How To Truly Ask For What You Want By Making Outrageous Requests
Why Being Powerful Is The Most Vulnerable Act
Language shapes our reality in more ways than we are aware of. Like a fish in the water, the words we use define our experience of the world without us consciously noticing it. So in this article I’ll explore how we can become more aware of this veil that we pull over our eyes to blind us and how we can actually use language and the concept of outrageous requests to our advantage.
I particularly became aware of the power of words in the case of how I use the subjunctive when asking for what I want. This is even more subtle than just covering our need in a rhetorical question or hide it in an offhand remark (e.g. “Don’t you think we should clean the kitchen?”). It took me some time to notice. But energetically it makes a big difference.
Take the following example:
A: “I would like to talk to you.”
B: “I want to talk to you!”
How do these two sentences resonate within you?
Example A is conditional due to the use of the subjunctive! What I’m expressing energetically is more: “I would like to talk to you… if… (e.g. you’d like that, too.)” And therefore I’m holding back and offering less contact surface by staying a bit vague. It’s, as I said, a subtle distinction, but it ripples out strongly when we look at the level of impact and effectiveness of our communication. Take Example B in contrast. It is clear. It is direct. It doesn’t transmit a double signal of ambiguity and leaves little room for interpretation. The basic idea is to move from a passive to an active language, from deflecting responsibility to taking full ownership.
Why is it, that we use language in a conditional way? My experience tells me that using the subjunctive leaves us with an exit strategy in case we don’t get what we want. We play it safe. “I would like that but never mind if you don’t want that. I’m ok without you. I don’t need you. I’m strong…” By not taking a stand, we protect ourselves and at the same time take responsibility for the feelings of the other person, as if they needed our permission and an easy way out to say no to our request.
Being powerful is an act of vulnerability
In the past many of us probably experienced, that it is not fully safe to express and stand for what we want. It was – implicitly or even explicitly, not accepted to show ourselves fully with our desires and needs, no matter what. So we learned to play it safe, to hide behind our language that distorts our desires in a passive way and not to rock the boat. We don’t acknowledge and own what we want. We don’t risk going all in and getting a clear no. And then we wonder why we don’t get a clear yes.
So moving beyond this conditioning (pun intended) requires vulnerability. Showing up powerfully and asking for what we want brings the risk of being rejected. But only taking this risk will open us up for the possibility of actually getting what we want. Otherwise we’ll be with one foot on the gas and with on foot on the brake simultaneously.
According to research done by Brené Brown the most vulnerable emotion isn’t fear, sadness, anger or even shame – it is joy! She explains this by the fragility of joy and the fear of losing it once we have what we want. Therefore we need to increase our tolerance for joy. Building the capacity and vessel for joy is a muscle that we can practice. One of the most powerful practices she discovered in her research was gratitude. And the best way to express our gratitude is to share our gifts generously and openly with the world.
How good are you willing to let your life get? Are you held back by the fear of failing and losing it all again?
Transforming questions into requests
One way to transform this habit is by consciously eliminating the subjunctive from your vocabulary when asking for what you want. Whenever you notice words like “could” or “would”, try to replace them, e.g. instead of “Could you do me a favor?” try “Can you do me a favor?” or instead of “I would like this piece!” try “I want this piece.”
If you want to take it one step further, meet your new friend – the outrageous request!
An outrageous request is asking for a need of yours to be met that feels bold and beyond what you would normally dare to bring into contact. Yes, this feels edgy and it is supposed to take you beyond your comfort zone!
It is important to not formulate it as a question. Hint: An outrageous request has a full stop or exclamation mark at the end of the sentence, not a question mark. So instead of asking: “Would you be willing to put me in charge of this project?” a bold request could be “I want to be in charge of that project!”
Just becoming clear about what a bold request would be for you can be powerful to become aware of your needs and get more clarity for yourself, even if you never express your request to another person.
Here are some examples of outrageous requests that I’m living into:
- To work with me as a coach, I want you to pay me 9.999€ for 9 months.
- I want you to give me a share of 20% of your annual profit for the next 5 years for working with me.
- I want you to invest 100.000€ in a new venture capital fund for a startup ecosystem to accelerate the adoption of collective leadership principles in businesses.
- I want you to introduce me to this millionaire patron you’re friends with.
- I want you to go on a date with me next week.
Your success in life is proportional to the amount of “No”s you’re willing to receive!
So now it’s your turn!
What are three outrageous requests you’re going make to bring you closer to what you truly want? Please share in the comments, I’m curious to hear them!