Humans are sometimes terrible at getting each other to cooperate. We get lazy. We start to think that we have the answer, and others need to hear our orders, and obey us. We become like mini-dictators.
What makes us think we have all the answers already? I think it’s a cognitive bias that has been with us for millions of years – a false belief in our own opinion, in preference to others’. Ironically, to succeed in asking other people to do things, we need to lose our secret opinion that we are always right.
Here are five suggestions for gaining cooperation in the workplace, the home, or among friends:
#1 – ASSUME THAT THE OTHER PERSON HAS THE ANSWER
Before we ask for anything, we can start with the assumption that the other person, not us, knows what they are talking about. This prevents us from upsetting them by being the know-all, the controller. It also stops us being frustrated. We can still make direct requests, but we can give them the flavour of respect for, and belief in, the other person.
#2 – BE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THE ANSWER ‘NO’
Before we ask for anything, we can be prepared to accept a refusal. This reduces the pressure on the other person. It also reduces the pressure on us, because we are already ready for a worst case scenario.
#3 – USE ‘I’ LANGUAGE, NOT ‘YOU’ LANGUAGE
When we ask for something, we can place the wish firmly in ourselves. ‘I would really like’ is better than ‘you need to’. It shows the other person that you own your own emotions. It also shows the other person that you respect their free will.
#4 – BE HAPPY TO ASK LOTS OF TIMES
When we ask for something, we can accept that we may be asking again soon. Most behaviours are continuously expressed. When making love, we don’t say ‘I’ve kissed you once – what more do you want?’ When going to the toilet, we don’t say ‘I went to the loo yesterday, so I don’t need to go today!’ Accepting that we may be asking lots of times stops us sulking.
#5 – ASK OTHERS WHAT THEY WANT US TO DO
In between our own requests to others, we can ask others what they would like us to do. This makes it more likely that cooperation will exist, because there is mutuality. We look less like a dictator, and more like a part of a collaboration. It’s also fun to see what we may be missing. Others may be wishing for some pretty nice things!