Enjoy Improved Relationships by Using Nonviolent Communication, Part VI

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This is part six in my series on Nonviolent Communication.  You can find parts one, two, three, four, and five here.

Today we'll be focusing on the fourth stage of the NVC process, which is how to make requests that are gifts, not demands.   

Remember to always begin this process with expressing your feelings and the needs behind them, rather than jumping the gun and asking specific people to take a specific action (which would be a request, even though it's often misunderstood to be a need).  One example of a way this mistake can be made is by asking a question like, "Why don't you get your hair cut?" instead of, "I'm worried that your hair being in your eyes will keep you from seeing clearly, and I have a need for your safety.  Would you consider getting it cut?"

The reason we want to make our request a gift is because then the action that results from it will come from a place of compassion (people want to help others), rather than guilt or force. 

To make a request, first be clear

Use positive action language 

  • Say what you DO want and not what you DON'T want. "Put your clothes away." vs. "Don't leave your clothes on the floor."
  • Express your need and then use positive language to describe how others can meet your need.  
  • Do this even for yourself - focus on the behavior you want to express. 
Provide concrete actions others can take  

  • Put your request into precise (not vague or abstract) language.  "Please put your dishes in the dishwasher when you're done eating." vs. "I want help cleaning up from dinner." 
  • People often use vague and abstract wording for impossible requests (they want others to do whatever they want and be happy doing it).  
  • Often we talk to or at others, instead of making our point clear.  Take for example the request of "I'm thirsty."  Does this mean you want someone in particular to get you a drink, or are you just sharing?  What's the point?

How to express a request and not a demand

Make sure your message was heard correctly
  • Usually, you can rely on verbal cues for this.  (Ask the other person, "Is that clear?") 
  • Other times, it's better for them to restate what you said in their own words.
    • Be careful how you correct people when they reflect back what they heard!
    • If they didn't get it right, say something like "I'm grateful to you for telling me what you heard, but I can see I didn't make myself clear enough, so let me try again."

Make sure your objective is for the other person to fulfill your request willingly
  •  If your objective is just to get people to do what you want, it's a demand.  This is demonstrated by how you act towards them if they don't do what you're asking.  If people feel punished, rejected, guilt or shame if they say no, then you have made a demand and not a request.
  • If you treat people okay even if they don't do what you're asking, then it's a genuine request.  This idea of allowing someone to choose to meet your need by presenting a request reminds me of how God gives us free will - he would rather have us choose to love him, as opposed to being automatons that are just programmed to love him.  
  • Keep a check on your motives by asking for an honest reaction to your request ("How do you feel after I shared this request?")
Use language that shows you are considering the needs of the other person
  • "Would you be willing to..."
  • "How can I let you know what I need without it sounding like a demand?"
  • Avoid "demand" words like should, supposed to, deserve, justified, right to (this applies to the thoughts you have in your head when making your request, as well as the words you actually speak out loud.)
What's next in this series?   You'll find out how to show empathy to yourself and others, while taking responsibility only for your own feelings.

NVC concepts can make such a difference in how you view yourself and others.  Feel free to ask any questions regarding NVC you might have in the comments - and don't forget to sign up to receive Syncopated Mama blog updates by email, so you don't miss a single installment of this series!

Resources I've used to learn about NVC

Keep reading!  Find Part 7 of my NVC series here!

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