Author Topic: The flip side of commands disguised as a question  (Read 12380 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

anonymousmac

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 330
The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« on: September 18, 2012, 09:07:17 AM »
I found the "commands disguised as a question" thread very interesting, because I'm usually on the other side.

I might say to my husband, "Do you want to empty the dishwasher while I make the lunches?"  I'm not asking if he has a burning desire to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not crazy.  There's a larger context to the discussion, which is that there are a bunch of things that need to be done, which we're both responsible for, but we're both equals here and I'm sort of trying to work out how we're going to do them, in a way that feels kind and acceptable to us both. 

"I'll do it later after I finish this thing" or "I'd rather make the lunches" are perfectly acceptable responses, but if he just said "No!" and stared at me, I'd definitely feel upset and wonder why he's picking a fight.

"Why don't they just say what they mean?" ignores the fact that issuing blatant commands can feel rude, abrupt, and disrespectful of other people.  I'm not going to order my husband to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not his boss or his mother, and that's not the kind of relationship that I want to have with him. 

Issuing orders also only leads to "yes" or "no", while something less direct allows more room for back-and-forth negotiation that leaves both people feeling understood and respected.  "Do you want to empty the dishwasher?" points out that it has to be done, and one of us has to do it, but it treats him like he has some say in the matter and can be part of making the decision.  It adds a layer of respect for the other person and a general feeling of voluntary participation, and this can make social interactions run more smoothly and feel more pleasant for all involved.

To me, ignoring the larger context is like saying "Why would he say 'How are you?' if he didn't want to hear about my hernia operation?"  There's more to communication than just literal translation of the words.  Most people do understand what's being said, and purposely pretending not to feels mean to me.  Especially when it's being done to an older woman who was trained never to say explicitly what she wants, who probably thinks she's being kind and polite.

I get how annoying it can be when taken to extremes, and I understand that there's been something of a cultural shift on this between generations.  But there are probably better ways to address the issue than just pretending not to understand.

Thipu1

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6802
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2012, 09:40:04 AM »
We do this too.  We're just a little more direct.

An example might be, 'Would you empty the dishwasher while I make the sandwiches?'

That would work with just about anyone. 

greencat

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2494
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2012, 09:42:17 AM »
I think even "Will you" do whatever is better than asking if he "Wants to" - because, really, no one wants to have to empty the dishwasher.

Or "Honey, I'll do this if you'll do that." 

RingTailedLemur

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2847
  • Rudeness is a small person's imitation of power.
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2012, 09:43:59 AM »
I completely diagree, especially where you said:

Quote
"Why don't they just say what they mean?" ignores the fact that issuing blatant commands can feel rude, abrupt, and disrespectful of other people.  I'm not going to order my husband to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not his boss or his mother, and that's not the kind of relationship that I want to have with him. 

You are missing the middle ground - asking someone to do something.  Saying "Please would you empty the dishwasher" is not an order, nor is it acting like his mother.  It also gives him the option to say, "No, I'd rather make lunches."

What works for me is to be direct and say what I mean, trying to avoid pussyfooting around things unless a little white lie is socially necessary.  If negotiating over everything works for you and your relationship that's great, but I don't think you can insist other people act the same way.

Tea Drinker

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1386
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2012, 10:01:27 AM »
It seems to me that the key difference is that when you ask "Would you like to empty the dishwasher while I make the lunches?" you really are offering a choice: he can say "I'd rather make the lunches today" or point out that he's in the middle of paying the utility bills and wants to finish that first. The annoyance is when people say "would you like to wash the dishes" when they aren't offering a choice.

In such a situation, if my husband said "Can you do me a favor and take care of both of those, I've got a nasty headache," I probably would. Or I might decide that the dishwasher could wait and just take out the lunch plates. That works because he doesn't expect it all the time: the household is both of ours, and we see it as a shared responsibility.

The medical professional who says "would you like to do X?" may not be prepared for "no, I really don't want to be weighed" or "I really don't like having people look at me naked, is there a medical reason why I need to take off all my clothes?" (Yes, sometimes there is a medical reason--I can't keep my shirt on for a mammogram--but sometimes it's just their habit.)
Any advice that requires the use of a time machine may safely be ignored.

Margo

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1596
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2012, 10:08:08 AM »
I think if it works for you and your husband, that's fine for you and your husband.

I personally would find it irritating - I'd rather be asked  or offered a choice.

so:
"Please will you empty the dishwasher" or
"it's yuor turn to empty the dishwasher - could you do it now as we'll need to put the lunch plates into it afterwards"
"the dishwasher needs emptying - will you do it?"
"We need to empty the dishwasher and to make lunch - if I do the lunch will you do the washer?"
or "we need to empty the dishwasher and to make lunch - which would you rather do?"
or even, "Do you want to want to empty the dishwasher while I make lunch, or would you rather make lunch lunch while I empty the dishwasher"
work, and would all avoid either 'ordering' your partner to do anything and avoid the irritating 'do you want to' when it's obviously not something anyone would 'want' to do.


