I Guess….

Today’s topic: “I guess”  This is a phrase that has driven me nuts for a while now. 

Reason #1:  The passive acquiescence.  Ever asked someone “Would you like to go ice skating in the park today?” or maybe “Would you like to have Thai food for dinner?” and gotten the response “I guess”?  It drives me bonkers.  What is that supposed to mean?  Seems to me that it is a way of agreeing without taking any responsibility in the decision.  That way, if the ice rink is overcrowded or the drunken noodles are undercooked, there is this implicit blame on the other person, the “suggestor” of this bogus idea.  The “I guess”er only sort of agreed, but didn’t lend any legitimate support to the idea.  Well.  Don’t do that.  It sucks.  If you are a culprit of the “I guess”, perhaps you believe you are being easygoing and flexible.  I can tell you, it doesn’t feel that way to the other person.  If you would like a better way to say “I am willing to try whatever, and up for anything,” try responding with a bright, enthusiastic “Sure!” or “Sounds good to me.” 

Reason #2:  The “I hope you do, but implied maybe you won’t.”  THIS use of “I guess” is all too often paired with the phrase “figure it out,” such as “I guess you’ll just have to figure it out.”  Implication:  maybe you’re not going to figure it out.  Maybe you haven’t thought through this life choice.  Older adults love to use this expression, particularly when talking to younger people who are going through some strife.  I believe they mean it to be supportive.  I’ve asked about intentions, and these “I guess”ers want to show they believe in the other person, but those two little words create such doubt!  They are so challenging, and irritating, and make the other person want to say “I worry about this WAY more than you do, so I guess I WILL figure it out.”  If you are this kind of “I guess”er, you would do yourself a huge favor by eliminating that interrogative.  A better way to say that: “I know you’ll figure it out.”  “I’m sure you’ll discover what to do.”  “The right opportunity will come along.” 

Enough said.  I guess.


A Sign In My Apartment Building

I love this.  So many layers of hidden meaning.

Just (Don’t) Do It

Today’s entry is the response given to the email received from a friend’s colleague (see yesterday’s entry for the full drama!).

Was my friend pissed as hell?  You bet.  And rightly so, I think.  He could have said “You didn’t give me all the information I needed to know, so it’s not my fault.”  Or “Even if you are unhappy with me, I think you are being rude and it’s uncalled for.”  He might have said “I don’t really give a damn if you have to update 75 calculations, sounds like it’s your problem, not mine.”

All perfectly justifiable sentiments, right?  Sure.  But sometimes, being justified- or being RIGHT- is not the most important thing.  At least, it’s not most important everyone know just how right you are.

In general, I think there’s a way to say most everything you need to say.  That doesn’t mean that you need to say everything that’s in your head- some things are what I call JDDI (Just Don’t Do It).  You want to tell someone how rude they are being to you?  That’s your right.  But is it worth it?  I hate unnecessary rudeness more than anyone- it’s my BIGGEST pet peeve.  I’m on a never-ending crusade to convince people that rudeness has no place in this world.  BUT.  Occasionally I think it’s best to put my indignation aside, and just suck it up.

Just. Don’t. Do. It.  Sure, honesty is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean you have to torture the world with every single brilliant thought that pops into your head.  We aren’t wired that way- that’s why our mouths aren’t a direct extension of our brains.

So as angry as my friend was, he decided not to escalate the situation.  He sent an “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, please let me know what I can do to help” email in response.  Cowtowing to this colleague?  You could think that.  Or maybe just being smart- sometimes killing them with kindness is the best thing you can do.  He quickly got a response that said “Sorry I flew off the handle for a minute there.  I’m just really overworked with this project right now.”

All is well.  He got the apology and preserved the relationship, and he walked away from the whole situation as the better person.

JDDI- When the way to say that is to not say anything at all.

TAWTST: Is that my problem?

TAWTST, readers, is the acronym I’m experimenting with for now- if you have comments, send them over- it’s not exactly pronounceable at this point!

This TAWTST moment is brought to you courtesy of email.  I have a whole BUNCH of thoughts on email, and how it fosters a lot of communication problems, but that is a series for another week.    Today I want to talk about the “Is that my problem?” response.

A friend of mine recently received an email from a heated colleague at his workplace.  They had been part of a team working on a project together, and apparently my friend had made some minor error in a calculation.  As he tells it, his error was based on information he didn’t have, so there was no way he could have known he was making a mistake.

He received an email that essentially said:  “What is going on with these numbers?  I don’t understand why they’re not matching the previous set we have.  I’m very confused.  We need to follow (algorithm X) for all the calculations.  I am not updating 75 calculations every time one number changes.

Hunh.  My immediate response is- is that my problem?  Instead of feeling guilty about having made a mistake, and wanting to work to correct it and help out my teammate, I have all the wrong reactions to that last statement.  Sounds to me like….updating 75 calculations IS your job, and if you choose to do it or not to do it, well…..it’s NOT really my problem, now is it?   And if you’re just plain NOT going to do it, well, okay.  Don’t tell me about it, because I’m not the person you’re reporting to.

So what’s the way to say that?  The best option is to turn to the innocuous third person mode, or the royal “we”.  How about:  We need to follow (algorithm X) for all the calculations.  It’s extremely difficult and time-consuming otherwise, because we have to update 75 calculations every time one number changes.  Eight extra words, (and you could even cut out a couple if you are so inclined).  Suddenly, we are on the same team instead of being at odds with one another.  The “we” unites the two of them against the “others” out there, and also implies that my friend may be the one updating those calculations one of these days.  Very few people actually want to create more work or make life difficult for their colleagues (or themselves)- most people aren’t malicious, and it’s not a wise move politically.

So now, my friend is much more likely to apologize for his error, be mindful of proper procedure, and move on…

…or is he?

Tomorrow’s post- his response and JDSI.  :)


Hi there!

Welcome to “There’s a Way to Say That:  How to Get Ahead While Getting Along.”  This is a book idea-turned-blog, because I decided to give a feeble attempt at particpating with my generation in the 21st century.  I’ve been putting off the actual writing of this blog, though I have already taken notes, conducted interviews, and thought a LOT about what I would like to say.  The permanence (and irony) of the internet is more than a little daunting, but now that I have fingers to keys, it’s turning out to be easier than expected.

What is the point of this blog?  To help people communicate better.  Every single day, I see examples of miscommunication so awful that you have to laugh, or else you will cry (if you’re not crying already).  I’m not going to blame it on this country, or this generation, or anything else- but I DO think everyone could be a little better at making themselves understood.  If you’re able to communicate better, it ultimately benefits you- you’re that much closer to getting what you want!  More importantly, I think a huge percentage of the time, disagreements or negative feelings arise not because of what you say, but because of how you say it.  That, in a nutshell, is my entire philosophy.

Why am I qualified to speak to this subject?  Well, I think life, and the observation of it, is enough to make me an expert.  I’m a Midwestern transplant, raised in a semi-Southern state, who has spent the past six years (six already!) in the Northeast.  I’ve met many different kinds of people, and many different people, period.  I am also an actor.  Is the lightbulb going off yet?  Acting is just the study of communication.  I essentially spent all my time in school studying all the nuances: those things people aren’t aware that they do, or imply, or even deny.  I’ve got a fresh perspective that goes beyond the books in the self-help section (although if I had a book there one day, I wouldn’t complain!).

I’m not Miss Manners; I’m not Emily Post.  I also don’t believe in being a jerk.

Thanks for visiting, and check back soon!