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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

What makes requests so powerful?

"Please show some respect by showing up! You know how much it means to your grandparents!"

"I can't believe you aren't doing what we talked about. How do you think that makes me feel? How do you think it makes the rest of the people in the department feel? We all have our hands full. Get it done or else..."

"You know you never get it right... this time do it the way I told you to. If you would only listen to me the first time..."

These are demands made out of frustration, perhaps underscored by fear.

Notice, in your body, the energy they bring with them - do they feel threatening? As though there is an assumption of poor intent or bad will? As though there isn't enough energy or creativity or willingness to go around?

When a person is hit with a demand, the brain goes into fight or flight - the person might shut down, or slam the door and push back. Doesn't matter whether it is a partner or a business associate or a child or even a pet. They push us further away from solution.

Try these on instead and see how they feel...

"I would love to see you, and I'm sure your grandparents would, as well. When you are ready... "

"We agreed on a deadline for this project - let me know if you hit a bump, otherwise I'll assume you've got it covered."

"You and I see different solutions for this problem, let me know if you would like to talk about it."

These are requests and perhaps you can feel, viscerally, that they are coming from an entirely different place. They feel open and spacious and assume best intent.

When a person is invited in with a request, their brains move into tend and befriend mode. They soften and move towards.

What's the difference? And why does it matter - in parenting, in relationships, in families, at work?

It's not about the tone of voice (though that is helpful); it is about something deeper...

Consider what makes a request, vs a demand, so powerful...

  • Demands are attached to a specific outcome;

  • Demands use shame or emotional manipulation to coerce;

  • Demands are made to meet the needs of the person issuing the demand;

  • Demands disconnect people;

  • Demands give away power "You are in charge of my needs being met."

  • Requests are made recognizing there are multiple solutions;

  • Requests are made with awareness of mutuality;

  • Requests connect people;

  • Requests support power for both parties "I am in charge of my needs being met, and I trust you to be in charge of your own needs being met."

Spacious thinking feels much better. Notice.

As always, actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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