hi, you around?
January 27, 2021 9:48 AM   Subscribe

“Imagine calling someone on the phone, going hello! then putting them on hold... 🤦‍♀️” No Hello says we shouldn’t start chats with a “hello”, but instead just ask the question!
posted by adrianhon (91 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
oh man, I have 10 months of chat history with one person that goes entirely like this:

hello guy: hi [will wait here forever if no reply is received]
me: hey, what's up
hello guy: can i call? [will also wait here forever if no reply is received]
me: yes

literally hundreds of times. it has occurred to just call him the second i get that first message, but it's sort of fascinating watching it play out, yet again
posted by Jobst at 9:55 AM on January 27 [16 favorites]


Hard agree
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 10:01 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


Obligatory disclaimer that this isn't the best approach for all questions. If you're pretty sure you'll need follow-up or clarification immediately after the first response, you might as well say, "Hi, can I ask you a question about X?"
posted by J.K. Seazer at 10:02 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Being a New Yorker is an advantage here, It allows me to avoid small talk get straight to the question without feeling weird about it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:03 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


I forwarded this to our CEO to distribute to our organization.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:06 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
posted by Going To Maine at 10:06 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


If you're pretty sure you'll need follow-up or clarification immediately after the first response, you might as well say, "Hi, can I ask you a question about X?"

But why wouldn't you just ask the question about X and then ask follow up questions as needed?

Disclosure: this is my pet peeve, people asking if they can asking me about X instead of just asking. It doesn't make sense unless X is a touchy topic and the main goal of this text is literally asking permission to broach the subject.
posted by MiraK at 10:06 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Say hello, hit Shift+enter, ask you're question, send both in one message
posted by Reyturner at 10:07 AM on January 27 [15 favorites]


I am generally a fan of just asking the question -- prefaced with pleasantries at the same time -- though I think there are uses for "you got a sec?" because sometimes people are busy and would like not to be bothered with the question at that time. And if you launch in with the question, they will automatically start thinking about it, and there is a stronger pull to answer it. It's much easier to say 'I'm in the middle of something' when you don't know what the question is.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:10 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Sometimes if the person is not available right now to answer the question, I will instead ask someone else. If I put the actual question in the first message, I might end up making two people do the work to answer the same question for me.
posted by Perplexity at 10:14 AM on January 27 [14 favorites]


I'm stunned that this is a thing, to be honest. My org has operated on Slack since its inception, we've been fully remote since long before lockdown, wonder if it's mostly a transition pain for formerly-cubicled white-collarers. Like, first DM* acts like an email would, greet+ask, and if it's not a single response, move to a thread.

* Putting non-private stuff in DMs drives me up a wall since it'll inevitably come up again for someone else.
posted by supercres at 10:16 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


I was weirded out until I got that they’re only talking about text messages. I do need a little orienting time on the phone.

Perplexity, you could send a "never mind got it" to the people who hadn’t answered yet, maybe?

This, and related email annoyances, make me feel that a whole lot of work life would be better suited by simple issue trackers. I would be, anyhow.
posted by clew at 10:18 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


if you launch in with the question, they will automatically start thinking about it, and there is a stronger pull to answer it. It's much easier to say 'I'm in the middle of something' when you don't know what the question is.

Huh! I would tend to consider this type of reasoning to be rather invasive, like, it strikes me as presumptuous to try to manage someone else's experience in this way. Who am I to assume they don't know how to manage their own time? Isn't it a bit patronizing to assume the pull to answer will be too strong for them to handle responsibly, and therefore I must add this extra step in communication to save them from themselves??

IMO it's much better to just ask the question and say, "No rush, respond when you have time," or "If you can answer by the end of the week, that would be great."
posted by MiraK at 10:18 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


We could start adding severity and deadline codes to the texts. We have the flag emoji already. Maybe a clock for "todayish", calendar for, huh, that’s not very specific.
posted by clew at 10:22 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Sometimes if the person is not available right now to answer the question, I will instead ask someone else.

Another strike against DMs. Put it in the right subject-specific channel, tag relevant people. Assume non-time-sensitive unless otherwise stated. If someone spends an hour answering/fixing/responding without saying "I'm on it" and the other person answers in the meantime, that's on them. Prod over DMs if necessary but the answer goes in the searchable channel.
posted by supercres at 10:24 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


hi hello how's life okay enough small talk When do you expect to have those TPS reports completed?

Why is that hard to do
posted by nushustu at 10:30 AM on January 27


And with the vagaries of skype/whatsapp/other ad hoc digital connections the question is usually:

"Can you hear me?"
 

posted by sammyo at 10:30 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


"Can I ask you a question?"

