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How to Make Positive Requests when we Feel like we are Not Understood

active requests for coaching

If you sometimes want to change an aspect of the relationships around you, such as the aggression that a colleague usually addresses to us or the difficulty of understanding what your partner wants to tell us, try using the simple method devised by Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist.

Start by asking yourself how you usually make requests to your interlocutor.

  • Go straight to the point? For example, "You don't have to raise your voice when talking to me."

  • Prevailing yourself ambiguously and you're not sure you explain yourself well? For example, "This situation could be improved", without specifying exactly which situation and how it can be improved in your opinion.

  • Do you focus your request on what you think your interlocutor should stop doing, rather than what he could do differently? For example, “You no longer have to interrupt me when I talk to you.”

Make active requests

Consider the first request considered: "You must not raise your voice when talking to me." What is it that probably prevents its effectiveness? Surely those who receive it can feel trapped in a parent-child relationship. He may feel prevented from acting freely. He can feel judged. In short, the possibility of success of this request is very low.

How then to make effective requests, especially when it seems to us that we are not understood by our interlocutor?

Marshall Rosenberg's model provides 4 simple steps to follow when making a request to the other.

Following the example above, this is how the request "You must not raise your voice when talking to me." can be transformed:

  1. Start by observing what happened: start reporting to your interlocutor what was the objective situation you would like to change, for example by telling him: "Mario, going back to our conversation yesterday, since I noticed that while we were talking you raised a lot the volume of your voice compared to your usual tone,...”; so far, limiting yourself to reporting what happened like a reporter, if you stick to the reality of the facts your interlocutor has no reason to interrupt you or take it personally, because you are reporting an objective fact.

  2. Share your feelings: how did you feel about that episode and what prompts you to make your request now? "... in your usual tone, I confess that on that occasion I felt sad,..."; here too, you are saying how you felt and your interlocutor cannot object to it as what happens inside you belongs only to you and, moreover, you cannot govern your feelings at will either; moreover, by opening up to your interlocutor you will stimulate his empathy because you are talking to him about yourself and this alone deserves his respect; this is also valid at work, an often arid place that leaves little room for the expression of feelings, but the corporate culture is also maturing in this sense and organizations are increasingly realizing the value that more "human" relationships can bring, even in the workplace.

  3. Share your needs: the feeling referred to in can 2 what unsatisfied need did it originate from? In other words, if you have felt pained, the unsatisfied need could be acceptance, community belonging, human warmth, consideration, respect,…; therefore continuing with our positive request, we can continue it like this: "... pained, because I need respect in the relationships that surround me."; here too, by opening up to others, you increase the likelihood of stimulating him the empathy necessary to be understood. Furthermore, speaking of your needs, also in this case you touch on an aspect that cannot be contested by your interlocutor, as your needs fall exclusively on your life and do not concern him; at the same time, by intercepting your need you are also assuming greater awareness of yourself; this aspect may seem trivial but it doesn't happen every day that we ask ourselves why the feelings we experience and the underlying needs.

  4. Move a positive request: only for this can you ask your interlocutor to act differently in order to change the situation that is bothering you; "positive" request means that you ask the other to behave differently, rather than telling him not to do a certain thing anymore (in this case, in fact, you would limit his freedom); you could, therefore, conclude by saying: “...they surround. So I ask you, for the next time, to speak to me in a normal tone of voice.”

Now compare a request like this: “You must not raise your voice when talking to me.” with a request structured as follows: "Mario, going back to our conversation yesterday, since I noticed that while we were talking you raised the volume of your voice a lot compared to your usual tone, I confess that on that occasion I felt pained , because I need respect in the relationships around me. So I ask you, for the next time, to speak to me in a normal tone of voice.”

In the second case, your interlocutor will be less likely to complain because you start with objective facts and continue talking about yourself. By opening up to others, you will stimulate empathy and understanding of him, which will then facilitate the acceptance of your request that you move in the last phase.

Now you just have to try this simple 4-step technique just once, and see if it works, perhaps even integrating it with some good questions typical of coaching that you can ask your interlocutor.

In fact, every big change starts with a small step.

Don't wait, start applying this method today for a request that concerns you.


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