Requests are SMART (3/3)

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.

Requests are not demands (2/3)

“We demonstrate that we are making a request rather than a demand by how we respond when others don’t comply. If we are prepared to show an empathic understanding of what prevents someone from doing what we asked, then by my definition, we have made a request, not a demand.” (Rosenberg, M, Nonviolent Communication, A Language Of Life, 2003, p. 80-81)

What are requests?

Requests are not about getting what we want. Requests are a suggestion of a specific strategy that supports an unmet need or needs. A request is an invitation to a dialogue that intends to meet all needs, not just our own. They are the cherry on the NVC-cake. Hearing feelings, needs and a request empowers us to respond effectively in a way that requires no compromise. Requests are about building an understanding relationship based in trust and a willingness (maybe even enthusiasm) to see and support all needs. And because we have an excitement to include their needs, we are willing to hear a ‘no’ to our request. Any ‘no’ is a wonderful opportunity to empathize with the needs behind the ‘no’.

Image courtesy Amy Luwis,

Requests versus demands

Sometimes we think we are making a request, when we actually are making a demand. How do we know we made a demand? By how we feel and think after we hear ‘no’. If we feel dejected, angry, disappointed, sad, we probably have made a demand. If we receive the “no” as a personal rejection, it’s probably a demand. If we interpret the “no” as an expression that we don’t matter, or as an insult, hum, yes, most likely a demand.

There is nothing wrong with demands.

It is part of our human fabric to want a ‘yes’. If we didn’t care about the answer, we probably wouldn’t have asked in the first place.

The trick is to recognize the feelings and thoughts when we hear ‘no’. When these feelings arise, our lesson is to know that we can shift our view of the other person: they are not an adversary or an opponent, they are a collaborator who can make life more wonderful!  We can shift from separation to collaboration.

To support this shift we can empathize with the ‘no’. We can ask: “Which needs are not met if you said ‘yes’?” Or we can make a guess: “Do you think this request would limit your autonomy?” “Do you want to be heard about your ideas?” When we empathize with the ‘no’ we expand our awareness of all needs. With a deeper understanding of what’s alive behind the ‘no’, we will be more successful in finding strategies that support all needs. We make decisions that are not only more inclusive, they are also more sustainable: all parties are enthusiastic to uphold our agreement because they had a voice in the design of it.

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

Requests are about building relationship, always

What are requests?

Requests are not about getting what we want, requests are an invitation to support our needs. After we share our observation, feelings, and needs, we tell the other person what we think might meet our needs. It could simply be “Could you reflect back what you heard me say?” when our main need is understanding. Or: “I wonder how this lands for you?”, when we want to connect. Or: “Are you willing to do the dishes before 8:00 pm tonight?”, if you want to include needs for support and rest.

Requests are the cherry on the NVC-cake. Hearing feelings and needs without hearing requests “is like living in hell.” Hearing feelings, needs and a request empowers us to respond effectively in a way that honors other’s needs and our own needs too.

Relationship, relationship, relationship

Requests are about building a relationship that is built in understanding, trust, and a willingness (maybe even enthusiasm) to support all needs on the table: mine and ours. We want to create a world of and-and, and get off the either/or wagon. We share our observation, feelings, and needs to help the other person understand where we are coming from and find merit in our perspective. Our request is an invitation to the other person to brainstorm strategies that support all needs: theirs and ours. And because we have an excitement to include their needs, we are willing to hear a ‘no’ to our request. A ‘no’ is just a wonderful opportunity to get to know the other person better and understand the needs behind their ‘no’.

A simple question

This can help: “If that doesn’t work for you, what can you imagine would work better for you, that would include my needs too?” For example: “I am noticing we are six days away before my brother arrives (observation). I feel overwhelmed and scared (feelings) when I think of all the cleaning I think needs to be done before he arrives (thought, impacting feeling). I have a need for support (need). Are you willing to vacuum clean the rooms before Tuesday 2:00 pm? And if that doesn’t work for you, what can you imagine would work better for you, that would include my needs too?” We engage the other person in finding strategies that support all needs, because we acknowledge both of us are in this relationship.

“The NVC process is designed for those of us who would like others to change and respond, but only if they choose so willingly and compassionately. The objective of NVC is to establish a relationship based on honesty and empathy. When others trust that our primary commitment is to the quality of the relationship, and that we expect this process to fulfill everyone’s needs, then they can trust that our requests are true requests and not camouflaged demands.” (Rosenberg, M, Nonviolent Communication, A Language Of Life, 2003, p. 81)

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

Do the request dance

What does this guy want from you? He tells you all this stuff about what he saw and heard, how he felt, and what he wants: belonging. Great. Now what?! He wants you to drag him along to all your friends and social events? He wants you to tell him what a great guy he is? He wants you to set him up for a blind date?

Ever felt lost when someone tells you their feelings and needs? Ever had a sense of ‘what do I have to do about that?’