"You just did, and you wasted it on a question about question-asking."
posted by axiom at 10:31 AM on January 27 [15 favorites]


I am reliably informed that Tibetans generally do not say 'hello' to start a conversation, but just start with whatever it is they want to say. So there is precedend - it's been working in that part of the world for some time now.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:33 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Opened the FPP expecting to disagree but it convinced me that saying "hello" and then waiting in a texting environment isn't as polite as it feels. It makes sense that conventions which work well in person or over the phone don't suit a text message. I've been on the other end of someone texting me, "hey can I ask you a question?" and then not immediately responding, and sometimes it has even made me anxious expecting a really serious conversation.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:33 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I do this on the phone, even! You ask if you can ask so the person can get the relevant background material ready and respond when they're able to have an informed, efficient conversation. Or they can tell you that they're not going to have time because they're not up to speed/they're too involved in something else.

If you've only ever answered "yes" to "can I ask you this question" that's cool but in workplaces with multiple, sometimes information-intensive, sometimes time-sensitive projects going on at the same time, sometimes the answer is "no" or "not right now" or "can you actually ask [Team Member] instead."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:36 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Bane of my existence on Slack.

"Hey can I ask you a question?"
"yes, go ahead"
[insert ten minutes of the "I'm typing" icon]

just ask the damn question so I don't have to wait while you wordsmith it
posted by ook at 10:37 AM on January 27 [26 favorites]


Ugh, there are a couple of project managers at work who do this and it drives me bananas.

Ask me the question, or just send me a damn email.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:38 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I have a colleague whose introductory pleasantry is usually "So" which gives me the gripes almost as bad as Facebook calls-for-ideas that end " ...and...go!!!" like I'm some kind of sled dog. Please get off my lawn.
posted by aesop at 10:40 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Huh! I would tend to consider this type of reasoning to be rather invasive, like, it strikes me as presumptuous to try to manage someone else's experience in this way. Who am I to assume they don't know how to manage their own time?

Well, okay, then, let me express it this way:

If I am working on a detailed document, I find being asked a question much more likely to break my concentration and flow than being asked if I have time to answer a question, and I would generally prefer that people who need something from me give me non-urgently give me a chance to say "can you send me an email and I'll get back to you this afternoon" rather than just sending me the actual question. Because whether I want to or not, my brain will start thinking about the question.

I don't know how people would know the difference between times when I am fine with just being asked and times when I want the pre-ask. In person, I find there's body language you can interpret when you walk by someone's desk to decide if they have time to talk -- someone who is heads down, headphones on, reading a document is different from someone who is reading their phone, etc. Online communication doesn't have the same inherent signals, though I guess maybe what I need to do is simply be better about setting busy/not-busy statuses so that I'm clearly indicating when I'm doing heads down work and then hoping people respect that.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:40 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Even if the answer is "no I can't answer that now" or "go ask the other guy", asking the question without the extra ten minutes of waiting-for-you-to-type will still get you the same answer in the same amount of time (and with the bonus that you've already worded it for the other guy).
posted by ook at 10:40 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Huh! I would tend to consider this type of reasoning to be rather invasive, like, it strikes me as presumptuous to try to manage someone else's experience in this way. Who am I to assume they don't know how to manage their own time? Isn't it a bit patronizing to assume the pull to answer will be too strong for them to handle responsibly, and therefore I must add this extra step in communication to save them from themselves??

I guess at some fundamental level every form of politeness or consideration is "invasive" in the sense that it requires using insights gleaned from theory-of-mind assumptions about the existence of the emotional states of others. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and people are being considerate because we all know that we're all people and certain reasonably-impersonal assumptions can reasonably be made on that basis.

IMO it's much better to just ask the question and say, "No rush, respond when you have time," or "If you can answer by the end of the week, that would be great."

If you don't need an answer right away, email is the right medium. It's fairly easy to set reminders in outlook; they can respond asynchronously whenever they get a chance without worrying that it's 5am or whatever, etc.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:41 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


[insert ten minutes of the "I'm typing" icon]

The absolute worst. And now it shows up in the sidebar just prominent enough to occasionally catch out of the corner of my eye even if I don't have that thread up.

Ask the question. The answer to "Can I ask you a question?" is always "It depends". Yes/no? Absolutely. Something that will send me down a rabbithole? Probably not. If it needs to be redirected, you can copy and paste with no effort lost.

If I'm doing deep work and don't have "do not disturb" on, that's on me.

I also use /remind me to get back to bob in 2 hours constantly.
posted by supercres at 10:42 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


If you don't need an answer right away, email is the right medium.

If you don't need the answer until the end of the week, my org's retention policy for online chats means your question will probably have been deleted before you need me to answer it.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:43 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Yes, exactly.