VltGrantham

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 488
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2012, 10:18:19 AM »
I hate being told to do something under the guise that I'm being "asked" if I want to do something.  There are many people who I've run into that do things this way and often, they end up irritated because their questions haven't led to the desired response.

If it works with you and your husband, that's wonderful--but I wouldn't expect it to work that way with everyone.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being direct and saying to someone "Could you please unload the dishwasher while I make lunch?"  Or "I need some help.  Would you rather unload the dishwasher or make lunch?"

Zilla

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6506
    • Cooking
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2012, 10:45:07 AM »
I think it'a all in the phrasing.  A mother would order her son, "Son, dishes now."  or "Son go and do the dishes now."


A wife reminding/telling her husband, "Husband, can you unload the fishes?" or "Husband, i am going to make lunch now, could you do the dishes or would you rather make lunch and I do the dishes?"


There is a huge difference.  I too hate the telling disguised as a question. I much prefer to be direct and kind than vague.

Judah

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4769
  • California, U.S.A
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2012, 11:09:14 AM »
I think it'a all in the phrasing.  A mother would order her son, "Son, dishes now."  or "Son go and do the dishes now."


A wife reminding/telling her husband, "Husband, can you unload the fishes?" or "Husband, i am going to make lunch now, could you do the dishes or would you rather make lunch and I do the dishes?"


There is a huge difference.  I too hate the telling disguised as a question. I much prefer to be direct and kind than vague.

This is how I word requests with one small change, I never use the words "can" or "could". Of course he can empty the dishwasher, I'm asking if he will

"Hon, will you please empty the dishwasher?" or even "Please help me unload the groceries."

I don't issue commands because I think it sounds disrespectful, but I do make requests that sound like requests, not questions.  And this is true of anyone I need something of: husband, children, coworkers, etc.  I never omit "please", because I think it's important. 

Ask for what you want. Let's be clear on this one:
Subtle hints don't work.
Strong hints don't work.
Really obvious hints don't work.
Just say it!

-The Car Talk Guys

edgypeanuts

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 152
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2012, 11:11:06 AM »
I found the "commands disguised as a question" thread very interesting, because I'm usually on the other side.

I might say to my husband, "Do you want to empty the dishwasher while I make the lunches?"  I'm not asking if he has a burning desire to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not crazy.  There's a larger context to the discussion, which is that there are a bunch of things that need to be done, which we're both responsible for, but we're both equals here and I'm sort of trying to work out how we're going to do them, in a way that feels kind and acceptable to us both. 

"I'll do it later after I finish this thing" or "I'd rather make the lunches" are perfectly acceptable responses, but if he just said "No!" and stared at me, I'd definitely feel upset and wonder why he's picking a fight.

"Why don't they just say what they mean?" ignores the fact that issuing blatant commands can feel rude, abrupt, and disrespectful of other people.  I'm not going to order my husband to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not his boss or his mother, and that's not the kind of relationship that I want to have with him. 

Issuing orders also only leads to "yes" or "no", while something less direct allows more room for back-and-forth negotiation that leaves both people feeling understood and respected.  "Do you want to empty the dishwasher?" points out that it has to be done, and one of us has to do it, but it treats him like he has some say in the matter and can be part of making the decision.  It adds a layer of respect for the other person and a general feeling of voluntary participation, and this can make social interactions run more smoothly and feel more pleasant for all involved.

I get how annoying it can be when taken to extremes, and I understand that there's been something of a cultural shift on this between generations. 

POD.  I was bothered a bit by that other thread as well.  At work, I have a very easy laidback relation ship with the staff and I often say things like "do you want to put the next appt in now? or can you start the next appt?" Both could be answered as "no" but as it is their job (and they are not jerks) they do not.    My co-worker tends to bark orders at the staff esp when he is stressed and they sometimes resent it.  He will say, " get this appt in, we are getting behind" to them this feels like blame and implies they should have known to get things moving and ignores the fact that they are still finishing their last task.  With my way of asking they are more likely to say, "I need to do this first, is that okay? or Would you rather I take care of soandso now or after the appt?"  It is a soft way of asking that allows for discussion.  If I say "Do this" the staff knows that it is likely a safety issue and it means drop everything and do this now.  I am over them, but they know and do there jobs well and I want to respect that.

Zilla

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6506
    • Cooking
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2012, 11:14:26 AM »
I found the "commands disguised as a question" thread very interesting, because I'm usually on the other side.

