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The Filament Blog

I have an unreasonable request for you ...

When is the last time you asked a total stranger, business colleague, or casual acquaintance for a life-changing favor?

For most of us, the answer is “never.” But why?

One reason is when something feels hard for us to accomplish, we assume it will be hard for others to do, too. Another is our worry that if someone say yes, we’ll never be able to “pay them back” by returning a favor of similar magnitude. Of course the third is the old-fashioned fear of rejection.

But what if there was a way to ask nearly anybody for anything, without feeling the pain of rejection (and giving them permission to say no)?

Try making framing that life-changing favor as an "Unreasonable Request" instead. I first learned about the technique from Lisa Haneberg’s book Two Weeks to a Breakthrough, where she writes:

A well-formulated request, when accepted by the person you ask, can reroute your progress and enable you to zoom to success. Unreasonable requests that are turned down can also serve as important catalysts because often a compromise solution is offered that is still higher than you would have expected. Making great requests is perhaps the easiest and fasted way to produce breakthroughs.

Here's how we ask:

I have an unreasonable request for you.

I'm not asking you because I expect you'll say yes (in fact, I totally expect you to say no).

I'm asking because I've set a goal for myself to get better at asking for things. I believe that by building the courage to ask for big "unreasonable" things like this, I’ll find it easier to ask others for little, more reasonable things, too.

So here's my request: ______________________________________.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. You don't owe me a response -- or really anything for that matter -- but know you’ve already helped me to learn to ask better.

P.S. If you've got an unreasonable request for me, go ahead and ask. I'll probably say "no," too. ;-)

We’ll also send along a copy of the flow-chart above (coming soon to our store in poster format) so they can understand our thought process a little bit better. We also use the idea of Unreasonable Requests in our large group facilitation work — more on that in a future post.

As part of Filament’s goal to “work out loud” more, we’re adding a weekly “unreasonable request” to our Filament workflow and will share our success here.

Until then, good luck with your “unreasonable” requests!