I will say, despite defending this practice a bit, that "Can I ask you a question?" is not an acceptable form of this behavior. "Can I ask you a question about how you handled X in the Y?" is much more appropriate, even if it doesn't contain the actual question.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:46 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I'm starting to get into this habit! I don't think people think about how disruptive an IM can be. If I get the "hi," then have to wait while I see "Joe Beaux is typing..." (or worse, they get sidetracked), I'm kinda stuck anticipating further interruption--I don't want to get too deep back into whatever I was working on. "Hi! Do you know..." or "Hey! Can I give you a quick call?" is perfect.

(I actually appreciate the "can I give you a quick call" ones, though. At my prior company, we didn't have actual desk phones, instead using Lync/Skype/Teams, so we defaulted to this. The only time I had an unexpected work call was on my cell, and usually it was critical/time sensitive anyway, and merited the interruption. We have desk phones at my current job, and it's still jarring to have an unexpected, "let me ask you a quick question" call.

I'm a Gen-Xer, so I know the latter used to be the norm.)

This tracks to a whole set of behaviors I've been trying to do, to be less of unintentionally difficult/passive-aggressive/an ass in my communication:
  • This morning, I sent an email and almost wrote "My number is below" (referencing the one phone number in my .sig block). I instead typed out my number, instead of making it a scavenger hunt. (It'd be different if it was trying to send all the contact info (phone, email, LinkedIn profile...)
  • When someone asks me about a detail in a note, especially if it's in one sentence in the middle of a paragraph, I just answer them. I don't do the "as I said in my note..." Everyone is busy and misses stuff.
  • I generally avoid sending a BIG LONG EMAIL CHAIN to someone new and asking a question about "something downthread" without providing some clear indicators of what to look at ("Can you answer Joe Bleaux's question?"). I past some relevant text, but indicate I included the whole thread for context/reference.
  • Move people from "to" to "CC" (and vice versa), or removing them entirely. Let that be tools for the expected level of engagement.
Like I said, we're all busy. Help the person out!
posted by MrGuilt at 10:46 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


supercres: I also use /remind me to get back to bob in 2 hours constantly.

Is this a Slack thing? My company uses a lot of free/cheap stuff, so I'm stuck with Cisco Jabber, which is awful.
posted by MrGuilt at 10:48 AM on January 27


For me, it's usually the new grads who've never interacted with me before but have been told they need my help. I'm not really looking forward to the post-covid hiring ramp, since it means a new batch to train to seek help in help-oriented channels rather than DM'ing the one dude who bailed out your team last time over and over again. Which, BTW, also miraculously solves the "what if someone else answers my question!" concern listed above.
posted by pwnguin at 10:49 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The only thing that helps me not get insanely annoyed with a "hello" or "I have a question" that just sits and waits there is the understanding that at least it's because the other person is trying to be considerate (albeit in the most misguided way). There's no word limit, just put the polite words at the beginning of the message and then move on to the important stuff.

That said, that applies to work-related messages. For personal relationships, I've been sorely missing the existence of universally-recognized emoji for things like "hey what's up is this a good time do you feel like talking let's talk", "I want to call I don't know when a good time is", "call me when you can I miss you", etc. Why can I send flamenco dancers but not that?
posted by trig at 10:49 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


I actually appreciate the "can I give you a quick call" ones, though.

Yes, ditto -- calling can be particularly intrusive if you're in a job that has regular phone meetings, conference calls, etc., especially if they're high stakes.

This is 100x more true now that everything is virtual, so people don't/can't just turn off their phone for the duration of the meeting.

I recently called a colleague and felt like an ass when they emailed that they were in a court hearing (!!!) which my phone call had probably interrupted a bit. Won't do that again for sure.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:50 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Is this a Slack thing? My company uses a lot of free/cheap stuff, so I'm stuck with Cisco Jabber, which is awful.

Yeah it's one of Slack's more useful built-in "slash" commands. I use Siri phone reminders similarly-- "Hey Siri, in two hours remind me to respond to Bob" or "Hey Siri, set an alarm for two hours from now called Respond to Bob"
posted by supercres at 10:51 AM on January 27


Is this a Slack thing? My company uses a lot of free/cheap stuff, so I'm stuck with Cisco Jabber, which is awful.

Ugh I hate it. We all just use email in lieu of texting/IMing which has its own problems but is not as terrible as trying to use Jabber. Thing has more crashes than a demolition derby.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:52 AM on January 27


Our company "standardized" on Google Chat a while ago, and it's the absolute worst platform they could have chosen. It has no concept of "signed out" or whatever, which almost all other chat platforms have. So I get a ton of this when I'd normally just set an away message directing people to email.

Naked pings (which is what this has been called since IRC days) are the worst. People would DM you with "Ping" and then wait for you to respond to ensure they had your undivided attention. Most people who came up with IRC have been taught not to do that, but now we've got whole new brigades of co-workers who have never heard of netiquette doing it all over again.
posted by jzb at 10:57 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Ugh I hate it [Jabber]

It really is the worst. I came from a shop that was all-in on Microsoft (Office 365, etc.). We had the latest versions of Office, the browser versions were available, hosted mail, and Teams. The integration among them was really well thought out and consistent.

