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More PsychNotes: Communication

April 27, 2016       
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Assertion 101: Don't Apologize for a Request
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

“Sorry to bother you...but would you mind...?”

Many people are uncomfortable when making a request. As a result, they often apologize when asking for something. However, what is an apology? An apology is an acknowledgement that you have caused offense or made a mistake. If you approach others with an apology then their impression is that you have done something wrong.

Not only that, but others may find an apology associated with a request as annoying. The reason for this is that they have to make the effort to determine what you really mean and/or provide reassurance to you: “No, that's okay...” This often feels like manipulation to other people.

Either way, you set the situation up in a negative manner so that when you apologize for a request you are more likely to be turned down. When you start with a negative impression people are more likely to deny the request. In addition, they may view the request as easier to resist because you are not firm and they know you are not likely to pursue if denied.

Instead, be direct and make your request as if you expect it will be granted. “Can you take care of this for me?” or “Will you answer some questions?” or “Do you have the time to help me?” In addition, make good steady eye contact with a pleasant tone and expression when making the request.

Certainly, for someone not used to making a direct request, this method may seem as if you are making a demand of someone. However, you need to see this from the other person's viewpoint. When you are direct and assertive they view the interaction as courteous and respectful of their needs.

Using this method may not grant all your wishes but you are more likely to obtain what you need. At least, if nothing else, the other person will have a more positive impression of the interaction.

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Dr. Monica Frank



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