Speaking Straight: Clear and Direct Requests

Are You Complaining or Making a Request?

I’ve been practicing The Collaborative Way® for over 30 years, and I’m still learning. I look forward to those opportunities where I can recognize where I’ve slipped out of the practice of The Collaborative Way or where my practice could be improved. Sometimes, I’ll get that from noticing that the impact I’m making is inconsistent from what my intent is, and other times, I’ll get that wake up from a little nudge somebody gives me that has me suddenly see, “Whoa, I’ve slipped out of my practice.” I really appreciate those nudges because they help me be able to see where I could improve my practice and become more sensitive in that particular area to where I could slip out of my practice in the future.

I had one of those nudges just recently. I was on a call with a service representative from Fidelity, and she gave me that nudge. Who would have ever thunk? And so I had had trouble with my credit card. It stopped working, and so I called Fidelity to find out what was going on and got connected with this service representative. And she asked me what the problem was. I said, “My credit card isn’t working anymore, and I recently made a payment, so I really can’t understand why it would not be working.

And she said, “OK, let me take a look.” And she did, and she said, “Well, I can see that you attempted to make a payment, but it didn’t go through.”

And I said, “Whoa, that’s strange. It indicated that the payment went through.”

And she said, “Well, you used too many digits. You only need seven digits of your account number. That’s the real account number, and you used more digits.”

And I said, “Well, how would I know that? And how would I know that it hadn’t accepted my payment? Because it seemed to do it. It indicated that the process worked.”

She said, “Well, they sent you a letter.”

“A letter?! I haven’t gotten a letter yet. And here I am, accruing penalties and interest while I’m waiting for this letter to come along. Hey, I’m a I’m a good customer of Fidelity, and this just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.”

She said to me, “Well, I think that what you would like to do is ask me to see if I can get the interest and the charges removed. Is that correct?” 

And when she said that, I just, inside, I started to laugh. It was like, whoa, what a beautiful bit of coaching coming from here. Here I am, arguing for, complaining about my bill, not getting paid and not really making a clear and direct request about what was behind all that. I wanted these charges removed. With that, I said to her, “Thank you. I would like you to reverse the charges and the interest for me. You know, given I did it all in good faith. I thought I had paid for the bill.”

And she said, “Let me check and see if I can do that for you,” and she put me on hold and came right back, and she said “That’s taken care of. Those charges will be reversed, and your credit card will begin working again on Tuesday morning.” 

I said, “Fantastic, thank you very much.”

And she said, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

And I said, “Well, you can help me actually successfully make the payment for what I owe on my credit card.”

And she said, “OK,” and we worked together to take care of that.

A Clear and Direct Request Is how You Move Things Into Action

I just really appreciated that interaction. It was a great learning for me because I could see: Wow, here I was caught in arguing for getting all those charges credited back to me, but I never made a clear and direct request for that to happen. Wow, so you know, I wonder where else am I doing that in my life? It can’t be this was the first time this has ever happened, so now I’m up on my toes a little bit, watching for that. I also just appreciated that as we so often point out, whenever I’m complaining or whether–now I add to it–arguing for something, there’s usually a request underneath it. And if I want to get action, if I want to get something to happen about this item, then the move to make is to make a clear and direct request. That’s how you move things into action and begin to get things done.

The other thing that we so often support people in is: If somebody is complaining to you–and I would now add, you know, arguing for something, seemingly so at least–there must be, there are most often, there is a request under that. If you could listen for that request and check to see, “Do you have a request?” or, “Is this what you’re requesting?” It will help the other person step out of that mindset of complaining and into action. This representative from Fidelity did such a beautiful job of doing that. I know from this interaction, it’s definitely been one of those, like I said, nudges. It’s going to up my game in this area of clear and direct request, and if it fits for you, I’d invite you to up your game in this area as well.


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