We use Office, but Jabber doesn't quite integrate with Outlook, so it doesn't always reflect reality relative to calendar, voice chat/screen sharing is awkward, etc. We use Zoom for conference calls, which is somewhat better.

I find myself more and more wanting the Slack/Teams feel, where I can reply to a specific message in an IM chat and make it clear what's up, better integration etc. Unfortunately, my company won't spring for that.
posted by MrGuilt at 10:59 AM on January 27


this is my pet peeve, people asking if they can asking me about X instead of just asking

There is a long tradition of this peeve in help channels on IRC, where the slogan "Don't ask to ask." is common.
posted by rhizome at 11:04 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


I used to have a coworker who would DM me with "QQ" and it was never, ever a quick question. Now I have a coworker who sends full-on letters in our DMs, with a greeting and a signoff.

Can we do "Hi team" next? It's never someone on my team, and it's usually in the wrong Slack channel.
posted by emelenjr at 11:08 AM on January 27


It's really weird when you have people who don't have any work hours in common do this. This has happened to me:

Them (Tuesday 3 AM): Hi
Me (Tuesday 10 AM): Hello
Them (Wednesday 3 AM): How are you
Me (Wednesday 10 AM): I am fine, do you have a question?
Them (Thursday 3 AM): [question]

Two days from initial contact to question, and another day for them to get the answer. Email would have cut this down into a single day.
posted by meowzilla at 11:10 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I am reliably informed that Tibetans generally do not say 'hello' to start a conversation, but just start with whatever it is they want to say.

Likewise with Klingons. Greetings? What do you think this is, French class? We don't do greetings in Klingon. If you feel the urge to say hello to someone, say nuqneH. It means, "What do you want?"

posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:11 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


* Now I have a coworker who sends full-on letters in our DMs, with a greeting and a signoff.*

I have a coworker kinda like that. Sends IMs with several bullets. I’m like “send each bullet as a message so I can think about each while you type.” The “Joe Bleaux is typing” is hard on that one.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:15 AM on January 27


Back in the Old Days, when I was a Young, and frequent telephone calls were more of a common thing, I decided to try out the way people answer phones in many movies. My phone would ring (I'd let it ring twice) and then I'd pick it up and immediately speak the word "Yes?"

This really threw people off at first. My friends and family finally got the "joke" and became mildly irritated by my weird kick... but telemarketers were often really thrown for a loop.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:17 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Then there's the ones

who send each phrase

of their message

separately

like there's some sort

of imaginary line length

restriction

(meanwhile the audible notifications are going bong...bong...bong...bong... until I'm banging my head on the desk in frustration)
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:20 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


This works fine on text chat.

On telephones, I regularly get spam phone calls that start "Hello, Nelson!?" Like a command, demanding that I either be Nelson or summon Nelson. No identifying themself, no moment of politesse, just an order barked out. The moment I utter a sound they immediately launch into their sales pitch. It is infuriating.
posted by Nelson at 11:25 AM on January 27


meanwhile the audible notifications are going bong...bong...bong...bong... until I'm banging my head on the desk in frustration)
posted by Greg_Ace at 14:20 on 1/27


Made all the worse when sharing a home office with your spouse.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:26 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Then there's the ones

who send each phrase

of their message

separately


Another that IRC has tackled with "someone hooked your enter key up to your spacebar."
posted by rhizome at 11:34 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


meanwhile the audible notifications are going bong...bong...bong...bong... until I'm banging my head on the desk in frustration)

TIL there are still people that have audible notifications turned on.
posted by madajb at 11:37 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


It's for work, and I've go so many windows open and things going on that I have to be alerted in case it's someone like my manager or a coworker needing immediate help. On my home computer I've got pretty much all sounds disabled.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:40 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly familiar with Discord these days; it's got a spoiler tag that seems ideal for the don't-want-to-intrude-on-brainspace concerns.
Hey, non-urgent question when you have some spare attention:Do you know if Slack has spoiler tags or something with similar functionality, for the avoidance of prematurely intrusive question-asking?

posted by NMcCoy at 11:50 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Hi, everybody! Could I make a comment here?
posted by straight at 11:52 AM on January 27 [23 favorites]


I’ve worked two places where “greeting someone in chat before asking a question” is considered not quite company policy but a standard that everyone is expected to follow. I find it incredibly frustrating to see that idea held up as a good thing.
posted by okayokayigive at 11:56 AM on January 27


Do you know if Slack has spoiler tags or something with similar functionality, for the avoidance of prematurely intrusive question-asking?

