I don’t usually ask for much (I think), but when I do, it’s because I really need help. I’m actually a rather independent person; I prefer my own help unless I ask for that of others. Ironically enough, I have no problem swooping in and helping other people whether they ask for my assistance or not. I know, I make so much sense… My point is I don’t usually ask much of others. However, in the worlds of writing and journalism, you actually need quite a bit from people, despite the view writing is an independent process.
In one of my current work positions, I write feature stories on various individuals involved with my university. Subsequently, to learn more about whatever it is person X has been doing, I need to ask them questions, usually allotting an interview of some kind–preferably in person, though not required. That’s not too much to ask, right? Just some spare time and extensive thought to go into putting together eloquent answers to simple questions… Totally reasonable. Or apparently very unreasonable, as more often than not, I’m constantly pestering person X (or as we call in journalism, nudging), reminding them of my request so I can move forward with my assignment. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Regardless, this has happened enough times that I’ve begun to wonder, Am I not aggressive in my demands? Am I even aggressive at all?
Most who know me personally would likely say no to the latter; I’m not aggressive. If anything I’m passive aggressive. I filter my anger so it’s communicated nicely–enough that I probably don’t seem angry at all–or I simply don’t express aggression and keep it secured within. (Fun fact: In the aforementioned writing position, when I’m working with someone who does not respond to my initial interview request, I sign my follow-up emails to them with, Thank you for your cooperation. It’s how I get my point across while still sounding professional. I’m actually being rather sarcastic with the line, but since it’s text, it can be left up to interpretation. I know, I’m so deviant. Anyway.) All in all, I admit I am definitely a more compliant individual. I don’t like conflict so typically I go with the flow (to a certain extent), do what others ask of me, and attempt to be kind to others. None of that really screams AGGRESSION. But just because I’m not assertive in the behavior I exhibit toward others doesn’t mean I am not worthy of compliance, right?
The kind should receive cooperation–at least some of the time. The problem is (I suspect) they simply appear “too nice” and, with this sort, others know the nice won’t ever appear assertive in their demands so they presume they can get away with not meeting the demand. Unless doing so benefits them in some way. Although with my writing position that doesn’t really made sense; if others were to comply with my requests, they would get a story written about them out of doing so–who doesn’t want that? Apparently a lot of people… I don’t particularly like this theory in that it portrays people in a selfish light, but as many scholars argue and life experiences prove, it is not an entirely inconceivable possibility.
Yikes, insulting people to encourage compliance. I’m definitely going to get more cooperation now, right? That’s probably the most assertive I can be in writing. In any regard I’ll probably continue to use the following approach:
- State my request while highlighting the benefits the requestee would receive upon doing as I ask (in other words, what I’ve been doing all along)
- Hope for the best
What is YOUR advice encouraging cooperation (preferably without being rude or manipulative)?
Sorry for the obscene number of rhetorical questions and parenthetical asides in this post. My English professor would be so disappointed…