Tip #317: Nonviolent Communication #8: What We Request of Others

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“Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.” Shakti Gawain

In this Tip, we will begin to discuss the fourth component of NVC, which addresses what we would like to request of others. According to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg in Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, “When our needs are not being fulfilled, we follow the expression of what we are observing, feeling, and needing with a specific request: we ask for actions that might fulfill our needs.”

NVC requests are clear, positive, and action oriented.

Clear positive language is important when making requests. Using negative language to tell people what we don’t want can have two major drawbacks. First, they may know what we don’t want but have difficulty identifying what we do want. Second, negative requests are frequently met with resistance because they sound critical of the other person.

NVC requests involve specific concrete actions that others can actually take, rather than vague generalities. If we merely express our feelings, the listener may not have a clear idea what we want that person to do. However, if we state our feelings and needs along with our request, it is more likely to accomplish our desired purpose.
The problem is that we often speak words without any conscious awareness of what we really want.

Dr. Rosenberg believes that “whenever we say something to another person, we are requesting something in return.” It might be empathy and acknowledgment, an honest reaction, or a specific action.

If we want our needs to be met, we have to be very clear about what we want from the other person. We also need to check to make sure that our message is received as it was intended, which requires us to ask for specific feedback.

As anyone who has taught or practiced active listening knows, people can get annoyed, irritated, or even angry when you ask them to repeat back to you what you have just said. So this step has to be handled with tact and diplomacy, stressing that we want to make sure that we have expressed ourselves clearly, rather than if the other person is paying attention.

In the next Tip, we will continue our discussion of the fourth component of NVC by looking at the three possible responses we want when we make a request and how to make a request so it is not perceived as a demand.

May your learning be sweet.

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