Author Topic: Answering a rhetorical question?  (Read 3397 times)

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Knitterly

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Answering a rhetorical question?
« on: October 12, 2012, 02:56:41 PM »
Sometimes, if a rhetorical question is asked snarkily in my earshot, I feel like giving a sincere answer.  I don't, though, because I wonder if it would be too rude (or rhetorical rudeness).

Situation that happened today:
I went to the dollar store.  There were two boys (maybe 12-14ish) standing outside selling apples to fundraise for... something.  As I went into the store, they asked if I would buy an apple to support their cause.  I declined with a smile and said "Sorry, not today.  Good luck, though."
They were asking every single customer who went into the store.  At least, on my way through the parking lot and into the store, I saw them stop every single customer (about 6 people) on their way in.

As I left the store (less than 10 minutes later) the same boy to ask me the first time asked me again.  So I answered "Sorry, you already asked me.  I'm still not interested.  Good luck."  Again, with the smile. 
The boy made a face at me and then turned to the other boy and said (quite loud enough to be heard by everyone around, including me)  "{Diety}, how are we supposed to know if some stupid {ahem} was asked or not."

I kept walking, but what I really wanted to do was turn around and answer with a smile.  "Well, if you ask everyone going into the store, then you've probably already asked anyone who comes out."  There's only one door in/out of the store.  They were standing by it.

Would that have been rude?
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 03:03:44 PM by Knitterly »

jmarvellous

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2012, 03:00:13 PM »
Not rude (and actually quite intelligent) but in my experience, it's best not to engage cursing teenagers unless you're an authority figure.


jpcher

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2012, 04:23:43 PM »
When I go into a store, I'd not buy anything from the sellers outside of the store because I don't want to carry the item through my shopping.

Sometimes, depending on the girl/boy scout/fundraising whatever, I'll purchase the item on my way out of the store.


As I left the store (less than 10 minutes later) the same boy to ask me the first time asked me again.  So I answered "Sorry, you already asked me.  I'm still not interested.  Good luck."  Again, with the smile. 
The boy made a face at me and then turned to the other boy and said (quite loud enough to be heard by everyone around, including me)  "{Diety}, how are we supposed to know if some stupid {ahem} was asked or not."

Yes, they were rude for making that comment loudly enough for others to hear, but they are probably young and frustrated and trying to do some good for their cause.

I would give them a pass.

GSNW

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2012, 04:52:00 PM »
The snotty rhetorical question is the lame weapon of people who can't think of another way to deal with a situation they don't like.  The kid could have said, "Gee lady, I didn't realize you'd been asked already... sorrrreee!" and even that would have been better than the "question" he directed at his friend.

I think answering these questions can sometimes be beneficial - not only for the person who is the target of the snark, but for clarifying a situation for both parties involved.  I say this thinking of a time when I responded to such a question with basic facts, and managed to let the asker know that her "question" was not appropriate or welcome in the group she was socializing with.

Pippen

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2012, 05:15:05 PM »
It wasn't really a rhetorical question. It was an insult no matter if he had intended you to hear it or not. I would have been a bit stunned by it as well. While it would be very tempting to ask them "Excuse me. What did you just say?" you then end up in a potentially uncomfortable confrontation where he would just deny having said it.

I very much doubt they will be selling a lot of apples by being openly hostile to people.

Shoo

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2012, 05:25:20 PM »
I would not have answered the young man.  But I WOULD have gone into the store, asked for a manager, and reported what the young man said.  I doubt store manager would have taken kindly to that young man speaking to/about his customers that way.

Iris

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2012, 05:29:24 PM »
Not rude (and actually quite intelligent) but in my experience, it's best not to engage cursing teenagers unless you're an authority figure.

This. It's not a lot of fun even if you ARE an authority figure. I would however have gone with Shoo's suggestion. It's hardly going to be good for business having a couple of kids cursing out customers and I'm sure the manager would appreciate a heads up.
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Pippen

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2012, 06:05:49 PM »
Not rude (and actually quite intelligent) but in my experience, it's best not to engage cursing teenagers unless you're an authority figure.

This. It's not a lot of fun even if you ARE an authority figure. I would however have gone with Shoo's suggestion. It's hardly going to be good for business having a couple of kids cursing out customers and I'm sure the manager would appreciate a heads up.