I might say to my husband, "Do you want to empty the dishwasher while I make the lunches?"  I'm not asking if he has a burning desire to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not crazy.  There's a larger context to the discussion, which is that there are a bunch of things that need to be done, which we're both responsible for, but we're both equals here and I'm sort of trying to work out how we're going to do them, in a way that feels kind and acceptable to us both. 

"I'll do it later after I finish this thing" or "I'd rather make the lunches" are perfectly acceptable responses, but if he just said "No!" and stared at me, I'd definitely feel upset and wonder why he's picking a fight.

"Why don't they just say what they mean?" ignores the fact that issuing blatant commands can feel rude, abrupt, and disrespectful of other people.  I'm not going to order my husband to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not his boss or his mother, and that's not the kind of relationship that I want to have with him. 

Issuing orders also only leads to "yes" or "no", while something less direct allows more room for back-and-forth negotiation that leaves both people feeling understood and respected.  "Do you want to empty the dishwasher?" points out that it has to be done, and one of us has to do it, but it treats him like he has some say in the matter and can be part of making the decision.  It adds a layer of respect for the other person and a general feeling of voluntary participation, and this can make social interactions run more smoothly and feel more pleasant for all involved.

I get how annoying it can be when taken to extremes, and I understand that there's been something of a cultural shift on this between generations. 

POD.  I was bothered a bit by that other thread as well.  At work, I have a very easy laidback relation ship with the staff and I often say things like "do you want to put the next appt in now? or can you start the next appt?" Both could be answered as "no" but as it is their job (and they are not jerks) they do not.    My co-worker tends to bark orders at the staff esp when he is stressed and they sometimes resent it.  He will say, " get this appt in, we are getting behind" to them this feels like blame and implies they should have known to get things moving and ignores the fact that they are still finishing their last task.  With my way of asking they are more likely to say, "I need to do this first, is that okay? or Would you rather I take care of soandso now or after the appt?"  It is a soft way of asking that allows for discussion.  If I say "Do this" the staff knows that it is likely a safety issue and it means drop everything and do this now.  I am over them, but they know and do there jobs well and I want to respect that.


In a professional setting, regarding the bolded above, that to me is an acceptable form.  But crucial difference is Can you or Do you want.  Do you want, I would be slightly annoyed by it.  It almost makes me want to say, "Well I don't know, do I?" (but I wouldn't)


You can still be laid back and ask nicely.

edgypeanuts

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 152
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2012, 11:30:13 AM »

POD.  I was bothered a bit by that other thread as well.  At work, I have a very easy laidback relation ship with the staff and I often say things like "do you want to put the next appt in now? or can you start the next appt?" Both could be answered as "no" but as it is their job (and they are not jerks) they do not.    My co-worker tends to bark orders at the staff esp when he is stressed and they sometimes resent it.  He will say, " get this appt in, we are getting behind" to them this feels like blame and implies they should have known to get things moving and ignores the fact that they are still finishing their last task.  With my way of asking they are more likely to say, "I need to do this first, is that okay? or Would you rather I take care of soandso now or after the appt?"  It is a soft way of asking that allows for discussion.  If I say "Do this" the staff knows that it is likely a safety issue and it means drop everything and do this now.  I am over them, but they know and do there jobs well and I want to respect that.

In a professional setting, regarding the bolded above, that to me is an acceptable form.  But crucial difference is Can you or Do you want.  Do you want, I would be slightly annoyed by it.  It almost makes me want to say, "Well I don't know, do I?" (but I wouldn't)

You can still be laid back and ask nicely.

Except that of course they CAN, they are perfectly capable.  "Do you want" in this case implies the question of how the work flows- they may answer that they'd like to grab the nail trim and do that first as that will keep the afternoon appts flowing better and I may have not even known the nail trim was here.  They will often ask me as a question as well, "Do you want to me to start the next one?" when the implied question is will you be ready soon or do you need me for something else? 
It is a question not a command because it is asking them to use their judgement.

Decimus

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 132
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2012, 11:35:47 AM »
I found the "commands disguised as a question" thread very interesting, because I'm usually on the other side.

I might say to my husband, "Do you want to empty the dishwasher while I make the lunches?"  I'm not asking if he has a burning desire to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not crazy.  There's a larger context to the discussion, which is that there are a bunch of things that need to be done, which we're both responsible for, but we're both equals here and I'm sort of trying to work out how we're going to do them, in a way that feels kind and acceptable to us both. 

"I'll do it later after I finish this thing" or "I'd rather make the lunches" are perfectly acceptable responses, but if he just said "No!" and stared at me, I'd definitely feel upset and wonder why he's picking a fight.