I will occasionally say something in a public channel like:

Question re: functionality of whatever API for @bob, threaded:

It looks like this (we don't have a @bob). Good idea to use it in DMs.
posted by supercres at 12:02 PM on January 27


I used to have a coworker who would DM me with "QQ"

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=QQ
posted by zamboni at 12:27 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I know I'm a bit idiosyncratic here, especially compared to many younger people. But chat is a weird mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication. I feel like people assume if they use it they'll jump ahead of everyone in my e-mail queue, and also be entitled to some moderately complex answers (like links and supporting documentation) they wouldn't get on the phone, and also they can multi-task and get what they want from me while only devoting 30% of their attention to the interaction.

So obviously I'm not a big fan but in that context "hi" serves as asking if I am willing to interrupt what I'm doing to help you. If I'm not, I ignore it until I'm ready. If you just launch into a question, it feels presumptuous and invasive and there's a good chance that I need to see if your question is still relevant when I get to it. "What meeting?" I might ask if it's three hours later.

I often turn mine off at work, which occasionally leads to people saying "I've been trying to reach you for three days but you haven't been online." In response to my repeated e-mails. (I can get away with letting non-motivated co-workers not "find" me, which is the best job perk ever.)

* * *

But my all time favorite chat story happened to someone who worked for me. She takes screenshots of chat logs, to document things like database connection names or other technical stuff. One person in IT completely screwed stuff up, caused problems with our project, then lied (or perhaps misremembered) it to blame her. So she sent the screenshots which were crystal clear. IT guys boss was on the chain and her response: "Our Computer Use Policy forbids archiving chat messages and you are in violation." No apology or offer to fix the situation. Just CYA crap.

Aargh! When she showed that to me I asked if she wanted me to deal with these assholes (I used more professional phrasing.) She said she'd gotten what she needed on her own. I respected her wishes, but that was one of the few times in that role I really wanted to use the somewhat inflated job title I had back then and have a VP of IT to come down on them like a ton of bricks.
posted by mark k at 12:36 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Another strike against DMs. Put it in the right subject-specific channel, tag relevant people

Ahahahaha... that assumes that a huge number of people are not stuck in an Enterprise legacy app like... "Skype for Business"... No channels...
posted by rozcakj at 12:38 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I went through a period of a few years where I outright told my manager "when someone messages me with just a 'hi' and then nothing else? As far as I'm concerned, it never reached my IM."

Both the combination of the ten minutes of ...is typing... factor that I'm firmly in the amen mosh pit for, and the fact for that particular position and its questions, the questions inevitably boil-translated down into two percent actual questions, eight percent "I already know the answer but I don't like it so I'm hoping I'll trick you into giving me a different one," and ninety percent "will you do my job for me?"

The percentage of actual questions that I was able and happy to help with climbed sharply with people who could articulate immediately what they needed and wanted. The above percentage breakdown was inevitably, almost no exception, from the "hi" tribe.
posted by Drastic at 1:01 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


"ten minutes of... is typing" drives me nuts...

You have already distracted me from whatever task I was involved with... and now I wait, because if I continue with my task, your next message once finally crafted and sent, will distract me again...

But... I am robot... The same thing actually happens in real-life for me, when my partner (or anyone really) calls out: "dear..."... I literally am paused, waiting for the next 'instruction' (Halting problem)... yeah, I am alot of 'fun' to be around...
posted by rozcakj at 1:08 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Isn't it a bit patronizing to assume the pull to answer will be too strong for them to handle responsibly, and therefore I must add this extra step in communication to save them from themselves??

one thing my sister & I learned growing up with our OCD/anxiety mom was that you must never ever casually inquire whether she had seen your, say, blue sweater, because she would instantly become unable to focus on anything else or be easy within herself until the blue sweater had been safely located

so asking was a guarantee that she'd drag herself & you around the house overturning every piece of furniture, digging through every hamper, well past the point where you the owner of the blue sweater were ready to grieve its possible loss & move on with your life in a different sweater

granted this is super extreme & probably not an issue for most people; I do kinda keep track of "hmm my sister is trying to get an especially tedious grant thing done & I know she'd much rather think about this interesting logistics question I want her input on so I'll save it for her weekend"

in general if what I want is a relatively synchronous back-and-forth chat I will say "hey hit me up when you've got time & bandwidth, it's about X," but yeah just saying hello in a text chat is super weird imo
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:13 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I don't do just hi but I do ask if someone is around for questions on X. That's because I am going to ask different people different ways and it's going to be interactive. I might have a short precis ready to paste if they say yes, but I am not typing out a summary that works for every possible case. Sorry.

Also, if people have a question for me (and only me) and they @ mention me in public channels, I will do whatever I can to not work with them and never help them again. A DM is much less stress than being expected to perform in public about something and potentially be embarrassed. Am I more anxious about that than I should be? Probably. Will I hold it against you till the heat-death of the universe? Definitely.
posted by dame at 1:55 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I think there are uses for "you got a sec?"

