News: IT'S THE 2ND ANNUAL GUATEMALA LIBRARY PROJECT BOOK DRIVE!    LOOKING FOR DONATIONS OF SCIENCE BOOKS THIS YEAR.    Check it out in the "Extending the Hand of Kindness" folder or here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=139832.msg3372084#msg3372084   

  • November 20, 2017, 07:03:31 PM

Login with username, password and session length

Author Topic: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect  (Read 7058 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

VorFemme

  • Member
  • Posts: 13799
  • It's too darned hot! (song from Kiss Me, Kate)
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2017, 11:17:32 AM »
I've learned that some people want a hint but also want to know if they can offer an alternative dinner plan when going out. 

"I'm kind of leaning toward Italian" leaves more of an opening for my family members to let me know that they are "kind of leaning toward Mexican, Pizza (grandkids), or even Chinese". Then we try to negotiate something that everyone can enjoy eating - sometimes I'll mention a restaurant when I'm visiting only to find out that it's no longer in business or the "new management" has changed the recipes...in which case, I might go to lunch by myself later (or another trip) rather than the entire bunch ending up there with five or more people to feed...only to find out that I can't stand what they did to the dish I'm craving. 

Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, but if you're taking two or three small children along with four adults - well, younger kids don't always appreciate sushi but can be easily persuaded to eat pizza or Mexican. 
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I explain?

lmyrs

  • Member
  • Posts: 1764
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 04:09:53 PM »
snip

In one indirect culture, the initial chit chat was indeed important. In one recoding, the people spent several minutes on "how's your family?" It wasn't until the person in need was leaving that she turned and said "Oh, by the way..." and asked about getting a college reference for her child. In the second one, in another culture, the person in need began with "Hi. How are you? I'd like to ask a favor. Can you provide Junior a reference?"

I don't think that needing to preface something with small talk is the same thing at all though. If you'll tell me what you mean, I honestly don't care if you get straight to the point or have a need to "warm me up" a bit. Whether small talk is appropriate or not, can vary from situation to situation but at least when the chat is over, you're telling me the truth and not expecting me to guess at your actual meaning. That's where the big difference is to me.


TurtleDove

  • Member
  • Posts: 7253
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2017, 04:45:14 PM »
snip

In one indirect culture, the initial chit chat was indeed important. In one recoding, the people spent several minutes on "how's your family?" It wasn't until the person in need was leaving that she turned and said "Oh, by the way..." and asked about getting a college reference for her child. In the second one, in another culture, the person in need began with "Hi. How are you? I'd like to ask a favor. Can you provide Junior a reference?"

I don't think that needing to preface something with small talk is the same thing at all though. If you'll tell me what you mean, I honestly don't care if you get straight to the point or have a need to "warm me up" a bit. Whether small talk is appropriate or not, can vary from situation to situation but at least when the chat is over, you're telling me the truth and not expecting me to guess at your actual meaning. That's where the big difference is to me.

Agreed. Regarding the small talk, however, this "strategy" comes across as disingenuous and would make me not trust the person as much. I wouldn't want to think that a person expressed interest in me only because they were going to then ask me for a favor. It rings manipulative to me. I would much rather someone be forthcoming and clear.

Semperviren

  • Member
  • Posts: 869
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2017, 05:44:46 PM »
I prefer some niceties. I want to know I'm dealing with a real person, not a robot.

nutraxfornerves

  • Member
  • Posts: 1676
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2017, 07:10:52 PM »
Quote
Regarding the small talk, however, this "strategy" comes across as disingenuous and would make me not trust the person as much. I wouldn't want to think that a person expressed interest in me only because they were going to then ask me for a favor. It rings manipulative to me. I would much rather someone be forthcoming and clear.
The author of the paper I got that from said that in the chit-chat cultures, going straight into the request,  without doing the chit chat was seen as rude--you are only talking to someone because you want a favor, not because you have any genuine interest in them as a person. Minefields everywhere.

