How do you guys deal with short answerers?
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:11
English to Polish
+ ...
Aug 8, 2013

Well, you don't know this, but I've been interested in psychology far longer than translation. I just don't dabble with proper academic stuff but rather ponder questions like this one. The immediate impulse came from a recent discussion with an agency owner, where I caught him shortening the messages in our little contentious exchange that concerned the nobility of his business practices.

You know the kind: replies using half your own word count, skipping a couple of angles, not addressing everything you said, kinda like a bureaucrat that knows he has the power and sometimes shows it. Some people act like that in business situations. Probably the cheapest, easiest way of indicating that we aren't equals that there is.

The textbook response to that is: write ever shorter, tarry more than he did. Incidentally, this means beating him at his own game while actually accepting to play on those terms (boo!).

An NLP-like response would be to reframe him. Basically do something outside the box that changes the rules of the game. Force him to lose the benefit of his familiar routine and to play on your terms. (Reframe.)

Or you can just demand your answers, politely, without being set back by his failure to provide them the first time you asked. Point it out, just don't call him out too much. Usual deal with the government and courts. (A game of attrition, where both sides play dumb.)

Alternatively, of course, there's always the option of calling him out and forcing confrontation. That's a full-frontal kind of strategy, but one that actually works quite well when you catch the culprit red handed, e.g. ignoring a core issue rather than tangential one. (Naming and shaming, or at least naming an exposing.)

In this case, I resolved the conversation by pressing a situational advantage that ultimately had nothing to do with short or long writing, but I've been wondering for a while about the different ways of reacting to the annoying shortening tactic that some people use.

So, do you keep writing at the same length, undaunted? Or do you make it even shorter than he did? Or do you press the important answers, making the attempt look like an incompetent omission? Or do you call things by their names, i.e. name and expose the shortening tactic?

What other tactics like that do you particularly dislike in your counterparties?


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:11
Chinese to English
Sounds like you're taking it a bit personally, Lukasz! Aug 9, 2013

I'm a short emailer myself, and I don't mind brief answers. I don't usually get into long dialogues with clients, so I'm not quite sure what you're imagining here. Generally, if I ask some professional-grade questions and I don't get answers to them, I assume that the person I'm talking to doesn't know, so I just answer the questions myself using my best judgment.

As to tone and rudeness, just make it a policy never to be offended by someone's email style. There are enough problems in the world without letting that kind of trivial stuff get you down!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:11
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Aug 9, 2013

Phil Hand wrote:

I'm a short emailer myself, and I don't mind brief answers. I don't usually get into long dialogues with clients, so I'm not quite sure what you're imagining here. Generally, if I ask some professional-grade questions and I don't get answers to them, I assume that the person I'm talking to doesn't know, so I just answer the questions myself using my best judgment.

As to tone and rudeness, just make it a policy never to be offended by someone's email style. There are enough problems in the world without letting that kind of trivial stuff get you down!


Phil, I don't mind people who give answers shorter than questions, I do that too if possible (like here). Rather, I mean those guys who use relative brevity as a snub.

I don't really get offended by writing style, but when I see monkey business, I punish it with serenity (and punishments range from gentle remonstration of to kiri sute gomen). Some guys, however, do work me up a niggle.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:11
Danish to English
+ ...
Stay professional - keep your own style Aug 9, 2013

You can't change people, educate them or shame them into writing the way YOU would like them to. All you can do is follow the old saying 'do to others as you would like them to do to you' and continue to write in your own chosen style. Of course, if you don't get the answers you want from a business contact, just ask again.

In many cases, I think short answers are actually preferable, and I accept that others have different views of what is good email conduct and what isn't.


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 05:11
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Extend your text Aug 9, 2013

One strategy in a scenario like yours, where you believe the shortening of answers is a tactic, could be to be immaculately polite and forthcoming – and extend your own answers to the same degree your “opponent” is shortening them. One can destroy an opponent by being polite!