"Why don't they just say what they mean?" ignores the fact that issuing blatant commands can feel rude, abrupt, and disrespectful of other people.  I'm not going to order my husband to empty the dishwasher, because I'm not his boss or his mother, and that's not the kind of relationship that I want to have with him. 

Issuing orders also only leads to "yes" or "no", while something less direct allows more room for back-and-forth negotiation that leaves both people feeling understood and respected.  "Do you want to empty the dishwasher?" points out that it has to be done, and one of us has to do it, but it treats him like he has some say in the matter and can be part of making the decision.  It adds a layer of respect for the other person and a general feeling of voluntary participation, and this can make social interactions run more smoothly and feel more pleasant for all involved.

To me, ignoring the larger context is like saying "Why would he say 'How are you?' if he didn't want to hear about my hernia operation?"  There's more to communication than just literal translation of the words.  Most people do understand what's being said, and purposely pretending not to feels mean to me.  Especially when it's being done to an older woman who was trained never to say explicitly what she wants, who probably thinks she's being kind and polite.

I get how annoying it can be when taken to extremes, and I understand that there's been something of a cultural shift on this between generations.  But there are probably better ways to address the issue than just pretending not to understand.

For my own part -- I do think there's a difference between offering a choice, e.g. "Would you do X while I do Y?" and "Would you do X?" -- particularly if you mean "Do X right now."  If it really IS a choice -- as in the other person can respond "I'd rather pay these bills than empty the dishwasher" -- then there's no problem.  If you want someone to do something, the polite phrasing is "Could you please do X?"  That's not a command, that's a request (and still allows a declination if the other person is physically unable -- "I can't empty the dishwasher, my hand is spasming and I'd drop the dishes."

The other aspect is that people are being deliberately oblivious -- some people may be pretending not to understand.  Other people may genuinely not get it.  I am an EXTREMELY literal-minded person.  If I'm not pausing for thought because I'm focusing on something else there is a good chance I just won't perceive that it's not a genuine question.  That's why I prefer "Please do X" or "Could/would you please do X?" to "Do you want to do X" -- because no, I don't want to take out the trash right then, and maybe I've forgotten it's trash day.  On the other hand if my SO said "would you please take out the trash" or "If you take out the trash I'll make dinner" I'd be happy to comply.

A lot of it may depend on your relationship with other people and your personality.  In the workplace, I'd prefer "Please do X" from my boss if it's an order.  "Can you do X?" is fine also because there might be a reason I can't, e.g., "I can't print the TPS cover sheets, the printer is broken."  But in the workplace I'd find "Do you want to print the new TPS cover sheets?" grating because it's not a real choice.  It doesn't strike me as polite, it strikes me as passive-aggressive.  The same with parent-to-child.

In a relationship between equals, things are different. 

VltGrantham

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 488
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2012, 12:01:56 PM »
Quote
In the workplace, I'd prefer "Please do X" from my boss if it's an order.  "Can you do X?" is fine also because there might be a reason I can't, e.g., "I can't print the TPS cover sheets, the printer is broken."  But in the workplace I'd find "Do you want to print the new TPS cover sheets?" grating because it's not a real choice.  It doesn't strike me as polite, it strikes me as passive-aggressive.  The same with parent-to-child.

It would make me super nuts if my boss was asking me to do something under the guise that it was up to me or not whether to do it.  Maybe it's just me, but it really does come off as very passive-aggressive.  I don't think employees should have to guess what it is that you are trying to get them to do.  I don't think anyone should guess what you need or want.  There is no need to bark orders or be rude.

If there is a conflict, it is up to the employee to speak up, explain themselves, and offer a solution.  "Would you like to bring Jane in for her shampoo now?" could just as easily be "Please bring Jane in for her shampoo."  And if there is an issue the employee could certainly respond with "I'm right in the middle of something with Joe that can't wait.  Could you finish him up for me while I get Jane for you or would it be o.k. if Susie went and got her?"

Honestly I think this is very similar to why many couples get into so much trouble.  Instead of telling each other, honestly and openly about what they need or expect, they either try to phrase it as the other person's choice or expect them to just guess.  It doesn't work.  Being direct is not the same as being rude.

Mental Magpie

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5323
  • ...for the dark side looks back.
Re: The flip side of commands disguised as a question
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2012, 02:38:50 PM »
I would much more be bothered by "Do you want to put in the next appt?" than the "Put the next appt in now, we're running behind."  The "do you want" to me says, "You can't do your job and I'm trying to tell you that by mollycoddling you and be super sweet and nice about it".  I would feel like I was being talked to like I was a child.  The "Put the next appt in now" says to me, "This is what needs done so do it."
The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that you're still choosing evil.