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  • November 23, 2017, 07:36:34 AM

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Author Topic: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect  (Read 7096 times)

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blarg314

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #45 on: September 25, 2017, 07:41:58 PM »
I do see manipulation in your phrasing.  If I were to be asked how I felt about writing a letter of recommendation for you, I would answer that question, but would not write a letter of recommendation.  If you actually want me to write the letter, then ask if I would write the letter after finding out how I would feel about doing so.

I don't see any manipulation there. Perhaps the phrasing is *slightly* indirect, but it's clear that it means "would you please write me a recommendation?" It is, after all, a standard request for a professor to receive from a student. To misconstrue the question as a general inquiry into someone's feeling is like assuming that a person trying to write a note who asks "Do you have a pen?" is enquiring out of general curiosity about the contents of your handbag rather than asking to borrow a writing implement.

And there's also the power imbalance between the professor and the student, which I think makes it inappropriate (and kind of mean) for the professor to play mind games about the exact phrasing used when someone young and inexperienced is asking a favour from someone way above them a hierarchy, and needs their goodwill.

And really, it isn't just a matter of would the professor write it or not. What you also need to know (but is incredibly hard to ask) is whether they can write a *good* letter. So an honest answer from the professor described above would be "I would be willing to write it for you, but I resent the way you asked me, so it wouldn't be a very good recommendation."


DanaJ

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #46 on: September 26, 2017, 02:56:30 PM »
And to be frank, if I saw that recommendation letter "I hope she learns to be less manipulative..." would be a red flag for me for the professor!

It is such an odd thing to say in a professional recommendation letter, that I would probably think that whoever wrote it was a bit of a weirdo and if the other recommendations were normal, I would not think that professor's letter was credible. "Manipulative" sounds a bit too personal to me and it sounds more like the prof has a personal axe to grind.

Twik

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #47 on: September 28, 2017, 10:15:04 AM »
it would never occur to me that "How do you feel about writing a recommendation for me?" means anything other than "Would you write a recommendation for me?"

Agreed, and I am one of the largest proponents for direct communication when we have these threads.  This one seems obvious to me and I don't see any manipulation.
Same here.  "How do you feel about ..." or "Would you be comfortable ... " before a request doesn't seem the least bit indirect to me.  To me, it signals "I know this is a request that for some reason you might not want to do" -- you wouldn't say "Do you feel comfortable passing me the salt?" but you might say "Would you be comfortable signing this petition?"  It's not indirect, it's just signaling that it's okay to say no.

I think that that professor was being deliberately obtuse.

It reminds me of the story about a famous writer back in the early 1900s, when long-distance communication had to be either by mail, or telegraph if it was important and worth the extra cost.

One of his friends telegraphed him "Do you know X's address?", X being an important publisher he was trying to contact. The writer telegraphed back "Yes."
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gellchom

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #48 on: September 28, 2017, 01:47:43 PM »
it would never occur to me that "How do you feel about writing a recommendation for me?" means anything other than "Would you write a recommendation for me?"

Agreed, and I am one of the largest proponents for direct communication when we have these threads.  This one seems obvious to me and I don't see any manipulation.
Same here.  "How do you feel about ..." or "Would you be comfortable ... " before a request doesn't seem the least bit indirect to me.  To me, it signals "I know this is a request that for some reason you might not want to do" -- you wouldn't say "Do you feel comfortable passing me the salt?" but you might say "Would you be comfortable signing this petition?"  It's not indirect, it's just signaling that it's okay to say no.

I think that that professor was being deliberately obtuse.

It reminds me of the story about a famous writer back in the early 1900s, when long-distance communication had to be either by mail, or telegraph if it was important and worth the extra cost.

One of his friends telegraphed him "Do you know X's address?", X being an important publisher he was trying to contact. The writer telegraphed back "Yes."

We've heard reports of people doing that -- just answering "yes" to questions like "Pardon me, do you know the time?" or "Do you know the way to Main Street?" and seeming to pride themselves on how hilarious they are.  I think it's really immature.

Dazi

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #49 on: September 28, 2017, 02:11:11 PM »
it would never occur to me that "How do you feel about writing a recommendation for me?" means anything other than "Would you write a recommendation for me?"

Agreed, and I am one of the largest proponents for direct communication when we have these threads.  This one seems obvious to me and I don't see any manipulation.
Same here.  "How do you feel about ..." or "Would you be comfortable ... " before a request doesn't seem the least bit indirect to me.  To me, it signals "I know this is a request that for some reason you might not want to do" -- you wouldn't say "Do you feel comfortable passing me the salt?" but you might say "Would you be comfortable signing this petition?"  It's not indirect, it's just signaling that it's okay to say no.

I think that that professor was being deliberately obtuse.

It reminds me of the story about a famous writer back in the early 1900s, when long-distance communication had to be either by mail, or telegraph if it was important and worth the extra cost.

One of his friends telegraphed him "Do you know X's address?", X being an important publisher he was trying to contact. The writer telegraphed back "Yes."

We've heard reports of people doing that -- just answering "yes" to questions like "Pardon me, do you know the time?" or "Do you know the way to Main Street?" and seeming to pride themselves on how hilarious they are.  I think it's really immature.

