'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
AVOID EITHER/OR QUESTIONS OR FACE THE WRATH OF SPAM
People are having a tough time communicating nowadays. One of the biggest problems is the use of confusing either/or questions. Someone will ask, “Do you want pizza or Chinese food tonight?” Then the other person often answers, “Yes.”
Has any clear communication taken place here, or are they right back where they started? No. (Oops, I just did it myself.)
In the pizza vs. Chinese example, the reply “Yes” could mean many things. It could mean, “Yes, I want pizza.” Or it could mean, “Yes, I want Chinese food.” Or it could mean, “Yes, I want pizza OR Chinese food,” which really means, “I don’t care, you decide.” Finally, it could mean, “Yes, I want pizza AND Chinese food,” which really means, “I’m a pig.”
Often the person asking the either/or question gets frustrated. I know if I ask my kids, “Do you want pizza or Chinese food?” and the answer comes back, “Yes,” then I immediately roll my eyes and say, “Well, what is that suppose to mean? Do you want pizza? Or do you want Chinese?!” At this point, my kids realize what’s going on, and since they take after me, they will answer loudly, “YESSSS!” just because they enjoy seeing my face turn red.
Actually, they stopped doing that a while ago after I went down in the basement, came back with a 12-year-old can of Y2K Spam, and plunked it onto the kitchen table and said, “There ya go! Enjoy dinner!”
We have to keep in mind that studies have shown whenever people speak, only about half their words are actually heard. (And if a wife is speaking to her husband while a ballgame is on TV, the number drops to zero.)
So even though the person who asks the either/or question gets frustrated by the one-word answer, it is really his fault for being too vague and assuming every word has been heard.
At least when you’re in the same room with the other person or persons, you can quickly sort out the confusion. “OK, let’s try this one more time, slowly. Is it going to be pizza, or is it going to be Chinese? Or do I have to go in the basement and dig out a dusty can of Spam?”
Either/or questions are much worse with email correspondence. I recently spent way too much time and aggravation trying to get a simple piece of information. I had to meet a contractor at a construction site, and I typed this message: “Should I meet you in the building lobby or in the parking garage?”
He emailed a one-word reply: “Yes.” It took me four more emails and two days of phone tag to get a clear answer. Then when the day came, I stood in the parking garage for 20 minutes while he waited for me in the lobby. His explanation: “We talked about it so much I forgot what we finally decided.”
Anyway, I didn’t realize those same studies which show that people hear only half of what is said, also indicate they read only 10-percent of an email message. (Something to keep in mind, especially for those of you — and you know who you are — who like to turn simple email notes into 10-page term papers.)
We have to stop being so polite. Instead of asking either/or questions, we need to make bold declarations, such as, “I’m going out to get pizza. If you don’t like it, here’s some Spam.” Or, “I will meet you in the lobby.” Although if the contractor objects, I’m not sure he’ll understand when I hand him a can of Spam.
Bill's suspense novel "Purge the Evil" now available for Kindle download. For info, click here: http://www.boomertrek.com/PurgeTheEvil.htm
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