Category Archives: Business

Stop Phrases: I don’t know what you mean.

me: (long technical explanation)

person I am chatting with: I don’t know what you mean.

me: I can’t help that you are mentally challenged. You don’t have to be rude about it.

No, I didn’t actually say that… but I thought about it. 🙂

I know this person. She is very polite, kind, intelligent… and very formal. Maybe a bit too formal on chat. If she had just said, “huh?” I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. But typing a whole sentence just to say, “what?” made me stop and think.

Failure to communicate on chat happens all the time. We know someone is just sitting there waiting. So we try to go as fast as we can. We abbreviate, leave out whole words, and sometimes skip whole thoughts hoping the other person will “just get it”. Huh? happens. Then we go back and fill in things we left out, or explain things that were not clear on the first attempt.

“Huh?” is less disruptive since it is shorter, but it can still be a stop phrase. I know that something I said did not make sense, but I still don’t know why it didn’t make sense. I can look back for typos, but it could be a word you are not familiar with in this context or an entire concept that is unfamiliar.

Stop phrases are words that end a conversation. After a stop phrase, the conversation is over unless one of us can think of something else to say. We may choose to start a new conversation about why you don’t understand, but the flow of conversation has been broken. I now know that I just wasted time time talking to you, since everything I just said made no sense all.

Instead of stopping the conversation, let’s just divert it temporarily. To keep the conversation going, just ask about the specific word, phrase, or idea that you didn’t get.

For example: If you offer to cook a hamburger for me and I say, “I am now hungry.” You could ask, “did you mean not hungry?” You could also play with the likely typo and say, “just the word hamburger, made your stomach growl. :)” Both let me know that you might have misunderstood, and I can explain if needed.

Either way, try to help the other person figure out what it is you don’t understand so they can explain it better. Ask specific questions. Keep the conversation going until you understand.

This is the first in a what will probably become a series about .

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