April 19 - Making Requests

A few years ago I attended a leadership development conference... I was there in two roles…one as a coach to the community and, two, as a participant so that I could continue to develop and grow myself. This particular day was more about growth and development for me than coaching others...this was a day for me to learn about the importance of making requests.

I was excited getting up that morning. The local paper was printing an article about eClubSoda, and the interview was scheduled to appear. When I went into the bathroom, there it was, right where my husband had placed it on my dressing table…wide open so that my picture was on the top! I sat down immediately and began to read...and my excitement soon turned into disbelief. There were sentences in front of me with quotes around them that I never, ever would have said. I feel certain that they did not intentionally misquote me, but unfortunately what they heard was very different from what I intended to say. And what they heard, of course, is what made it into print.

Then, to make matters even more “interesting,” our Webmaster decided that this day would be a good day to change our web hosting company because we had been having quite a few problems with the one we had been using. So on the day that this newspaper article appeared in the paper giving our web address, our website was blank. We even got calls from prospective interested parties who had read the newspaper article telling us they had tried to get on it and it was not responding. Imagine how we must have felt!

As I discussed these events at the conference, the facilitator listened intently and then responded with something like, “I think this is a case of your needing to learn how to make clearer requests.”

I have such respect for her opinion that I decided to really think about that possibility, even though I could not see it at first. She had asked me if I had requested the opportunity to review the newspaper article before it was published, and I realized that it had never even crossed my mind. And when I had spoken to the Webmaster, he had thought I had given him permission to pull the plug on the host company. Neither of us had truly made any requests of the other. And the rest is history!

And isn’t that how we learn, from history? That is the upside of making mistakes or not knowing...the consequences help us remember; they help us to learn that which we had not known before.

I now realize that it has never been easy for me to make requests. I never was rewarded for it as a child and, in fact, there were many painful consequences that occurred whenever I dared to make one. I was often told that I was not grateful for what I had…that I wanted too much…that I was being disrespectful. Occasionally, I even got my mouth washed out with soap. Each one of those consequences lives in my unconscious mind and tries to stand in my way of learning how to make requests today.

Now, as a result of this latest experience, instead of being afraid to ask the questions, I would be afraid to not ask the questions. I have seen the possible harm that can come from staying silent, and, in my opinion, it is no longer worth the risk. As a result of my not having asked the questions, I am concerned that the inaccuracies in the newspaper article might communicate something that would actually keep someone away. The website being down might also be a problem because calling our office might feel like too big of a commitment for individuals just beginning to contemplate the possibility of asking for help, yet visiting a website might feel safe and private enough for them to do so. And once they arrived at the website, they might then recognize new possibilities for their own lives and ultimately feel safe to express themselves more fully.

These are life-altering consequences, and I will remember them the next time I am afraid of how I will look if I were to ask the wrong question. And as a result, I know in my heart I will find the courage to ask the difficult questions…as long as I remember the consequences that I experienced in this circumstance. These are the gifts in being curious about our responsibility for what we have experienced in our lives rather than blaming others for what has occurred.

Are there any requests that you are reluctant to make? What are you afraid might happen if you did make the requests? Do you know what the consequences of not making them are? What do you feel like as long as you remain silent? How do you imagine you would feel if you spoke up for your needs? What would it be like to claim responsibility for how you experience your life?

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