Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

What are requests?

Requests are an invitation to support our needs. After we have shared our observations, feelings and needs, we ask for what we imagine would meet our needs. Hearing feelings and needs without hearing requests is like living in hell. Hearing feelings, needs and a request empowers us to create heaven, because we understand how to contribute to the other person’s needs.

Danny Shanahan, New Yorker cartoonRequests are SMART


We use specific language to ask for what we want, and avoid vague, abstract language. Instead of asking “I want you to be interested”, ask “Could you spend 30 minutes before 5:00 pm today listening to me and reflecting back what you heard me say?”


In the above example, we can check if our friend listened 30 minutes and reflected back what they heard us say.

If our request is specific and measurable, it helps us, because:

  • We know when our request is fulfilled or not fulfilled.
  • If it is fulfilled, we can express appreciation for the contribution the other person made.
  • If it is not fulfilled, we can ask the other person what stops them from fulfilling our request and engage in a collaborative dialogue to support their needs too.
  • It allows the other person to check if they can say ‘yes’: do I have half an hour available before 5:00 pm?


Ask a ‘do’, not a ‘don’t’. If I want to book a holiday for my friend and all she says is: “Not Syria”, would she be happy if I book a holiday to the slums of South Africa or organize a bike ride through the Netherlands? It is very hard to do a don’t.

Our request won’t work either if we know in advance it is hardly doable for the other person. Don’t ask me to listen to you for 10 hours. It will leave me exhausted. Ask for what is within my influence and capacity: an hour of solid empathy is probably doable.


When we connect to our feelings and needs, before we make a request, we increase the likelihood that we ask for something that is important to us.

Time oriented:

If we specify when we want our request to be fulfilled, we avoid the stress of not knowing when something will happen. A time specification gets us on the same time frame and helps both of us understand what we are saying ‘yes’ to. If I ask you to review my paper, and I don’t tell you when, you might get confused because you don’t know my sense of urgency and I might get stressed because I don’t understand why it takes so long (or surprised that it takes so short!).

SMART Requests help all parties to contribute to life and needs being fulfilled. Try it yourself!

You want help to make SMART requests? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.

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