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3 Steps to a Fulfilled Request

communication couples therapy dr. megan rhoads marriage partner partnership relationship request Mar 10, 2022

We’ve all been there - Partner does something that gets on our last nerve, and we react with the timeless response, “How many times do I have to ask you to _____?” Although we know that’s not necessarily the most sure-fire way to get what we want, we may find ourselves exasperated for a solution.

That’s at least where I’ve found myself at times, and where my patients reportedly find themselves quite often. But what if I told you that you could increase, two-fold, your chances of Partner following through on that request…just by following 3 easy steps?

I present to you: The ALC Communication Model

It’s pretty simple, really! You explain what is going on for you, name the request, and sweeten the deal. These steps help your partner (or child, or friend), understand where you’re coming from in a non-confrontational way, gives them a clear expectation, and motivates them to acquiesce to your request.

Below, the steps are spelled out in more detail. Feedback on this exercise I have received from patients that it feels “mechanical” at first, but once folks get used to including the elements, they make this model their own and it works wonders!

The 3 Steps to Making a Sure-Fire Request

1. Express what is going on for you - in a way that is not blaming, defensive, or provoking

  • name the provocative event as observable facts. For example, instead of stating, “When you came home with a bad mood”, try stating, “When you slammed the door and went to the bedroom upon returning home from work…”
  • name the emotion (only pick 1 or 2) that you felt. ONLY use words that are actual emotions! For example, instead of saying, “I felt like you were being unreasonable”, try saying, “I felt hurt and annoyed…” Hint: ask yourself how you feel when you perceive your partner is being unreasonable
  • State the thought that explains why you felt that way. This actually is often what we perceive to be the emotion, but it is really what we thought. For example, rather than stating, “I felt like you were being unreasonable,” try stating, “The meaning I made of your reaction was that it was over-the-top and unreasonable”

2. Make a clear request - that is time sensitive, measurable, and doable

  • It is tempting to make a vague request like, “be more respectful”, “give me more attention”, or my favorite, “just don’t do that anymore”
  • Aim for something that asks for an action TO happen, rather than NOT to happen. What would you prefer your partner do?
  • Here’s an example for the above scenario: “My request is that, when you come home, you shut the door quietly, even if you feel mad or upset”

3. Sweeten the deal - try to guess what your partner may be needing in this situation, and what you can do to make fulfilling the request more desirable

  • You can ask your partner what would be helpful, but it may be more effective to understand how their behavior may be expressing an unmet need
  • For the example above, maybe your parter is rightfully angry about something that happened during the day, or angry at you, but does not know how to say that to you
  • A good guess would be that they need space upon coming home, but also want you to have a “head’s up” on the status of their mood
  • Here is the request again, followed by the “commitment”, or what you can do to sweeten the deal: “My request is that you shut the door quietly when you come home, regardless of how you feel. I commit to giving you a few minutes of space at that time, before we talk about what happened.” 

This is just an example, of course, and your partner (or whomever the listener may be) may need a different approach, depending on your relationship and the situation. However, I would argue that this model can be used to get across the main points and communicate in a non-threatening, yet clear manner.

I also want to note that the PDF includes other sections in which the expressor takes another step, which is “owning”. This is where you own the lens through which you are viewing the situation. If you think it will help in your partner hearing you out, by all means, use it! 

There is also a section in the handout where you practice being the listener. You are mostly trying to figure out what is going on inside the expressor, without distracting, defending, deflecting, turning the tables, etc. You are playing the part of the “curious detective” and ONLY trying to understand what they are communicating.

Access the PDF here!