Congruent Joy

Requests, Offers, Invitations, and Demands

Language is often imprecise… which can lead to confusion.

For example, there are often many things that we’re genuinely willing to do for a friend or a partner, even if it’s not something we intrinsically want for it’s own sake.

If you’re thirsty, I’m willing to get to get you a glass of water, happy to do so. I don’t desire to be giving you glasses of water for myself… if you’re not thirsty, I’m not saying, “please, would you take this glass of water, because I so enjoy carrying glasses of water over to you?” :D

And, the scope of things we’re willing to do or accept is typically broader than things we want for themselves.

Saying, “are you willing to do X?” is a very different question than, “do you want to do X?”

Amusingly, it’s not uncommon for one person to make an offer, “Would you like to do X together?” and to mean “I’d be willing to do X with you, if that’s something you wanted, and for the other person to misinterpret that as a request (“I’d like to do X with you, would you be willing to do X with me?”)… and they end up doing X together because each are willing to do X for the other even though neither of them actually want it!

Here are are some examples of more precise phrasing:

A request (“May I…”, “Will you…”) is expressing the speaker’s want, and asking for the listeners willingness.

An offer (“Would you like…?”, “Do you want…?”) is expressing the speaker’s willingness and asking for the listener’s want.

An invitation (“I want this, do you also want it?”, “This would be fun for me, would it also be fun for you?”) is expressing the speaker’s want, and also asking for the listener’s want.

A statement of desire (“I want…”) is expressing the speaker’s want, without implying or asking about the listener’s want or willingness.

An inquiry about desire (“Do you want…?”, “Do you like…?”) is asking about the listener’s want, without speaking to the speaker’s want or willingness.

A demand expresses the speaker’s want, while saying “don’t care” to the listener’s want or willingness.

Since language is imprecise we can’t always unambiguously express a clear formulation in a simple sentence.

“Polite” requests are often phrased like offers (“Would you like to pass me the salt?”)

And how do you know if something that sounded like it was meant to be an offer is actually a demand? If, after you say “no thanks”, the other person gets upset, or otherwise tries to convince you to accept the “offer”. That’s not an offer, that’s a demand!

So it can be hard to tell sometimes whether something phrased as an offer is actually an offer or not.

However we can ask for clarification! “Was that an offer or a request?”

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