Nutrax
The plural of anecdote is not data

gellchom

  • Member
  • Posts: 3722
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2017, 11:36:50 PM »
snip

In one indirect culture, the initial chit chat was indeed important. In one recoding, the people spent several minutes on "how's your family?" It wasn't until the person in need was leaving that she turned and said "Oh, by the way..." and asked about getting a college reference for her child. In the second one, in another culture, the person in need began with "Hi. How are you? I'd like to ask a favor. Can you provide Junior a reference?"

I don't think that needing to preface something with small talk is the same thing at all though. If you'll tell me what you mean, I honestly don't care if you get straight to the point or have a need to "warm me up" a bit. Whether small talk is appropriate or not, can vary from situation to situation but at least when the chat is over, you're telling me the truth and not expecting me to guess at your actual meaning. That's where the big difference is to me.

Agreed. Regarding the small talk, however, this "strategy" comes across as disingenuous and would make me not trust the person as much. I wouldn't want to think that a person expressed interest in me only because they were going to then ask me for a favor. It rings manipulative to me. I would much rather someone be forthcoming and clear.
It's not always a preface to asking for a favor, though.  When I've dealt with people from chit-chat cultures, it came at the beginning of any phone call or interaction.  I'd never even heard that this was considered polite in their culture; I figured that out from the fact that they always did it. 

Gladly

  • Member
  • Posts: 146
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #21 on: September 21, 2017, 03:22:08 AM »
The author of the paper I got that from said that in the chit-chat cultures, going straight into the request,  without doing the chit chat was seen as rude--you are only talking to someone because you want a favor, not because you have any genuine interest in them as a person. Minefields everywhere.

That's what I was trying to get at, but you put it better Nutrax.  ;D

Kiwipinball

  • Member
  • Posts: 1458
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #22 on: September 21, 2017, 06:17:00 AM »
I don't think it necessarily helps in translating, but I think it can help to know so that one can understand someone else's motives better. It's not that the other person is incredibly rude, manipulative, passive agressive, overly aggressive, whatever - it's just a different form of politeness to them. And that's good to know. People might still prefer to hang out more with the same type of communicators, but we don't always have a choice. I also don't think most people are 100% one way or another. I'm very direct, but there are some things that I would NOT ask for (e.g. I wouldn't invite myself to visit someone else's home/vacation home for an extended stay or something like that). I don't think I'd hint a ton about something like that, but even if I were hoping for an invite, I wouldn't ask. There are probably some other ones I'm not thinking of. So it's good to be aware that there are different approaches and it's fine to prefer one or the other, but they're not inherently wrong.

Another Sarah

  • Member
  • Posts: 971
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2017, 10:23:52 AM »
With most indirect communicators, they do not get mad if they are taken at their word, we'll at least most times. For instance I might say to DH "How does Italian sound for dinner" with the expectation that he'll understand I am brining up Italian because that is what I want for dinner. Now I do state it that way so if he had Italian for lunch he can say "Oh just had that. Can we do Chinese instead." Which to my ear is better to hear for me than me saying "I want Italian for dinner" and him saying "No I'd rather have Chinese." By saying "no" he has now flat out put his wants above my wants.

I find that really interesting - Before you posted your internal response to DH's possible answers I wouldn't have categorised "How does Italian sound" as any less direct as "I want Italian." Both to me are clearly expressing a preference, but to me neither are strong indicators for "I really want Italian tonight," which is what you're saying that you mean.

To me if you said "how does Italian sound for dinner?" you are asking me a question to open a conversation and are interested in my response so I should be free to say that I don't really fancy Italian, I'd rather have Chinese - but that doesn't mean I wouldn't eat it if you had your heart set on it. I'd expect you to come back with "oh I really wanted Italian" or "I don't fancy Chinese, is there a third option" or "I've already started cooking it," all of which would give me the opportunity to tell you that actually I'm not really fussed and Italian is fine if you specifically want it.