Nonviolent Communication is a great help to empathize with requests, especially the ones that aren’t made. “Hey, are you asking if you can come for lunch with me and my friends?” (after maybe a silence, a moment of self-connection, and acceptance that that is actually what he was asking) “Yes, I would like that.”

Astaire-Hayworth-dancing, Image courtesy to WikipediaThis is the first step in the request dance. Now that you heard what he wants, you check in with yourself to see which needs would be met and unmet if you say ‘yes’ to this request. You realize that you wanted to work on a project with your friends during lunch. Having this guy come along might interfere with that. On the other hand, you get that he doesn’t want to eat alone. You wouldn’t like that either, if you were new to town. So, on the one hand you have needs for collaboration and forward movement, on the other hand, you have needs inclusion and support for his sense of belonging. So what might work for all the needs on the table?

If you can come up with that, you took the second step in the request dance. It is your ‘yes, and’-moment, the skill of building on each other’s ideas. “How about this: you come along with us for lunch, and let us work on this project for the first ten minutes, then we talk about whatever comes up?” “Sure, I might even be able to pitch in some ideas, I have been a project manager for seven years.” “Cool, let’s go.”

He might also have a ‘yes, and-moment’, building on your suggestion: “What about I make two phone calls, while you guys work on your project, then I join for the remainder of the lunch.” Third step. You can take as many steps as you want, till you feel satisfied with your result in the relationship.

Tedious? Maybe. Efficient and sustainable? Yes. 95% Guarantee that you’ll come up with solutions that address all the needs, increase a sense of understanding, and deepen your relationship.

You want help to take the first steps in the request dance? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

Offering your request with Santa-Claus energy

When I first started my vegan diet, back in 2008, I felt self-conscious and even a bit embarrassed by my vegan choice. I thought I was too much of a burden for others, and if not, certainly a weirdo. someone from another planet. Whenever I asked for support, I carried some shame in my request, and even the mildest “No, so sorry, gosh, I wished I knew how to make you vegan food” confirmed my belief that there was something wrong with me wanting what I asked for. I was more or less convinced that I was not worth the trouble to accommodate my wishes. I tried to escape situations where I needed to speak up for my truth, so I would not feel the pain of my own lack of self-acceptance.

Reading The World Peace Diet transformed my fear of rejection and disconnect. The more I read about the horrors animals face as food commodities, the more joyfully I embraced my vegan preferences. In no way did I want to contribute to suffering, if the alternatives were so easy.

Image courtesy Creative CommonsI changed from a self-conscious mumbling “Do you have vegan food?” into an enthusiastic, happy vegan. The level of self-acceptance changed the way I make requests. I am so excited about my choice, that I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to accommodate me. I offer my request with Santa-Claus energy: “Ho Ho Ho, hi there! I am so excited about my vegan diet! I am happy I don’t eat meat, fish, birds, eggs, milk, cheese, or any other animal product. I love veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains and beans. This chicken salad looks yummy. I wonder if you can make me one without the chicken, or the sauce, and give me an extra doses of avocado and sesame seeds instead?” And yes, for sure, they come back with the most beautiful dish on the table in a restaurant that hardly even has vegetarian food.

When you offer your request with Santa-Claus energy, as an unique opportunity to make your life more wonderful, a gift for them to contribute, you’ll probably get all the collaboration and support you want. Try it out. And if you need help to let go of your shame and embarrassment: contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

I want to matter to myself

I want to ask for a raise. I don’t receive my pay check as appreciation for the value I add. I think my empathy and mediation skills are unique and contribute to the emotional, social, and academic development of my clients. I empower them to be autonomous, authentic, and responsible. I teach them to include all needs and figure out strategies that work for everyone. I want to be seen and appreciated for these qualities.

I talk with my empathy buddy about this. I tell him I should earn more, that I deserve it with the level of commitment I have for my clients.


I just read in Nonviolent Communication that ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ language conveys that a request is actually a camouflaged demand.

I fall silent. I check in with myself. I am making a demand. I am so scared I will hear a ‘no’ that I am using force to get a ‘yes’. I’m too afraid to hear the ‘no’ as proof that I don’t matter, that my employer doesn’t care about my needs.

“Mattering to whom?” my buddy asks. Duh. To my employer, of course! I need to know that I matter to them.

Then I fall silent again… Or is it mattering to myself? Am I afraid that I will walk out on myself, as soon as I hear a ‘no’? Am I scared that I will give up on myself and my needs to accommodate the relationship?

Image courtesy to

Silence… Yes… That’s it… And I realize that if I matter to myself, I would use this request as an opportunity to express what’s alive in me, what my inner experience is. Not to get what I want (NVC is never a good tool for that purpose), but to be known for who I am and what I need. To create a relationship that’s based on honesty and empathy.

