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COL Trust is established when both sides honor agreements that are made

Trust is established in relationships as agreements are honored. Failure to follow through with agreements damages trust.

Frustration also sets in when requests are not answered or there is lack of clarity or timeliness in giving an answer. More care needs to be taken before agreements are made.

A request is a straight-forward attempt to solicit an agreement or an answer.

Many times, problems in relationships develop when one partner knowingly or unwittingly refuses to answer, changes the topic or gives a vague, "I'll think about it."

No answer takes a toll on the relationship. Here are four ways of clearly responding to a request that helps maintain respect and avoids misunderstandings.

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1. "Yes, I will and here's when.'' Be careful when you give this answer. Your credibility is on the line. It should be the last choice of the four answers you are about to read.

Some people say yes when they mean no. Sometimes the assent is a casual gesture by someone being "nice" and isn't meant to be a real commitment. There is a big difference between, "yes, you can count on it," and lip service meant to assuage or put off the listener.

Some people say yes without giving it enough thought. A yes could mean, "maybe," or, "I'll think about it." The person making the request doesn't understand that the "yes" is meant as a way of buying time.

The "here's when" makes the agreement crystal clear. Without a time frame, the "yes" will seem fuzzy. Assumptions might be made that appear like the "yes" wasn't meant because the promise has yet to be fulfilled.

Be careful about saying yes. Only make agreements that you intend to keep.

2. "No, I won't and here is why.'' This is a bona-fide answer. It is difficult to turn down a request. Generally we want to please others. But circumstances might preclude our being able to do what is requested.

It is fair to the person making the request to know that.

Also, we may choose not to fill the request because of previous commitments, out of principle, or because it doesn't fit our priorities.

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After a "no" is given and the petitioner keeps on trying to make their case, the recipient can summarize the persuasive argument to show they understand it and that repeated attempts to make the same case are unnecessary.

They can also give the "I need time to think about it" as a way of thoughtfully considering the request even though the likely answer will still be no.

Persistent attempts to change an "no" into a "yes" come across as a nagging attempt to change the answer. A "no" is an answer, a respectful answer and needs to be accepted -- not treated as the beginning of an argument.

3. "I will under these circumstances." This answer paves the way for a "yes" that is realistic and takes into account all of the objections, mitigating challenges or circumstances.

A conditional "maybe" makes for better agreements than an easy "yes" that may not be honored.

When the recipient spells out the problems or the challenges to be overcome, the petitioner hears them and can counter-propose actions that might overcome the difficulties.

This sets the stage for negotiations and cooperation in solving problems. The recipient hears ideas on how the problems might be overcome and thoughtfully considers the petitioners thoughts.

It is a fair answer. It is one that leads to realistic plans or to a clearer discussion of why "no" might be the best answer.

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4. "I need to think about it and I will get back to you at such and such a time.'' Some people don't think well on their feet. Emotions might be involved. Others need to review their schedules or gather further information before they can give a yes or a no.

Some answers take time to consider so if the answer is yes, it is realistic. A no that is thoughtfully given after full and careful consideration is respectful.

Without a time frame for the eventual answer, the person making the request eventually figures out that they didn't get an answer and they ask again.

This is not nagging. It is asking for an answer.

Giving a specific time also makes, "I need time to think about it," an legitimate answer.

For more information on making agreements and negotiations, you can visit Val Farmer's website at www.valfarmer.com.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist with MeritCare in Fargo, N.D. He specializes in rural mental health and family business consultation.

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