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Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE Daring Doctors



Want Results? Make Requests, Not Demands

by Philippa Kennealy, MD, MPH, CPCC, Coaching Associate with www.PhysicianLeadership.com

As a coach, my job is to make many requests from my clients; it's what they want from me and it's how we create accountability in our partnership. Making a request, however, is not at like making a demand.  I have learned that making requests is a true skill, so here are some solid tips I can share to help you shape the process, and the outcome, of your request.

The Difference Between a Demand and Request

How do you know when someone is demanding something from you, rather than requesting?  Start by picturing the following scenarios:

  • What happens to your listening skills when your employee whines? 

  • How much attention are you really willing to give a demanding patient?  

  • And how annoyed are you when your partner fails to follow through, when you assumed he or she would?

Unlike a demand, a well-made request has a simple elegance to it. It states your desire, it doesn't sink under the weight of justifications, and it creates enough space for negotiation. Anything else is whining, hard to figure out, apologetic, or a demand!

Compare these two statements made to you:

  • "I need you to finish this project by this evening, because, if you don't, I will be in hot water with my boss, and then I'll have to sit and listen to him chew me out, and then you'll have to come in early tomorrow..". 

  • "Will you please get this project done by the time you leave this evening?"

Which statement would YOU welcome?

With the second statement it becomes clear what you need and by when, there are no extraneous justifications or apologies to annoy the person you are addressing, and he or she can respond "Yes", or "No", or propose a counteroffer. It is the ability to have this room for negotiation that separates a request from a demand

A demand is a requirement that leaves no room for negotiation. And, if indeed, you are demanding something, you need to make that obvious. "Will you put on your seatbelt please? I won't begin driving until you have it on" is a clear, polite command for action.

Making a Skillful Request

Here is the process of making a skillful request is:

1. Be clear in your own mind what you need or want.

2. Start with: "Will you please .....?" and keep it short and simple!

3. Be sure that there is room for the respondent to negotiate with you. If not, let the person know this is a demand - it's non-negotiable!

4. Don't whine, make convoluted excuses or apologies for asking, or assume that the respondent can read your mind.

And the outcome possibilities are: 

1. The respondent says "Yes, sure!"

2. The respondent says "No way!"

3. The respondent says "I can't do that, but how would it be if I ...?"

Using these guidelines, you'll be amazed how much easier it is to get what you want, and to avoid misunderstandings or assumptions.

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC, President of Oya Consulting, is an Executive and Personal Coach who helps her healthcare executive and professional clients express their full potential as organizational or business leaders and individuals. She can be reached at pkennealy@oyaconsulting.com

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   2006 Ki Health, Inc.