...which are: to strike terror into the heart of the receiver, as they momentarily think to themselves "oh shit who died/am I fired/are we breaking up".
posted by sriracha at 1:56 PM on January 27 [14 favorites]


Just having a browser tab that says “hi, you around?” is stressing me out.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 2:17 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Aw, rozcakj, can you and your sweetie switch to SYN-SYNACK-ACK?

I’d like to hear from some people who prefer to start with "Hi." to find out what they think it’s for. (At this point in this thread that might warrant a sock account, although if someone mailed me I’d relay it anonymously.)
posted by clew at 3:01 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Just use email. You can type your whole question, I can see it when I'm ready, and I'll actually read it. If you use IM, I will avoid even reading your question unless I have time to answer, because I don't want you to see I read it [at least at my company where read receipts cannot be disabled]. So while you might think you'll get a faster reply via IM, you're definitely wrong.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:52 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


And with the vagaries of skype/whatsapp/other ad hoc digital connections the question is usually:

"Can you hear me?"


"You're on mute."

I admit that one of the things that drives me batty is when I'm teaching a seminar and pause to ask if there are any questions on the reading material/slides/text. And there's crickets (this is worse with Zoom, without the in-person terror of silence), and eventually a student will unmute themselves and say, "I have a question."

Like, you don't need me to call on you! You've unmuted! Put on your big kid pants and ask the question! Or type it privately to me in chat!

(I say this as someone who was a *silent* student; my teachers used to write notes on my report card that I need to speak up more in class; this continued well into my 20s. But somewhere around age 25 or so, I realized that life is too short/I have too many grays already/it's time to just ask the dang question.)

I do like a brief "Hey" in text messages though. It's putting out a conversational feeler. I wouldn't walk into my coworkers' office/house without knocking, either.
posted by basalganglia at 4:06 PM on January 27


Things I hate:
* "Hi." (long pause) As someone else said, I'm just gonna ignore you. Some rando I don't know messaged on our outdated work chat and then said nothing else and I was all, "I don't know you, you didn't ask anything, I do not feel obligated to answer you." It felt like someone trying to pick you up online in the 90's.
* typing text for ten minutes--WHY DO THEY SHOW THIS? I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THIS. I have to sit there in suspense waiting and can't move on with my life. GRRRRR.
* "I have a question." JUST SAY THE EFFING QUESTION.
* "I have a QUICK question." Nobody ever has a "quick" question unless it's "where's the bathroom?" Nobody ever asks that, especially now. If I have to say more than yes or no, it ain't quick.
* "Can I ask you a question?" NO. YOU CANNOT. I desperately want to give that answer, but I am categorically not permitted to deny someone their ask of a question. Gaaaaaaaah. Occasionally I have tried, and then they look confused and ask it anyway. I have always wanted to do this as well. This to me is right up there with my mom asking me for a "piece" of Kleenex. She finally stopped doing it, but I really wanted to just rip off a corner and hand it to her to make the point, except obviously I can't do that either.

JUST SAY WHAT YOU WANTED TO ASK SO WE CAN ALL MOVE ON WITH OUR LIVES.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:10 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


There's also always That One Person who is absurdly obsessed with Being Polite and every. single. chat exchange comes fully padded with Please and Thank you and everything and it's exhausting. Literally no one else does this and literally no one cares. It's chat and we are just trying to work, and we all know it. But one cannot simply ignore those words and reply in the regular way without looking like an ass. And he's my boss. Ugh.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:34 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The pre-internet version of this is the neighbour who would start an over-the-fence conversation with, “Hi Bonobo, can I ask you a favour?......”

fuuuuuuuuuuuck.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:12 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I am that person who is "absurdly obsessed with Being Polite". I loathe it when people talk to me like a robot and not a human being. I am your coworker; you should speak to me with respect. Nobody's time is so valuable that they should abruptly bark their desires at me like I am a servant. The idea that politeness is bad because it kills productivity is especially insulting. Capitalism wants you to squeeze every second of productivity out of your day, but then it wants us to do lots of crappy things to each other. If the fact that I type too slow on text or Slack or ask before demanding your attention pisses you off this much, all that tells me is that you're someone I don't want to work with.

Plus, this stuff unnecessarily punishes people who socialized as female in professional settings. Women/AFAB people are by and large taught to be polite, manage feelings, and not make demands. We should all look critically at our tendencies to call feminized behavior bad and masculinized behavior good.
posted by mostlymartha at 7:46 PM on January 27 [13 favorites]


Somehow, the pandemic is FINALLY the year that an older relative stopped doing this. I suspect it's because we switched our communication from instant messaging to text, but it's been two decades of "you there?" type pings and as a person for whom such messages shoot my blood pressure through the roof, thank fucking finally. I don't know how you people with coworkers doing this all the time survive.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:51 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The short answer is, all the terrible things people have mentioned so far bother some folks less than they do others. Why, I couldn't say. I have always tried to do all the "I wish people would do x" things and avoid doing all the "I hate when people do y" things, but for whatever reason I'm not terribly bothered when friends and coworkers do the y things.

