clarification

clarifying ambiguous questions

hollywoodontap replied to your post “Anonymous said to realsocialskills: I have problems with reacting…”

I have trouble answering questions if the asker has not given me specific details. I feel like I can’t give them what they want unless I’m told precisely what it is they’re looking for. I tend to ask questions in return before getting to an answer.

realsocialskills said:


It’s ok to need details. If asking clarifying questions is working for you, I’d keep doing that. The important thing is to communicate effectively.


Some thoughts on ways to make clarifying questions work:

There are a couple ways to ask in a general way that work for some people:

  • “I need more words”.
  • “I’m confused; can you rephrase?“
  • “That’s kind of abstract - can you be more specific?”


It can sometimes help to be more specific yourself, and offer options. Someone asking a question they think is easily understood might not know how to clarify.


Eg:

  • Jane: What do you think of the foo?
  • You: In what sense? Are you asking if I like it personally, or if I think it’s marketable? Or something else?

or:

  • Joel: What’s Applied Foo 101 like? Should I take it?
  • You: Are you asking about how hard it is, or how interesting it is, or something else?

Another possibility: Guess and then ask if you got it right:


eg:

  • Yosef: Did the thing happen?
  • You: The football game?

or: 

  • Erica: Where are the things?
  • You: The supplies?

Sometimes it is better to make your best guess, then answer the question you think they’re asking:


Eg: 

  • Susan: How about that foo?
  • You: Do you mean the sales statistics? If so, they’re way up this week.

or: 

  • Thomas: Did you do the thing?
  • You: Do you mean my entry in the bad poetry contest. If so, I submitted that today. I’m excited for my chances this year. It was a truly terrible poem. 


tl;dr It’s ok to need to ask clarifying questions when someone asks you something, even if you need more details than most people need. The important thing is to communicate clearly.

It's ok to say no without giving an explanation

stripesweatersandwaterbottles:

realsocialskills:

RE:- boundaries without anger. Obviously there are exemptions to the following statement where “no" would be enough; but I think the reason a lot of people have problems with personal boundaries in this way is that when someone says no, they are reluctant to provide the reason. If denying/refusing a gift, offer or invitation, answering why is only polite, yet people get frustrated when people ask.

Here are several reasons that folks get annoyed when you ask why:

  • They might not know a clear reason, but know that they don’t want to do the thing. That’s ok. You don’t have to know your reason in order to decide to say no.
  • The reason for saying no might be rude to say. For instance, if you ask someone out and they find you physically unattractive, it would be considered very rude to say so. But it’s an entirely legitimate, and common, reason not to want to date someone.
  • If they’re rejecting a job offer, it might be because they’ve received another offer from someone they think it would be much more pleasant to work with. It can be very difficult to say this politely, and it’s not a good idea to offend people in your network by implying that you think it wouldn’t be nice to work with them.
  • The particular gift might be something they’re upset by the idea of possessing (eg: if you give them an itchy sweater), but it’s never considered polite to say that.
  • The reason might also be complicated to say. For instance, if they like a particular activity, but they find it overloading, so they only do the activity with people they know really well and who know how to react appropriately if the overload gets too bad. Most people don’t even understand that explanation on any level. More people say “of course I can handle that!“ and then get offended if they don’t immediately accept that as true and agree to do the activity.
  • They might think that accepting your gift/offer/invitation will create a kind of relationship they don’t want, and not feel comfortable explaining that. Especially if they’re not quite sure why they feel that way.
  • The reason might be private. For instance, if you’re a man and you ask out a closeted lesbian, she has every right not to want to come out to you.
  • Or, if someone finds a particular kind of movie triggering because of past abuse, they might not want to tell people about this. They might rather just quietly say no.
  • They might think that if they give a reason, you’ll just argue about the reason. Given that you didn’t just take no for an answer to begin with, this is a legitimate concern

At bottom, people don’t owe you an explanation. When you ask for one, you’re implying that people need your permission to have boundaries. Further, you’re implying that you will only give this permission if you think they have a good reason.

Even if you don’t mean it that way, that’s how it comes off. It puts pressure on people that no one likes to experience. If they wanted to give you a reason, they would have done so when they said no to begin with.

so when I ask why not, people see it as challenging/threatening? Oops. Lots of oops. I ask so I can try to figure out what other situations might also get a “no.” This explains a great many issues with bosses and supervisors I’ve had before. I also just like knowing to make sure it is of sound logic not to do something or do it a certain way. My mind works on the get-as-much-info-as-possible-and-then-decide-what is best mode. Questioning “authority" is fucking confusing.

It can be a bit more complicated than that. 

Sometimes when bosses and supervisors say no to something, you might think they don’t have some relevant information. Or you might want clarification about what it is they’re saying no to, exactly.

It’s usually ok to ask for clarification, and it’s sometimes ok to tell them relevant things you think they might not know.

The problem is when you come off like you think that they’re not entitled to make decisions without convincing you that they are good decisions.

A point of clarificiation

I’m not opposed to forgiveness.

Or to salvaging relationships in which someone hurt you.

Both can be good in a lot of circumstances. People hurt each other, and often it’s something that people can get past and fix.

It’s just that: people put a lot of pressure on people who have been hurt to forgive and/or patch things up. Even to the point of telling them that they’ll never be happy until they do.

And sometimes, forgiving is a bad idea. Sometimes attempting to patch things up would make things a lot worse.

This is a decision someone should be making for themself, and it’s important to be aware that both options exist.

Asking what things mean

 Sometimes people say abstract things that aren’t very comprehensible.

Sometimes this is because they are assuming background knowledge you don’t have.

Sometimes this is because they’re referencing something complicated, and not being clear.

Sometimes this is because they aren’t actually saying much, and are using convoluted words to sound like they are.

It is possible to ask for clarification, but not directly. You can’t say “Did you actually say anything?” But you can often get clarification with one of these kinds of questions:

  • That sounds really interesting, can you say more about it?
  • I’m not sure I understood, can you give me an example?
  • That concept sounds really great, but I’m not sure I quite got it – how does that work in concrete terms?
This frames things as you listening, wanting to understand, and asking for their help in understanding. (Which is in fact what you are doing, even if you suspect that they aren’t saying much.) This usually doesn’t offend anyone, because people like to be understood.

(That said, people do sometimes take offense, and if they start to take offense, back off right away rather than trying to explain the intent of your question. It won’t help.)