice your family will see fast results. See how this family solved its communication problem in one evening.
Rachel arrived home that night after an exhausting week at work. The commute had been horrible, as usual, and listening to the news was infuriating.
“This life is so not worth it,” she thought, as she parked her three year old Honda with its stack full of kiddy trash on the floor in the back seat and grime on the rear windshield.
“I hate my life,” she thought as she switched off the ignition at the exact moment the signal that the fuel tank was low came on.
Rachel walked in to her kitchen and switched on the light.
“Anybody home?” she yelled, though she knew they were because her husband’s car was in the driveway.
“Mommy, Mommy!” she heard excited shouts from the family room, and her small children ran in and jumped on her like puppies.
When her husband, Jack, rambled in, she said, “I can’t believe you didn’t wash the dishes.”
Jack shot her a look and walked out.
Sound achingly familiar?
Improve your communication today. Try the Direct Request Method. It goes like this:
Start by communicating the request with “Would you please…”
Wording is critical; it is a polite, respectful request, not a directive or command, or an “I need you to…”
Ask for an observable behavior change:
Know and communicate what you want (this is the hardest part).
Use a SMART goal format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) to make sure you are being clear in your communication.
Communicate clearly. Don’t ask for abstract concepts (such as “…be more respectful to me in front of the children.” What does that even mean??)
Don’t explain "why" in your communication – the assumption is that everyone here is a sane and rational human being.
The person receiving the request has three possible responses to communicate:
No, but they have to give a counter offer (just saying “no” is called stonewalling and will not be good for building connection.
Ask a clarifying question.
Hint: “Why are you always such an a**hole?” is not a clarifying question.
That’s it. Easy, right? No.
Simple, yes, easy, no.
Let’s go back to Rachel and Jack and the kiddos.
Rachel still hates her life and her car is still low on gas. AND the dishes are still in the sink, even though she has told Jack a thousand times that she hates walking into a “filthy kitchen” when she gets home from work.
Listen to this negotiation:
Rachel: “Hi, honey, I’m beat.”
Jack: “Me, too.”
Rachel: “Would you please wash the dishes now while I go up and change?”
Jack: I was in the middle of something else. Can I do it in ten minutes? [This is “no” with a counteroffer.]
Yes, I’m serious, that’s the end. What could have been a twenty minute tirade and a ruined evening and children crying is nothing. I’ve seen decades long arguments dissolve just that quickly. Try it the next time you want something. It works with partners, colleagues, and children. Seriously!