By which I do not intend to minimize anyone's feelings, anguish, or desires when it comes to online communication; only that I, typically a misanthropist cynic, am honestly shocked that I'm not right there with all y'all in terms of frustration, and am at a loss to explain why. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:07 PM on January 27


I have a colleague whose introductory pleasantry is usually "So"

In hell, he will have a colleague whose introductory pleasantry is usually "Sooooo...".
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:30 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The short answer is, all the terrible things people have mentioned so far bother some folks less than they do others. Why, I couldn't say.

Because some folks think it's OK, and the rest of us know it isn't.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:39 PM on January 27


As a geek whose work involves being face down for long periods in complicated technology which makes money for the people I produce it for, I'm a great believer in 'no hello', while at the same time I've come to understand that it's not the right thing for all work environments, nor do I wish to promote it as any kind of 'theory' or give any publicity to the various people who claim to have 'invented' it (including one well-known racist misogynist homophobe from the tech world). It predates technology in any case (see Gary Larson's 'Animal Nerds').

I agree with @mostlymartha; there's never an excuse for rudeness in response, even as a geek. I try to respond with 'Hi, how can I help?' - or, if I'm in a bad mood, with 'Hi, go ahead' - it's a kinder way of trying to communicate 'OK, get on with it!'

Similarly, when I need to ask a question, I just get on with it. 'Hi, I just ran sed 's/^chr//;s/\..* / /' on something with no trailing spaces and the output doesn't look right.' Again it works best if you're a geek talking to geeks. You wouldn't introduce yourself to someone at a party like this (or so I'm told by neurotypicals).

Basically it's 'horses for courses', as we say here in England. And, there will always be people who don't get it, like the marketing manager who simply does not understand that the best way to get a product out on a deadline is not to keep interrupting the people working on it to ask them 'how they are getting on'. Pray for the bastards, as a priest once told me.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:25 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Yes. This is correct. People who disagree about this are wrong. I will die on this hill.

I despise the phrase "quick question". It fills me with instant rage. I don't care how "quick" it is for you to ask the question, and you have no idea how long it's going to take for me to answer the question, because you don't know what the answer is. So it feels like you're trying to wheedle or manipulate me into taking time to help you by implying that it isn't going to take long, when you actually have absolutely no idea. Or you think that the hardest part of responding to a question is reading the question, and you're treating me like some kind of idiot who needs a TL;DR for a paragraph of text. Either way, a poor start to our interaction.

All of this is part of a broader pattern of verbal obfuscation and faux deference which some people have persuaded themselves is polite and helpful when it's actually disruptive and irritating.
posted by confluency at 12:40 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Upon re-reading: I agree to a limited extent that some of this comes down to gendered expectations of behaviour. But I am a woman and I don't do this, the people who do this to me are men just as often as women, and we should not be defending a negative behaviour just because it's one which women are socialised into performing for reasons which are unfair and not always something they can easily push back against.
posted by confluency at 12:52 AM on January 28


I despise the phrase "quick question". It fills me with instant rage.

The phrase that enrages me is "could you look at this when you have a minute". How dare you insinuate that I'm not managing my time properly.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:56 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I loathe it when people talk to me like a robot and not a human being.

Me too. (For example the fashion for starting emails with no greeting, just [Name,], really gets on my nerves and always makes me feel like I'm about to be reprimanded - throw in a "hi" or a "hey", ffs!)

And I really agree with you about the gender aspect. (I'm a woman, for what it's worth.) There's a tendency to see politeness and friendliness and anything else that's socially-oriented rather as weak and non-assertive, and women are always told to make their communications more terse and direct and brusque if they want to succeed in a corporate environment, because polite=beta=feminine and that'll hold you back. It should be the other way around; the advice should be for everyone to be more socially oriented rather than less.

But this specific thread isn't anti-politeness, I don't think. Politeness shouldn't be about robotically obeying certain forms, like opening with a greeting. It's supposed to be informed by a desire to give respect and be considerate of the other person - a social orientation and not an unthinking application of polite words. So for example if IRL I see someone I know and want to ask them a question, it might normally be polite to say hi, let them greet me in return, ask them how they are, let them ask me how I am, etc., before getting to the thing I want them to do for me. But if they're eating a sandwich at the moment, I'll modify my script so I'm not forcing them to talk with their mouth full. And if they're currently in the middle of a conversation with someone else, I'll also modify my script so as not to interrupt. Social orientation has to come with context awareness.

