The seventh post in a series exploring Speech Acts – the foundations of speaking and listening to make meaningful action possible. In this post we’ll look at the second of ten parts that make up requests, the foundation for conversations in which you want action to happen.
(2) all requests need a listener
This might seem as obvious as all requests needing a speaker. But it’s amazing how often we assume we can be heard while ignoring the capacity of others to listen to what we’re asking.
You made your request by email
If your recipient didn’t read it, didn’t see it, or is overwhelmed by emails and messages, as so many people are, you probably don’t have a listener, no matter how many times you insist that you’ve asked, or how sure you are that they should have read what you said.
You asked at a time when the other person could not pay attention
If they’re busy, anxious, fearful, or distracted then just because you’ve spoken, again, does not mean you have a listener. Even asking someone face to face who is distracted this way does not guarantee they have any capacity to hear you.
You assumed the other person should be interested in what you have to say simply because of who you are
Your seniority, fame, position of authority, sense of yourself as interesting or important are no guarantee anyone is listening. Neither is being a parent or the boss. Assuming you do is a route to many difficulties.
Can you think of times you might have asked when there’s no listener available, even if the request seems obvious to you? And if so, what might you do to make it possible for people to genuinely hear you?
You might need to think about timing, place, tone and the medium through which you make your request, as well as the mood of your request (sincerity, cynicism, frustration). All of these will have an impact on others’ capacity to listen.
If you find yourself thinking “I’ve asked them time and time again, but nothing ever seems to happen” you might well still be assuming you have a listener when you don’t.
And now you have a place where you can look to resolve your difficulty.
You can read more on ‘Speech Acts’ – conversations, requests and promises – here.