Why saying “no” protects your saying “yes.”

Parties can forge powerful social contracts only when they recognize what they are doing. While that may seem like an obvious statement, I invite you, upon completion of reading this chapter, to observe how recklessly people enter into social contracts in your work environment. You will see passive statements cloaked as requests and people not even realizing that they are in fact giving their word.

Recognizing social contracts requires all members of the group to distinguish “statements” from “requests” from “commands.” These are completely different concepts, and the differences are critical to recognize.

A “statement” is a description of something or the condition of someone. Examples are:

“Our profits are declining.”
“The garbage needs to go out.”
“I am so frustrated by what you did.”
“I'm hungry.”
“It would be nice if someone would give Joe a call.”
“It would be great if you could get the report to me by tomorrow.”

No response is required, and there is no opening to give your word.

A “request” is an invitation to give your word.1 Requests sound like:

“Will you get me an analysis of why our profits are declining by tomorrow afternoon?”
“Will you please take the garbage out before you go to bed?”
“Will you let me explain why you frustrated me?”
“Will you make sure someone calls Joe today?”
“Will you get me the report by ...

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