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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:11
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Perhaps it's down to time constraints Aug 9, 2013

...or because the person answering you isn't as fast a typer as you.
My partner's sms messages are usually only one syllable because it takes him about half an hour to text "yes". (On the plus side, I rarely get phubbed).
OK, I realize that the guy from the agency probably needs to be able to type to do the job but you never know with e-mail what's happening on the other side. People don't have to fully devote their attention to an e-mail as they do on the phone.
I've probably been guilty of short answers in the past but usually that's because I'm on a deadline or talking on the phone while I'm typing.
I'm sure that you're crediting this chap with more intelligence and wiliness than he deserves!


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 05:11
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Did I understand Łukasz completely wrong? Aug 9, 2013

I thought he asked about shortening answers in order to diminish the other party. In those cases I do believe there is reason for having a strategy – without being offensive (we are professionals after all).
I always keep my e-mails as short as possible, simply because I rarely have the time to elaborate. And I am grateful when I receive an e-mail that is short and to the point.
But that really wasn’t what Łukasz asked, was it?


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Elina Sellgren  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:11
Member (2013)
Finnish to English
+ ...
Agree with Vera Aug 9, 2013

I think the point was how to cope with people who deliberately avoid answering questions that are difficult for them for one reason or another.

I'm not sure I've encountered such people - perhaps poor PMs in companies where they truly cannot do anything about my complaints or questions they just neglect to answer them. But in such cases you can usually get your message through by blackmailing if it's a question of delayed payment or something like that. However, I have a feeling that Lukasz is talking about more sophisticated cases than outright bad business practices or powerless contact persons.

I feel that you should always maintain your image of being honest and direct, not playing games (and thus stooping to the other person's level). Keep repeating your questions, as if you're assuming that the other person simply forgot to answer or didn't notice them. You appear as though you trust them to be honest, even though you know they are not.

It would be amusing though if you replied in kind, very tempting...


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:11
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I answered most of my e-mails for job assignment with one word Aug 9, 2013

and that word is "Yes".

I used "yes, I will", "Yes, I can' before, depending on how the question was structured. Lately I found I couldn't afford to write anything more than a yes.

I used very short answers to people who Skyped me before. Now I have totally given up responding to their queries on Skype. It's too time-consuming to do so. If I'm on the right mood, I would ask the person to e-mail me. If not, I just ignore them. In most cases, they would eventually e-mail me. Maybe they assumed I was away from my desk.

[Edited at 2013-08-09 09:08 GMT]


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:11
Member (2013)
Italian to English
In answer to your question Aug 9, 2013

a) cut and paste the part he didn't answer into a new email and re-send

or if that still gets no response

b) call him on the phone and ask him the question straight.

I really don't think strategy or NLP comes into it, tbh. Being busy and having lots of information to process means you often have to keep things brief.


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 05:11
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Not a tactic - but definitvely something that bothers me Aug 9, 2013

I would probably feel better about someone that actually uses a tactic to get me somewhere he wants me to. It would show that somewhere inside there's a brain at work. But what leaves me totally adrift is when I ask a simple, straightforward question to any PM or technical staff, for example anything about context in a translation or an issue with an online system, and receive back an anwser that has little, if anything, to do with my original question. Implicating that the answerer didn't bother to read my question and actually think about it and showing a frightening lack of attention to detail.

What to do in this situation? I loose a lot of time like this lately. I sometimes wonder about the type of persons whose job supposedly is to answer my and other translator's questions but seem to be unable to apprehend basic texts (like my question).

You can't even get mad at them, because they mean no harm...

And about your original posting, Łukasz, how would your NLP approach work in practice? I am very interested in psychology, as well, especially when there is possibilities to improve ways to deal with problems. So, how do you "reframe" a situation?

I guess my usual way to deal with this kind of problem is to just keep asking the nagging questions in a polite way, playing dumb (while resorting to letting off steam by swearing and cursing when the persons in question can't hear me).

Best regards,
Anna


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:11
Russian to English
+ ...
I love "short answerers" -- especially if their answers are right to the point Aug 9, 2013

I have never asked any questions in Kudoz, but I love short, concise answers in general and people who express their ideas in a concise way, and are confident in their answers. I can always double-check their option through Google search to see if they are right. I hate five hundred references, none of which makes much sense.

