Encouraging Students to Apply Their Skills Now: Making Difficult Requests

Just as they will be on the job, most of the requests students need to make in their academic and personal lives are fairly routine and can be accomplished using the techniques for routine requests they learn in this course. However, we all face situations from time to time where we need to make a more difficult request, such as asking an instructor for leniency, asking a landlord or a retailer for special consideration, or asking parents or a partner for help. In these situations, a more persuasive approach might be useful. Encourage students to apply the strategies they are learning for persuasive business messages and to follow these tips as well:

  • Step outside of yourself and your immediate concerns and put yourself in the other person’s position. What is this person’s current emotional state likely to be? What about his or her mental workload? Imagine you’re on the other side of the table and you get the request that you’re about to make. How would you react?
  • Is there any way the other party might benefit from responding positively to your request?
  • Emotions may be an important and legitimate part of your request, but for this step, put them aside and focus on objective facts, logic, and ethical principles. How much of your case can you make on these elements alone, without bringing emotion into the mix?
  • Now carefully bring emotion into your request, but only to the extent that it supports your request. Strong emotions—even if they are appropriate—can sometimes backfire when you’re making a request. You may feel compelled to express these emotions, but keep your eye on the goal, which is your request.
  • With the right balance of logical and emotional appeals in mind, choose the direct or indirect approach, based on your relationship with the person and your best judgment. In a close, personal relationship, there are times when it might be better to go direct and open with a simple plea: “Could I ask for your help?” In academic or work relationships, the indirect approach might be better, as long as you can build up to your request quickly. Don’t make the recipient wade through a long list of reasons.

They may not get a positive response to every request, and the other party may have legitimate reasons for denying it, but by following these tips students will know they did their best.

Self-Coaching Ideas for Your Students

  1. When you have a difficult request to make, do you find yourself putting it off? This is entirely natural, but remind yourself that the sooner you make the request, the sooner you will get an answer and thereby be able to move on, no matter what sort of answer you get.
  2. How do you tend to respond when someone else has a difficult request for you? Do you find it difficult to step out of your own needs and pressures long enough to listen openly and actively? If so, try to mindfully practice this next time someone asks you for help or special consideration. It’s a valuable skill that will benefit all your personal and professional relationships.

Previous Posts in the Apply Your Skills Now Series

Encouraging Students to Apply Their Skills Now: Writing Professional-Grade Email

Encouraging Students to Apply Their Skills Now: Make QA a Routine Part of the Writing Process

Encouraging Students to Apply Their Skills Now: Think Now, Write Later

Encouraging Students to Apply Their Skills Now: Preparing for Difficult Conversations

Encourage Your Students to Put Their New Skills to Work Right Away


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