Great relationships are built on skilful communication and a clear understanding of what each person wants and likes.  A helpful way to achieve these goals is to consider who benefits from a proposed action.

Am I offering to do something for you?

Am I inviting you to do something we both may enjoy?

Am I requesting something from you?

 

To help us answer these questions, School of Consent founder Betty Martin provides this information.

Offer: something that I am willing to do for you, and I’m going to find out if it’s something you want. Even though we both may enjoy it, I’m offering to give you something–time, attention, touch, help.

 

Example: Would you like me to:  Help you do some gardenings? Drive you to the doctor? Massage your shoulders? Hold you?

Invitation: I’m inviting you to have fun with me.   I’d like this to happen, but only if you also want it to happen.  I’m not asking a favor and there is no obligation.

Examples:  Want to come to the mall with me?  Do you want to go out to dinner Friday night?

Request: something that I want. It’s for me, about me; the desire arises in me. I’m asking for something I want you to give me–time, attention, touch, help.

 

Example: Will you please:  Pick up my favorite ice cream on your way home? Rub my feet?  Hold me?

Here are three scenarios to help clarify these ideas.

  1. I’ve been invited to a party that will have a band and dancing. I know how much you like to dance. We could go if you like.
  2. I’m going to a party this weekend.  Come with me if you want to; I would enjoy having you join me.
  3.  I’m going to a party this weekend.  Would you please come with me? An old boyfriend will be there, and I could use some support.

 

Scenario one is an offer.  I’m offering you something you might like. This is for you.

Scenario two is an invitation. I’m neither offering nor requesting, but I’d like this to happen.  I enjoy you.

Scenario three is a request. I want something from you. This is for me.  

Once you understand these terms, how can you identify which you are dealing with in a certain situation?   A trick I’ve devised is to ask clarifying questions and rate my answers using a scale from 1 to 10. Here is an example from my own life.

I asked my sweetie to join me on a sun lovers’ vacation.  How much did I want to go?  Using a scale from one (I’m not interested) to 10 (Yes!!  I wouldn’t miss it!), I was a 10 on going to my favorite beach in the middle of the Seattle winter.  How much did I want him to accompany me?  That was an 8.  I wanted him to come, to spend a whole week relaxing with me, sharing my favorite beach with him.

What is his level of desire to go?  He said a 6.  Lying on a beach sunbathing is not his cup of tea.  I wanted him at an 8, 9, or 10 level of excitement. I wanted him to jump at the chance for us to spend a week together.  Knowing he was at a 6 saved me a lot of disappointment. Had I merely requested that he go, we would have been at a mismatch of pleasure and enjoyment. He would have just tolerated the beach and been bored.

Is it possible to move him from 6 to 8, 9 or 10?  Time for discussion and negotiation.  I was clear that I wanted to spend a week relaxing with him and soaking up the sun.  What did he want? He wanted to relax and enjoy my company as well, but also wanted to ride in a jet boat, or parasail, or go sightseeing. We negotiated to make both of our desires happen. In this case, it was possible to move him. Now he is at 8 and excited to go.  

That was one of the best trips we ever took.  Before we left we each knew what our desires were and who they were for, and the open-hearted way we had negotiated made fulfilling them all the more enjoyable.

Not all offers, requests and invitations are fun.  I am absolutely willing to get groceries my sick neighbor requests.  I will also offer to drive friend to the airport. Neither is an awful task but I wouldn’t want to do it regularly if it weren’t a necessity.   And what a great feeling to know that if you are invited to see the new horror film just released, or something else you want to avoid, that you can just decline, feeling no obligation or any need to make an excuse.  

I am here to help you learn to clarify what you want, to realize who it’s for, and to ask for it clearly.  These simple steps to better communication will lead you to more fulfilling relationships.