This is not being snarky, just trying to understand all sides of the question - but by starting the conversation "how does Italian sound for dinner" and feeling that reaction you described if DH says "No, I want Chinese" does that not mean you are putting your wants above DH's wants?
Because he may want Chinese as much as you want Italian but because you're announcing your preference first he has to conform to that unless he has a compelling reason not to? So does that not mean that you have cut off all other options for him by stating your preference?
It just seems to me like it would devolve into a question of "whoever asks first must care more so they 'win' the choice" and eventually a race to beat each other to the punch?

I suspect both of you don't really care that much about your food choice most of the time, so does the one who didn't say something have to miss out when actually you'd have been fine with an alternative? How do you tell the difference?

snappylt

  • Member
  • Posts: 636
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2017, 01:35:00 PM »
This is a long story; people who like shorter posts might want to skip ahead.

Reading through some of the comments here made me suddenly think of something that happened to me when I was a senior in college, decades ago.

When I was applying to graduate school, I asked two professors in my major department how they would feel about writing grad school recommendations for me based upon my academic work.  I also asked the faculty advisor to a student charity project how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me based upon my volunteer experience. (The volunteer work was directly related to the type of graduate studies I wanted to pursue, and, indeed, the faculty advisor's PhD. was in that field.)  All three professors responded positively - and, indeed, I was accepted into graduate school.

About a year later, I learned that in my graduate school, at least, one's entire academic record, including letters of recommendation, was available for one's own viewing. I was curious, so I asked to see my record. The only surprise was in the letter from the volunteer program advisor at my undergraduate school. He acknowledged my volunteer work and said I had been a useful volunteer - then he went on to say that he only hoped that I would learn to be less manipulative as I matured.

Huh? This concerned me. I truly had no idea what he was referring to - but I wanted to know what I had done that had rubbed him the wrong way, so that I could learn to NOT do that to other people!

Well, the following autumn (about 1 years after I graduated) I was back visiting friends near my undergraduate school. I called ahead and scheduled a half hour appointment with the faculty advisor to that volunteer program.

We had a nice talk about graduate school and I asked him about his letter of recommendation.

I asked very very politely. I phrased it as I was wanting to learn what I had done that was "manipulative" so that I could learn to change my behavior.

Well, the professor told me that what I had done that was so manipulative was that I had come to his office and had asked him how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me.

[What??? I didn't understand! How was asking that manipulative?]

I remained very very polite. I asked him to help me understand; how was my original conversation with him different from his conversations with other students who wanted recommendations from him?

The professor explained to me that usually students would come to his office and chat with him for a while, and only then, as they were ending their conversations, would other students "happen to mention" that they needed letters of recommendation. The professor felt that by stating the purpose of my visit up front, I had been manipulating him.

I think I had used direct communication with a professor who was expecting indirect communication.

MrTango

  • Member
  • Posts: 2759
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2017, 02:48:36 PM »
I'm definitely a direct speaker, and it drives me bonkers to deal with people who insist on speaking indirectly, especially in the workplace.

LadyTango and my MIL are both very indirect, and will frequently ask me if I "want to do X?"

If I do want to do it, then I'll say so.  If I don't want to do it, or if I'm neutral, then I reply with a question of my own: "Are you asking for my opinion or are you asking me to do X?"

Stricken_Halo

  • Member
  • Posts: 387
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2017, 03:04:26 PM »
This is a long story; people who like shorter posts might want to skip ahead.

Reading through some of the comments here made me suddenly think of something that happened to me when I was a senior in college, decades ago.

When I was applying to graduate school, I asked two professors in my major department how they would feel about writing grad school recommendations for me based upon my academic work.  I also asked the faculty advisor to a student charity project how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me based upon my volunteer experience. (The volunteer work was directly related to the type of graduate studies I wanted to pursue, and, indeed, the faculty advisor's PhD. was in that field.)  All three professors responded positively - and, indeed, I was accepted into graduate school.

