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The risks of asking

I'm having a conversation about making requests here in ag_unicorn's journal. I thought I'd reproduce one of my comments here.

Background: ag_unicorn says nothing is ever lost by asking for something. I say that it's possible to experience disillusionment and loss of trust by asking for something. He asks if you can lose something you never had in the first place. My reply:
Your responses imply that you think what's in a person's head is not real if it fails to coincide with what's outside a person's head. While that's true in a materialistic sense, it's not at all true in an emotional sense, in my opinion.

Also, your responses imply that trust is singular and binary (you either trust someone or you don't). That's not true for me; I tend to trust people in certain areas and not in other areas, based on their behavior over time.

If I think something is true and base part of my joy in living on that, and then it turns out not to be true, I tend to lose some of my joy in living. (This is a loss that I can repair in most cases, but it's still a loss.)

If I think I have a relationship with someone such that they will handle a request from me with sensivity and respect (note, I don't say I expect them to always grant the request), and they fail to do so, then that can cause me disillusionment and loss of trust.

If I think someone understands me well enough to know how I'll respond to certain requests, and they make requests that cause me pain, then that can cause me disillusionment and loss of trust.

I do think there's wisdom in your statement, but I glean wisdom along the lines of "you know, you might consider when you ask for something 'what's the worst that can happen?', and if the worst that can happen is very unlikely, you might ask anyway, because you might be pleasantly surprised." Not "you can't ever lose anything by asking."

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
nolly
Aug. 7th, 2003 10:47 am (UTC)
I think you risk losing some portion of the other person's respect by making requests they perceive as unreasonable.

I have lost relationships in part because I asked for more time/energy than the person was willing to give.
dawnd
Aug. 7th, 2003 11:41 am (UTC)
requests vs. demands
I think there's another distinction here that I would draw: That of the difference between a REQUEST and a DEMAND. For it to qualify as a request, "no" MUST be a possible answer (the options being "yes," "no," and "counter-offer."). If no is not possible, then it's a DEMAND, not a request. A demand, in turn is not necessarily bad, but could simply indicate a hard limit/deal-breaker for that person. But to supposedly make a "request" when it's really a "demand" is going to cause problems (resentment and possibly loss of trust as you have mentioned).

One of the problems in our society in general is that we are trained to hear all requests as demands. Especially women (but many men too, as illustrated by brian1789's response in ag_unicorn's journal) are trained to believe that they can't say "no" without a very good reason--that their needs come behind everyone else's needs. The idea that we could possibly say "no" without negative consequences is utterly foreign to us. So the process of making a request is actually a two-way street, involving both the asker and askee being clear that "no" is an acceptable answer, and being willing/able to renegotiate where necessary (which in turn requires both parties to have their needs be on the table, and willing to have the other person's needs as EQUAL to their own, neither less than nor more than). For most of us, this takes practice.
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 11:46 am (UTC)
Re: requests vs. demands
Good points, but it's still possible to handle a request in an insensitive manner, and disillusionment/loss of trust can occur in that case.
dawnd
Aug. 7th, 2003 12:30 pm (UTC)
Re: requests vs. demands
Oh, absolutely. Perhaps the sticking point is the "never" part of his statement. Never say never, after all... :^)
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 12:36 pm (UTC)
Re: requests vs. demands
That's part of the sticking point, to be sure, but I've found that request interactions are frequently risky, not just risky in exceptional cases.

They would be less risky if everyone viewed them the same way, e.g., á la your "request vs. demand" example. But people don't, and the way people view request interactions tends to be pretty deeply ingrained, in my experience.
caprine
Aug. 7th, 2003 12:43 pm (UTC)
Disillusionment means that your illusions have been erased. Do you prefer to hold beliefs about people that are false? A joy of life with illusory foundations strikes me as much less than optimal. I would rather know more surely how much I can trust people, and would rather learn it sooner under controlled circumstances than later in an emergency. Also, people (at least in my life) can sometimes be incredibly clueless; "requests that cause me pain" are an opportunity to go "There is a boundary here that you just slammed into face-first. Now you know where it is. Do not launch yourself at it again." And if they persist in ignoring the boundary, or imagining that they can change it by brute force, then I have gained valuable knowledge about their character and I remove them from my life.

I guess I view loss of joy in living as far less important than knowing where I stand. I recently lost a relationship by trying to find out where I stood with him; when I said I wanted to get a bit more serious, he ended up telling me that he didn't share my feelings. Yes, it was painful, but now I know what I didn't before, and I can use that knowledge to protect myself--in this case by saying, "Okay, I am not having just-friends sex with you any more, because it will make me fall for you even harder and get hurt again." I'm hurt and unhappy, but I know where I stand--and the longer my belief that he shared my feelings lasted, the worse the letdown was going to be, so I'm glad I found out at six months rather than a year or two.

Believing things that make one happy without testing them for truth is an idea that just doesn't work for me. It looks to me like setting oneself up for hurt. But I don't claim to be running good software on good hardware; this could be one of my bugs.
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 01:00 pm (UTC)
Sure, request interactions that cause pain offer opportunities.

I'm not saying that a person should never make requests because there might be pain or loss, or that pain/loss are the worst things that can happen to a person.

I am simply saying that requests can cause loss. Whereas I read the original statement as implying "requests are risk-free."

In your example, you made a request for the relationship to be more serious, he said no, and you experienced pain and loss. It sounds like it was still a good idea to make the request when you did. But that's not the same as saying requests are risk-free.
tedesson
Aug. 7th, 2003 03:01 pm (UTC)
On Trust
There's a terrific book by Robert C. Solomon and Fernando Flores called _Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life_.

They unpack the concept of "trust" into several different categories (unfortunately I don't have the book handy or I'd list them).

Their premise is that we may naively belive that trust is monolithic and revokable, but the way we actually talk about and act in regards to trust is much more multi-faceted and complex.

Highly recommended for anyone who's concerned with how people and organizations work together (whether they trust each other, contingently trust each other, or don't trust each other at all).
red_frog
Aug. 7th, 2003 04:41 pm (UTC)
Re: On Trust
Absolutely. I trust/rely on different people in different ways. Very few people fall into my "I trust you utterly" pile. The rest, I don't push too hard, and they sometimes pleasantly surprise me.

WRT the original question, I suppose that I agree. I certainly don't like having expectations dashed and it would be foolish to say that I'm not hurt when they are.
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: On Trust
I don't trust anyone utterly. That would be like expecting someone to be perfect.
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: On Trust
I'm glad to hear there's a book that points out that trust is not monolithic. And it's cool that it's applied to organizations.
pir_anha
Aug. 7th, 2003 09:20 pm (UTC)
re: The risks of asking
yeah, of course. whoever this person is said "nothing ever", *grin*. that's by definition something with which i rarely agree because i find my emotional life to be complex and dynamic, and as soon as i make general statements like that some data is lost.

aside from the things that have already been mentioned, i find that timing can also play a large role -- i've asked, and been asked, when the timing was all wrong for it, and lost the chance to come at the subject without the subsequent baggage.
firecat
Aug. 7th, 2003 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: The risks of asking
I love that objection to overgeneralization: "data is lost."
brian1789
Aug. 9th, 2003 02:29 am (UTC)
Re: The risks of asking
Hmm... hmm. That argument just hit me, at least, harder than any number of flames last week. I'm going to play with that idea for awhile, thanks.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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