I get stressed out and frustrated by conversations over text that require me to go through a few empty interactions ahead of any actual conversation, because it's a different context than something like in-person interactions and that means the experience plays out differently. It really is like being placed on hold or having a conversation with someone who's having multiple simultaneous conversations with other people at the same time and having to wait between "hi"s and "how are you"s. It feels really inconsiderate on the part of the other person - they never stop to consider what the experience is like on my end.

So textiquette (sorry) should be to send ones' greetings and the actual question in the same message. As in an email. That's all.
posted by trig at 1:51 AM on January 28 [12 favorites]


Metafilter: No, YOU are the one whose language use is inconsiderate!
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:56 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


"could you look at this when you have a minute". How dare you insinuate that I'm not managing my time properly.

I can't tell if this take is serious or not. But then again I've never been someone who manages my time properly and it's a relief when people around me accept that!
posted by trig at 2:01 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


trig, it is sort of serious, in that it implies that my time isn't valuable i.e. that I have a pool of 'minutes' at other people's immediate disposal.

Interviewers at FAANG companies, of course, have expanded the concept to 'could you look at this when you have 100 hours'.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:44 AM on January 28


I honestly find some of these reactions absolutely baffling. It seems like some people are enraged by the mere existence of chat apps or by other people wanting anything from them at all.

The phrase that enrages me is "could you look at this when you have a minute". How dare you insinuate that I'm not managing my time properly.

Like, I don't understand how you're reading that into that phrase at all. Where is the implication you aren't managing your time properly? All they're saying is 'Please look at this when it's convenient for you to do so.'

I despise the phrase "quick question". It fills me with instant rage. I don't care how "quick" it is for you to ask the question, and you have no idea how long it's going to take for me to answer the question, because you don't know what the answer is.

I mean, I don't know precisely how long it's going to take to answer a question, but I have a pretty good idea whether my question is "Hey, what's the document number for that document you created?" or "I would like to debate the intricacies of our policy on X to see if I can find a workaround for this highly detailed situation." Sometimes I need a small piece of information -- a quick question -- and sometimes I need to have a conversation to work something out -- not a quick question. For the former, I usually say "Hey, I have a quick question. What's the document number for the policy doc you wrote?" In the latter case, I'd be inclined to say "Hey, do you have a few minutes to discuss the policy on X?"
posted by jacquilynne at 6:08 AM on January 28 [11 favorites]


A lot of folks mostly get "quick question" formulations from people who tend to display a level of self-awareness of their questions' potential complexities that has, to put it charitably, great opportunity for improvement. Actually assessing how complicated your requests are already puts everyone ahead of the game, because that goes hand-in-hand with realizing more complicated matters already suggest that direct IM is generally a terrible fit for resolving them, and most corporate-employer operational problems boil in large part to identifying and focusing the appropriate people at whatever it is.

But I don't particularly mind quick-questions or do-you-have-a-minute (my own boss regularly gets a "well, you're still paying me, so tentatively yes! What's up?" from me in response to his). My disdain is laser-focused on the stranded "hi" routine!
posted by Drastic at 6:45 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I have stopped responding to people who just message me "hello." I'm extremely busy at work, always. I do not have time to coddle yet another person and make them feel good about asking something of me. Just say what you want.

My reaction to this is probably a little out-sized. That's because not only do I not know most of the people who message me like this (I work for a huge company), most of them are asking me to do them favours or teach them something. Also it rankles me that they don't even try to butter me up. "Hello." "Hi Stoof." Where are my exclamation points? The inquiry into my well-being? GTFO.

If one of my teammates messages me "hello!" it's usually because they're genuinely being friendly and are happy I'm online.
posted by Stoof at 7:28 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


The short answer is, all the terrible things people have mentioned so far bother some folks less than they do others. Why, I couldn't say.

Because some folks think it's OK, and the rest of us know it isn't.


I think you may have misunderstood my intent. I know what's "OK" and what isn't, and as I said I try to avoid the pitfalls that have been mentioned in this thread. It's just that when I'm subjected to others doing the not-OK things it doesn't bother me to the extent it clearly does many of the people in this thread - that's all I was commenting on.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:47 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Greg, I do apologise - that wasn't aimed at you, or at anyone in particular - it was just random snark. I'll try and do better.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 12:38 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I have al little script that auto responds to "Hello" messages if not follow up message comes within 20 seconds. The entire content of the response is: https://www.nohello.com/
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:41 PM on January 28


Okay, so this thread has convinced me that there's no possible way of chatting or emailing that won't annoy somebody, so there's no point trying to tie yourself in knots guessing the "right" protocol. If someone is enraged because you didn't word your message exactly the right way, that's between them and their therapist.
posted by straight at 1:15 AM on February 2


Just spit it out and say what you want out of a person, I think that is the main takeaway here. Don't hedge or draw it out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:08 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]


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