About a year later, I learned that in my graduate school, at least, one's entire academic record, including letters of recommendation, was available for one's own viewing. I was curious, so I asked to see my record. The only surprise was in the letter from the volunteer program advisor at my undergraduate school. He acknowledged my volunteer work and said I had been a useful volunteer - then he went on to say that he only hoped that I would learn to be less manipulative as I matured.

Huh? This concerned me. I truly had no idea what he was referring to - but I wanted to know what I had done that had rubbed him the wrong way, so that I could learn to NOT do that to other people!

Well, the following autumn (about 1 years after I graduated) I was back visiting friends near my undergraduate school. I called ahead and scheduled a half hour appointment with the faculty advisor to that volunteer program.

We had a nice talk about graduate school and I asked him about his letter of recommendation.

I asked very very politely. I phrased it as I was wanting to learn what I had done that was "manipulative" so that I could learn to change my behavior.

Well, the professor told me that what I had done that was so manipulative was that I had come to his office and had asked him how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me.

[What??? I didn't understand! How was asking that manipulative?]

I remained very very polite. I asked him to help me understand; how was my original conversation with him different from his conversations with other students who wanted recommendations from him?

The professor explained to me that usually students would come to his office and chat with him for a while, and only then, as they were ending their conversations, would other students "happen to mention" that they needed letters of recommendation. The professor felt that by stating the purpose of my visit up front, I had been manipulating him.

I think I had used direct communication with a professor who was expecting indirect communication.
Clearly there was a miscommunication, but "manipulative" would not be the word I would apply to someone using direct communication. (Abrupt or cold, possibly, depending on context.) I'm glad this prof didn't keep you out of the graduate school program.

The whole business of getting right to the point vs. chatting first put me in mind of a scene in Revolutionary Road (the book by Richard Yates, not the movie). Mrs. Givings, the real estate agent, has dropped by the Wheelers' house, bearing a box of plant bulbs (which the Wheelers didn't ask for and didn't want). She chats about how to care for the plants and about the community players' recent performance (which was a flop). Then she starts walking toward her car, and
Quote
This was the moment for her saying, "Oh, one other thing, while I think of it." She nearly always did that, and the other thing would turn out to be the thing she had really come for in the first place.
But in this case she changes her mind, and we don't find out until later what she wanted: to bring her mentally ill son to visit the Wheelers and hopefully give him some friends his own age. It does appear as if the reader is meant to find Mrs. Givings horribly annoying. I wonder if other cultures would see her behavior differently.

miranova

  • Member
  • Posts: 4051
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #27 on: September 21, 2017, 03:22:53 PM »
Chit-chatting before asking for the favor, I can see how it's nice, IF it's genuine.  I mean, if I like someone I want to chit chat with them anyway, right?  Might as well do that as well.

In business situations, please no chit-chat unless we are also friends.  If you need something just ask.  (Of course in a business situation, it wouldn't really be a "favor" so the whole situation may not apply).

However, I have totally been on the receiving end of manipulative chit-chat that turned into a huge favor request.  My MIL called and gushed that she wanted to "take her DIL to lunch to catch up".  Which she had literally never done before.  We don't go out to lunch, just the two of us.  After about 30 min of lunch conversation, sure enough, she wanted something.  A huge favor that she knew my husband, her son, would have said no to, but she thought (wrongly) that she could butter me up with lunch.  I should have known lunch wasn't really lunch.

All of that to say if the chit chat is actually genuine, that will be clear.  If it's someone who never talks to you unless they want something, I'd prefer for them to skip the fake niceties.

TurtleDove

  • Member
  • Posts: 7253
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #28 on: September 21, 2017, 03:31:03 PM »
All of that to say if the chit chat is actually genuine, that will be clear.  If it's someone who never talks to you unless they want something, I'd prefer for them to skip the fake niceties.

