#9 Step 4 (Part 1) – Putting It All Together (Connection Requests)
So far we’ve focused first on external reality – what we’ve seen or heard in the external world, and then how we’re experiencing that, internally, via our feelings and needs.
All of the steps so far work towards our taking responsibility for our experience and sharing what matters free of judgment, demand, guilt or blame. Here are the steps we’ve done so far, put together:
“I’m thinking about what I heard you say yesterday—that you don’t want to go to the Bahamas after all” (OBSERVATION) “and I’m really disappointed and confused”… (FEELINGS). “I’m wanting to trust agreements we make, and that time with me matters to you too.” (NEEDS).
These three steps are powerful, but without making a request, our listener is left hanging.
Marshall Rosenberg, the psychologist who developed the bones of the model I’m sharing with you, often said that hearing someone’s feelings and needs without hearing a request is a form of hell. Why? Because hearing about someone’s feelings and needs is compelling. When someone is in need, we want to help! If we leave out the request, our listener has to do the detective work of figuring out what we might actually want. Or it could sound like complaining. Ultimately, it is our responsibility, not theirs, to see how our needs can be met. And it’s up to us to think that through, and ask for their support in meeting our needs.
There are two kinds of requests I’m going to suggest to you:
- Connection Requests
- Strategy Requests (Clear/Concrete, Positive, and Do-able- or “CPD” requests)
In the rest of this lesson, we’re going to focus on connection requests.
So often we want to jump ahead to a particular strategy. (This is what I heard you say, I’m feeling____, and wanting _____ (need), and so I want you to do X.) But when we move that quickly, we often lose our audience. They’re with us when we share the observation, and how we’re feeling and what we’re needing. But when we go too quickly into a strategy, then they can sometimes see us as a bully or pushing an agenda, and they might push back in response. No one likes being coerced.
You also will find better solutions usually, and get the other person’s buy in and engagement, and accountability, when you co-create. This is what connection requests are all about.
The most basic connection request is to ask, “I wonder how you feel, hearing this?”
Note that sometimes you will not get an actual feeling when you ask this question. You may get an opinion back, or simply some kind of approval or disapproval. Regardless of how the person responds, you are getting valuable information. If they say, for example, “Wow, I didn’t know you were seeing it that way!” or “I’m so sorry!” then you know there is some openness and receptivity. If they push back in some way – “What do you mean you’re frustrated – you’ve cancelled on dinner plans three times this month yourself!” that’s helpful too. At least you know where you stand, and what might make sense as a next step in your dialogue.
If someone does push back, it can be helpful to pause and check in about their feelings and needs. Once they are heard about their experience, they are far more likely to have space to hear you. This can take several rounds, depending on how much they have to say. After hearing them, it can be helpful to make another connection request, checking in by asking, for example, “Did I get it all? Is there anything else you want to add?”
Once the person has been heard, or if the person does show openness to your concerns and you’re confident that they’ve heard you, then you can move on to a strategy. Actually, that step usually organically happens. Once both parties have been heard, it’s natural to want to explore solutions. But to get there, making connection requests is key. A connection request is all about completing the loop. It’s a way to see how the other person is feeling and seeing things, and making sure you’ve made yourself clear and been heard.
Here are some sample connection requests you might want to try making the next time you’re sharing something important to you:
* How do you feel hearing this?
* Does that make sense?
* I wonder if you can understand why I might be feeling this way?
*I’m not sure if I explained this clearly or not, so am wondering: What did you hear me say? Could you give me a headline back, to make sure we’re on the same page?
In the next day, try making a connection request when speaking with someone. Then note: how does it make a difference in creating understanding and connection?