How to Respond to Impossible Requests and Amazing Ideas

Steve Kaye

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Here's what to do if someone makes an amazing request.

1) Just agree. If someone offers a suggestion, comment, or complaint, say, “Thank you. I'll note that and tell my boss. " Never attempt to explain why the idea won't work because this will start an argument. If appropriate ask for clarification or suggestions on how to implement the idea.

2) Avoid “Not. " Negative talk encourages arguments, counter attacks, and attempts to solve your problems. It also creates a negative impression. For example, when you say, “I can't, " you appear helpless and ineffective. Instead, talk about what you can do and what you want to do.

3) Work at the Ritz. That is, deal with impossible requests by 1) acknowledging the request, 2) empathizing with the other person's feelings, 3) saying, “I wish I could . . . , " and 4) suggesting a reasonable alternative. "

For example, imagine that you work at a resort and it's raining. A guest walks up to you carrying a golf bag, slams it against your desk, and shouts, “This place stinks! I spent thousands of dollars coming here and it's raining. "

Respond by saying, “You're right it's raining. And I know how upsetting it is to be stuck inside. I wish I could make it stop. In the meantime, you may want to visit our indoor putting center. Our golf pro is offering instructions this afternoon. "

4) Include them. Deal with difficult requests by 1) affirming your willingness to help and 2) asking the other person to help you plan a solution.

For example, if your boss asks you to start another project, you could say, “I understand you want me to start a new project. And right now I'm working on another project. To help me set my priorities, I wonder which one you want me to finish first. "

5) Let them choose. If appropriate, offer choices that show the consequences of different options. This allows the other person to choose both the process and its impact.

For example, you can say, “That's a great idea. And there are different ways I can meet your request. We can use our existing supplies, which are free, or we can buy custom materials, which will cost $500. Which option would you prefer?"

6) Let them decide. Deal with complaints by asking the other person to describe a fair settlement. You can say, “What do you want?" or “What would you consider a fair solution to this?" or “What would make you happy?"

7) Smile. A smile makes you sound approachable, friendly, and helpful. When you frown, other people hear caution, fear, and rejection. A smile (or at least a pleasant expression) encourages open communication.

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Steve Kaye helps leaders hold effective meetings. He is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator, author, and speaker. His meeting facilitation and leadership workshops create success for everyone. Call 714-528-1300 for details. Visit for a free report.


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