Bonus points if they are the sons of the manager and he hauls them over the coals for it.

Personally I don't have any problem confronting teenagers who are doing something rude, offensive or stupid. If they are impinging on others they should be made to account for themselves. I actually see it as doing them a favour to remind them they do not live in a bubble. Thinking they can get away with unacceptable behaviour gives them a sense they can do whatever they feel like and that leads to risk taking behviours that can have serious consequences.

Surianne

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2012, 08:05:41 PM »
They were very rude in their comment about you.  However, I'm not sure how you expected them to remember every person they asked, either -- so I don't see your initial comment of "You already asked me", as if they should have known not to ask you, as being particularly polite.  In the future, a simple "no thank you" might be better.

MariaE

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2012, 01:45:34 AM »
Surianne, It's fundraising 101 that you only ask either people enterering a store or only people exiting a store - not both. Otherwise you end up reeeeally pissing people of, because you're right - there's no way to remember who has alreay been asked and who hasn't. So I actually think they were in the wrong already there. Not rude, but wrong.
 
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CinnamonGirl

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2012, 02:57:39 AM »
That wasn't a rhetorical question, he was being rude and sarcastic.

Sometimes, if a rhetorical question is asked snarkily in my earshot, I feel like giving a sincere answer. 


In situations like that I'd have to bite my tongue to stop from answering back sarcastically, but that's retaliatory rudeness so I just answer politely with a smile.

TootsNYC

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2012, 08:23:30 AM »
I think you sort of chastised him with your "you already asked me," and I don't think that was necessary. It was also maybe not polite.

Maybe a person going in reflexively said no and later changed their minds. (Of course that person doesn't need to be asked, but by asking, maybe they'll consider it again.)

Maybe a person doesn't want to carry the item while shopping, as jpcher said.

Maybe being asked twice will make people think again.

I would have thought Fundraising 101 would say ask them both places. If you tick them off by asking the second time, is it going to hurt your apple sales?

Maybe a smart idea would be to have a different sentence for people on the way out, but I'd be asking them anyway.

Basically, I just don't think it's necessary to chastise someone, especially not kids you don't even know, and THAT is what he was reacting to. I can't really say I blame him. Teenagers especially are sensitive to unfair chastisement. And I think your comment is unfair chastisement.

I'm w/  Surianne--next time, just say, "no, thank you."

JenJay

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2012, 10:27:04 AM »
I would not have answered the young man.  But I WOULD have gone into the store, asked for a manager, and reported what the young man said.  I doubt store manager would have taken kindly to that young man speaking to/about his customers that way.

Ditto. I would have given a heads-up to the organization they were fundraising for, too.

AnnaJ

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2012, 02:20:30 PM »
I understand what you're saying - with the election season hot and heavy I've been to several places where poll people try to ask questions before and after entering stores.

My opinion might be counter to many but I really do not like being approached about anything - sales, opinion polls, perfume sprayers - when I'm going about my business.  If I'm interested in buying your cookies or trying out your moisturizer or participating in your survey I will approach you. 

I'm pretty social and will strike up conversations with people in all kinds of places, but absolutely hate to have people come up  to me  when I've shown no interest in whatever they are selling or doing, and think it's rude to teach kids to do so.  Inconsistent, but true.  ???

Adelaide

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Re: Answering a rhetorical question?
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2012, 11:08:18 PM »
I usually turn around and walk back, saying "Oh, did you say something to me?" in a friendly tone if I want to get my point across or think it's worth it. For example, I live in an apartment complex that's basically solid law students. The other night there was a party going on between three apartments, none of which had their door closed, and music was blasting until 1 in the morning. When I went in and asked them to close the doors, they pasted on smiles and said "Oh, sure" but before I'd even had a chance to walk out and close the door fully one of the guys said "Diety, what a SwearWord". I went back in and said "Oh, did you say something to me?" and they started stammering that no, of course they hadn't. I kept staring them down and said "Really? Because I was sure you'd said something to me and I must have missed it." I managed to stand there until they felt sufficiently awkward enough to drop eye contact, then I walked out. And slept like a baby with no music. I don't think that it's rude to respond if the rhetorical question is about you and you're not swearing back at the person or threatening them or anything.