Giving Instructions Without Being Rude or Wimpy


Giving instructions can be a challenge

Asking others to do something feels tricky sometimes. It can be easier when there is a clear line of authority, such as when you are the owner and you are addressing an employee, but what about a situation where you might work with a dental team member without being the boss? Or when you are asking someone who is a peer or a colleague to do something?

It can be easy to veer between the demanding I need you to do this (somewhat dictatorial) and the lame It would be great if you would do this (somewhat passive-aggressive).

In the book How to Wow, communications expert Frances Cole Jones suggests the phrase My request is…

For instance:

  • My request is that this project be completed before Monday
  • My request is for a location that offers free parking
  • My request is to mark all requests for vacation time on the shared calendar

The beauty of “My request is,” notes Jones is that it leaves people in no doubt that a request has been made of them by you, but because you haven’t used the “I/you” combination, you avoid their feeling overwhelmed or beleaguered.

What about you—are there any phrases that you’ve found useful when giving instructions? Share your answers in the comments.


  • I don’t know about “My request”. Sounds in-human to me. Our office is all about the team so I like to use the expression “Our goal is” I think that “Our goal is to finish this project before Monday” has that team spirit ring to it.

  • Dr.Hayder J Attar

    (My request) like command not a request I m not prefer it .

  • This is definitely a challenge. I like the team concept with “our goal”. The “my request” approach to me is really just another way of sugar coating a command. Once everyone is on the “team” they will get what it means to accomplish the goal or task at hand. By consistently pointing back to a goal it reinforces the team…win-win.

  • I think as an owner/operator it is our job to make these challenging statements. Sometimes at my dental office, I will give an employee two tasks that I need done and ask them which one they would like to do. This way I get tasks done and my employee chose which one they would do.

  • It’s important to make your office staff feel important and that it is a team effort. Our staff is amazing and everyone is always helping one another out. Our staff makes your team!

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