Closed Mouths Don't Get Fed

Growing up, I had a bad habit of avoiding asking for what I needed and wanted. It’s taken practice and mindfulness to change this pattern and that’s why I am quick to recognize it in my client groups and my peers. While the sufferer may initially avoid confrontation, or the potential disappointment of being rejected, this self-sabotaging habit usually leads to frustration, resentment, animosity and other toxic behaviors. While witnessing me suffering in silence years ago, a colleague firmly said to me, “Close mouths don’t get fed!”

This quote has stuck with me through the years - it is a powerful reminder to speak up and out, and reap the rewards from making needs and wants known.

Requests are powerful tools for making things happen, and we often avoid them in our hyper-individualistic culture. Yet, to expand our impact, we must enroll others. When we make effective requests, expectations get clarified, needs get met and thus the objective and relational aspects of our work are improved. So, in an effort to spread some knowledge and reinforce my own learning, I share with you the five components of effective requests:

  • Who: The request is made to a specific person

  • What: It describes the action to be performed

  • When: It includes a time frame

  • Why: The reason for the request is clear

  • How: Ask directly, and consider the listener’s feelings

To learn any new skill we must first connect to the subject, learn new tools/skills, practice the new tool/skill, and reflect on our own learning process. The more we practice using these five components, the easier asking gets, and the less we have to think about these components. With practice, asking becomes more natural and less threatening.

When we make a request the person we are making our request of can either agree, ask for clarification, negotiate or decline your request. So what’s the worst that could happen from opening your mouth and asking? You are declined? Well, by not asking in the first place, you are automatically declining yourself!

What are some small things you should be asking for? What is a need you have that is not being met? Who do you need to ask to get his need met? The more I lean into asking, the more I learn that our needs and requests can be a gift to others. When you allow others to give to you, you help them meet their need to be seen and contribute their skills.

I committed to changing my old ask-aversion habit by practicing asking for small things more often - from foot rubs to lower monthly fees from service providers (e.g. PG&E) to referrals from satisfied clients. When I feel the seeds of resentment and frustration growing inside me it is a signal that a need of mine is not being met. If I am aware of the signal, then I can take the time to identify the need, and request help in getting my need met.

I hope you take the time to think about your own needs and consider how you can practice making more effective requests to further the work you do and increase the impact you make.