Exactly this. If someone feels they need to butter me up to get me to do them a favor, then they probably are out of line in asking for that favor. My friends and family communicate with me on a regular basis, whether they want something or not, so when they want something they can just directly ask, and any chit chat is, in fact, genuine and wholly unrelated to the favor.

I am reminded of that phrase, sometimes attributed to Dr. Seuss, but sometimes to Bernard Baruch: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.


Yvaine

  • Member
  • Posts: 10037
Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2017, 06:21:53 PM »
This is a long story; people who like shorter posts might want to skip ahead.

Reading through some of the comments here made me suddenly think of something that happened to me when I was a senior in college, decades ago.

When I was applying to graduate school, I asked two professors in my major department how they would feel about writing grad school recommendations for me based upon my academic work.  I also asked the faculty advisor to a student charity project how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me based upon my volunteer experience. (The volunteer work was directly related to the type of graduate studies I wanted to pursue, and, indeed, the faculty advisor's PhD. was in that field.)  All three professors responded positively - and, indeed, I was accepted into graduate school.

About a year later, I learned that in my graduate school, at least, one's entire academic record, including letters of recommendation, was available for one's own viewing. I was curious, so I asked to see my record. The only surprise was in the letter from the volunteer program advisor at my undergraduate school. He acknowledged my volunteer work and said I had been a useful volunteer - then he went on to say that he only hoped that I would learn to be less manipulative as I matured.

Huh? This concerned me. I truly had no idea what he was referring to - but I wanted to know what I had done that had rubbed him the wrong way, so that I could learn to NOT do that to other people!

Well, the following autumn (about 1 years after I graduated) I was back visiting friends near my undergraduate school. I called ahead and scheduled a half hour appointment with the faculty advisor to that volunteer program.

We had a nice talk about graduate school and I asked him about his letter of recommendation.

I asked very very politely. I phrased it as I was wanting to learn what I had done that was "manipulative" so that I could learn to change my behavior.

Well, the professor told me that what I had done that was so manipulative was that I had come to his office and had asked him how he would feel about writing a recommendation for me.

[What??? I didn't understand! How was asking that manipulative?]

I remained very very polite. I asked him to help me understand; how was my original conversation with him different from his conversations with other students who wanted recommendations from him?

The professor explained to me that usually students would come to his office and chat with him for a while, and only then, as they were ending their conversations, would other students "happen to mention" that they needed letters of recommendation. The professor felt that by stating the purpose of my visit up front, I had been manipulating him.

I think I had used direct communication with a professor who was expecting indirect communication.
Clearly there was a miscommunication, but "manipulative" would not be the word I would apply to someone using direct communication. (Abrupt or cold, possibly, depending on context.) I'm glad this prof didn't keep you out of the graduate school program.

The whole business of getting right to the point vs. chatting first put me in mind of a scene in Revolutionary Road (the book by Richard Yates, not the movie). Mrs. Givings, the real estate agent, has dropped by the Wheelers' house, bearing a box of plant bulbs (which the Wheelers didn't ask for and didn't want). She chats about how to care for the plants and about the community players' recent performance (which was a flop). Then she starts walking toward her car, and
Quote
This was the moment for her saying, "Oh, one other thing, while I think of it." She nearly always did that, and the other thing would turn out to be the thing she had really come for in the first place.
But in this case she changes her mind, and we don't find out until later what she wanted: to bring her mentally ill son to visit the Wheelers and hopefully give him some friends his own age. It does appear as if the reader is meant to find Mrs. Givings horribly annoying. I wonder if other cultures would see her behavior differently.

And it doesn't help that some people are just really bad at it. One funny example that comes to mind was, I was working a customer service job some years ago, and a woman came in to try to sell me MLM. Yes, in the store where I was working at the time.  ::) ;D But that's not how she started. She asked me some stuff about work, she guuuusssssshhhhed about the color of my eyes, and then started to leave--and then did this HUGE theatrical finger-snap-and-turn-and-oh-I-almost-forgot! and launched into her pitch. I wondered how often she'd practiced it.  ;D ;D ;D