And all of a sudden I realize that this conversation is actually a chance to support the inner child in myself. The little, stuttering child who so often thought she didn’t matter, that no one cared what was going on within her. Who was too scared to speak up, because she feared disconnection. This is the time to invite the adult within me to squat next to her and encourage her to speak, to help her find the words. This is not about a salary raise, this is about healing. Learning to ask for what I want, in a way that conveys to myself that I matter. That’s all that matters.


You want help to matter to yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.

Can advice be true empathy?

Something is jammed in my neck. It is stiff and painful. I can turn it -carefully- to the left and right. I can bend it forward. I can hardly bend it backward. Drinking my tea is a challenge.

Image courtesy to Flickr
Image courtesy to Flickr

I tell my husband about it. He immediately comes up with advice: take a ten minutes very hot shower, roll your back, let me give you an ortho bionomy  treatment.

I love it. I love all his advice and faithfully follow up on all his suggestions.

Sometimes advice is much better than just empathy.

Marshall Rosenberg defines empathy as the ‘respectful understanding of what others are experiencing’. It is the slowing down to really get what it’s like to be the other person, to see their world through their eyes, to imagine walking in their shoes.

My husband could have responded with guessing my feelings and needs, our usual form of empathy. ‘I hear you’re in pain. Are you confused what happened? Are you worried about your neck? Are you scared you have a herniated disk and your insurance won’t pay for treatment? You want health, reassurance, physical safety?’ What if he had walked away, after I affirmed that he got it?

I would have felt sad, lonely, confused, maybe even frustrated that I didn’t get the support I so desperately wanted.

For me, true empathy always leads to the opening of the heart and a natural longing to relieve suffering and to contribute to life. For me, true empathy is not only guessing feelings and needs, it is also guessing the implicit, unspoken request hidden in what’s being shared. For me, true empathy leads to an openhearted curiosity to figure out how to support the other person’s needs and honoring your own. My husband got that without many words. He acted on it right away with his advice and offer for treatment.

Sometimes, advice is the natural result of true empathy. And more than welcome.

Thank you, David, my neck is much better and my trust that I can heal much increased.


You want help to empathize with implicit requests? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.


The need behind the no

You want to ask for a raise. You have been working in this job for several years, and you know you add value. You want appreciation for the unique qualities you bring to your clients, you want acknowledgment for the results you’ve created, and you want support for your financial sustainability.

You feel anxious even thinking about it. You feel scared they’ll say ‘no’. You feel afraid you won’t get support for your needs, because they don’t really care about you. You ask, they say ‘no’, and that’s it. Done and finished. Thank you so much, and goodbye.

Gosh, asking certainly has been a challenge for me. I often skipped the asking part, went straight into demands or into disconnection, too afraid to hear ‘no’.

In the Mediate Your Life retreat we did a very helpful exercise: ‘the need behind the no’. You express your feelings and needs and make a present-tense, action-oriented, positive-language request. Your practice partner says ‘no’. If you are triggered, you can move to the mediator chair and do a self-connection practice. As soon as you are calmer, you ask your partner which needs would be unfulfilled if they would say ‘yes’. And then you invite them to think of something that would support those needs and your needs.

To you it probably sounds as simple as 1+1=2. For me it was an eye-opener. Invite your partner to work with you on finding strategies that work for everyone. Not just for them, not just for you, but for everyone. Make it a collaborative effort, a mutual partnership to nurture all underlying, human needs. What a shift from thinking that I alone was responsible for figuring it out. What a change from thinking that it was either/or.

Let’s apply this insight right away. With you.

When I imagine you’re reading this blog, I feel tender, shy and happy, as my needs for appreciation, connection and to be known for my work are being met. My request is that you sign up as a follower of my blog to nourish these needs. If you have already done so, I ask you to share my blog with someone else. If you say ‘no’ to my request, which needs do you think would be unmet by saying ‘yes’? And what do you think would work better to support both our needs?

I would love to read/hear your response! (And I want to acknowledge how tender I feel just asking. I imagine I am not the only one who feels vulnerable when asking. There is a rawness of the open heart when we share what we truly want.)


You want to learn to work with the need behind the ‘no’? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be humble to work with you.

Day 9 My Journey into Wholeheartedness

Yep, I changed the name.  Rejection doesn’t ring true to me.  I don’t believe there is something like rejection, just someone who says ‘no’ to what we ask.  And it hurts, because we think it is about our worth.  We think we are not worthy enough, that we don’t matter enough to receive a ‘yes’.  That’s a misconception.  Our worth has nothing to do with it.  It is just someone whose needs are not met by our request.  That’s all.  We can  find another request that works better for them, or we find another way to get what we want.

And that’s where wholeheartedness kicks in.  I commit myself to have the courage to stand up for my truth, to express myself authentically and to ask for what I truly, truly want.  I honor my own vulnerability and chose to live a life based on my values and dreams, not my fears.

That’s my journey into wholeheartedness.