As to any other, professional situation -- I also prefer short answers -- right to the point. I don't have nerves to listen to someone's bitting around the bush for half an hour. Of course some manners and professional etiquette are required, so they should at least say :"Hello" and "Goodbye".

I am not really a Baroque person -- more Gothic.

If their budget is too low-- fine, let me know it in the first sentence. If they require five different CATs -- let me know it right away. And if some of your answers were not answered -- perhaps there is a reason: maybe there were too many questions, or some were not very clear, or irrelevant, too personal, violated confidentiality agreements, etc., or perhaps the person did not see any point in answering them.


[Edited at 2013-08-09 11:11 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:11
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No, you got me right Aug 9, 2013

Vera Schoen wrote:

I thought he asked about shortening answers in order to diminish the other party. In those cases I do believe there is reason for having a strategy – without being offensive (we are professionals after all).
I always keep my e-mails as short as possible, simply because I rarely have the time to elaborate. And I am grateful when I receive an e-mail that is short and to the point.
But that really wasn’t what Łukasz asked, was it?


No, you got me right the first time. I don't mind short answers that are up to the point and informative – those are the best (and the clarity is a real treat). Nor do I mind people who just don't feel like writing much. As long as they cover what needs to be covered it's okay when it's short, they don't need to elaborate if they cover everything important.

I'm talking here about the kind of shortening that 1) is likely but not surely a tactic and 2) omits important things, and 3) has a vibe of perceived inequality (the other party seems to claim the right to choose which of your points will be respondend and which not).


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 05:11
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
In that case... Aug 9, 2013

I'm sticking to my first post: kill them with kindness

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:11
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Aug 9, 2013

Vera Schoen wrote:

I'm sticking to my first post: kill them with kindness


That's always an option. In some languages, Victorian style is still functional, it only looks slightly odd and telling but isn't the same as speaking a true historical dialect. The 'am attaching', 'avail myself of the opportunity,' 'if you please' etc. kind of language. I sometimes open like that on purpose, e.g. when I need a serious business atmosphere. Otherwise, it has a way of encouraging people to straighten up.

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:

But what leaves me totally adrift is when I ask a simple, straightforward question to any PM or technical staff, for example anything about context in a translation or an issue with an online system, and receive back an anwser that has little, if anything, to do with my original question. Implicating that the answerer didn't bother to read my question and actually think about it and showing a frightening lack of attention to detail.


Oh yeah.

I sometimes wonder about the type of persons whose job supposedly is to answer my and other translator's questions but seem to be unable to apprehend basic texts (like my question).


Another 'oh yeah', and doubly frustrating when you're talking to them in their own language that's not yours.

And about your original posting, Łukasz, how would your NLP approach work in practice? I am very interested in psychology, as well, especially when there is possibilities to improve ways to deal with problems. So, how do you "reframe" a situation?


A really skilful response would involve sending the other guy on the track you want him to be on, while it's just good enough if you simply throw him off his own established course that he's so familiar with. Just deny him the advantage of routine and familiarity, sort of like you'd force an opposing army to abandon its own advantageous positions, more or less like William the Conqueror broke the ranks of Harold's huscarls at Hastings or like the thing Harry V did to the French lords at Agincourt. But a still better example is how a far-eastern fighter will sometimes clap his hands right in front of your eyes. That can make you forget whatever sequence you were en route to executing (while it's as simple as just clapping).

Perhaps I'd be able to give a clearer description if I'd studied this more formally.

Let's take a situation in which a game invitation like, 'you surely understand that,' meets a, 'no, in fact not.' (A 'no' is not impolite, it's just that polite company usually goes for more circumlocution and offers at least a token concession to the game chosen by the other speaker and its rules.) In the recent situation, I shot three such goals in a row, which basically ended the matter in a clear win for me, even though it started from a forceful power opening by the opponent. It was a reframe because I made a clear case for a different frame of reference than introduced by the other party.

(But I also did a fair amount of calling-out and 19th century kind of politesse, so it was a mixed tactic.)

The situation still worked me up to the point of needing a strong drink afterward.


[Edited at 2013-08-09 14:09 GMT]


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