There are some people that are just that literal though. I have a friend who is (I've met several others that I'm sure aren't trying to be funny). He is on the spectrum, but most people don't pick up on it right away. You have to be extremely specific in how you word request and questions to him.
Meditate. Live purely. Quiet the mind. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine. ---Gautama Buddah





Allyson

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #50 on: September 28, 2017, 04:04:03 PM »
There's a TVtrope about that.  "Mathematician's Answer." 

daen

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #51 on: September 28, 2017, 08:11:35 PM »
Maybe I misread the snappylt's story, but as I pictured it, snappylt had asked how the professor would feel about writing a letter of recommendation, then asked specifically if the professor would write said letter. The professor's objection was not so much to the phrasing of the request as the fact that said request had not been prefaced with the correct amount of social chitchat.

Or am I completely off, snappylt?

snappylt

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #52 on: September 29, 2017, 07:31:27 PM »
Maybe I misread the snappylt's story, but as I pictured it, snappylt had asked how the professor would feel about writing a letter of recommendation, then asked specifically if the professor would write said letter. The professor's objection was not so much to the phrasing of the request as the fact that said request had not been prefaced with the correct amount of social chitchat.

Or am I completely off, snappylt?

We're discussing things that happened decades ago, so I am a little fuzzy on the exact wording at this point.

I do not remember the professor objecting to my phrasing at all. I remember him telling me that students usually would come to his office for a friendly chat, and then would, only at the end of the chat, mention that they needed a letter of recommendation.

I was left with the idea that he was put off by the way I made my request openly the focus of our meeting instead of waiting until the end of the meeting to mention a reference letter in passing. (That's why, when I read the earlier messages in this thread, it occurred to me that perhaps that professor was an indirect communicator.)

None of my other professors (or employers over the decades, for that matter) ever gave me similar feedback, so I think it may have been a personality quirk (or a preferred communication style) of just that one professor.

bopper

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #53 on: October 04, 2017, 10:02:31 AM »

I do see manipulation in your phrasing.  If I were to be asked how I felt about writing a letter of recommendation for you, I would answer that question, but would not write a letter of recommendation.  If you actually want me to write the letter, then ask if I would write the letter after finding out how I would feel about doing so.


Actually this is exactly what you should do when asking for a letter of recommendation...because you are giving the person a chance to say "I think you should find someone else that could write you a stronger recommendation" which is a way to say "i will write you one, but you won't like what I say."

Chez Miriam

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #54 on: October 06, 2017, 04:36:08 AM »

I do see manipulation in your phrasing.  If I were to be asked how I felt about writing a letter of recommendation for you, I would answer that question, but would not write a letter of recommendation.  If you actually want me to write the letter, then ask if I would write the letter after finding out how I would feel about doing so.


Actually this is exactly what you should do when asking for a letter of recommendation...because you are giving the person a chance to say "I think you should find someone else that could write you a stronger recommendation" which is a way to say "i will write you one, but you won't like what I say."

That's always been my thinking when I'm asking if someone would be willing do something [preparatory to asking them to do it].
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."  - Julian of Norwich

Rockie

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #55 on: October 08, 2017, 03:40:24 PM »
I don't know if anyone else watches Fresh Off the Boat, but the most recent episode made me think of this thread. Basically, Jessica's neighbor Honey invited her and her family (which included 3 kids) to stay at her house since Jessica's family was homeless. Whenever Jessica talked about moving out/making a counteroffer on a house, Honey would say, "No, no, we love having you here, stay as long as you like" (but in a quiet unenthusiastic tone of voice). Jessica took her literally. Eventually they got into an argument where Honey revealed she was actually tired of having them in her house. Jessica asked, "Why didn't you just tell me you wanted us to leave?" Honey replied "I'm Southern!". They ended up making up by the end of the episode, but I thought it was a demonstration of how miscommunication can happen when a direct communicator meets an indirect communicator.

Kiwipinball

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Re: Communications Expert Deborah Tannen on Direct and Indirect
« Reply #56 on: October 08, 2017, 05:32:29 PM »
I don't know if anyone else watches Fresh Off the Boat, but the most recent episode made me think of this thread. Basically, Jessica's neighbor Honey invited her and her family (which included 3 kids) to stay at her house since Jessica's family was homeless. Whenever Jessica talked about moving out/making a counteroffer on a house, Honey would say, "No, no, we love having you here, stay as long as you like" (but in a quiet unenthusiastic tone of voice). Jessica took her literally. Eventually they got into an argument where Honey revealed she was actually tired of having them in her house. Jessica asked, "Why didn't you just tell me you wanted us to leave?" Honey replied "I'm Southern!". They ended up making up by the end of the episode, but I thought it was a demonstration of how miscommunication can happen when a direct communicator meets an indirect communicator.

Love that show! Yes, I liked that and I think it shows how differently cultural assumptions play into it. Honey, based on her background/cultural assumptions, felt obligated to offer for them to keep staying but thought it should be obvious that they should leave ASAP. Jessica, based on her background/cultural assumptions, considered Honey family and "you don't thank family." Neither person was bad or doing anything wrong, their cultural assumptions just clashed, leaving one feeling unappreciated and taken advantage of and the other completely oblivious.