Friday, January 10, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 734: Can you hear me now?

This is how SH operates. He will say, "Sweetie? Will you do me a favor?"

And then he waits.

For an answer.

Now, this is not the improper way to ask for a favor when that favor is darning his socks. (Darn socks!)

But it is the improper way to ask when he is standing by the back door holding a plate with a newly-grilled steak on it and he wants me to take the steak from him so he can remove his shoes so as not to track snow in the house.

 As in, it is not the proper way to ask for a favor when there is urgency.

When there is urgency, you just ask. You just say, without preamble, "Sweetie, would you please take this plate from me?"

Because if I hear, "Would you do me a favor?" I am thinking, "Is this a hypothetical? This must be sometime far into the future so I can ignore this request and keep reading US Weekly online through my library website." And then I do ignore the request because of course I will do SH a favor so why does he even need to ask?

Remember when I cut off the tip of my finger in the Mandoline Accident? SH thought I was asking for a slow favor, like he does, when I asked him to get me a bandaid. Except I didn't say, "SH, would you do me a favor?" and wait for feedback. I asked immediately for what I wanted. I didn't waste time.

SH likes to waste time and go through all the niceties. For example, when we go to Pittsburgh to visit his best friend Pete, I will say, "Have you told Pete what time our flight arrives?"

SH will say no and I will suggest that perhaps informing the person who is picking us up what time we will arrive might be a good idea and SH will agree, but instead of getting to it and sending a quick text that says, "We arrive at 10:16 p.m. on Delta 123. Meet you outside baggage claim," SH has to write a treatise that starts with the appropriate salutation followed by an expression of concern for Pete's family and the status of the Steelers and that finally ends, 20 minutes later, with the critical and only necessary information.

After I finished grad school and while I was waiting to go into the Peace Corps - a fun experience but in retrospect, not as smart a career move as going to P&G, which is probably what I should have tried to do - I would not be in a cubicle today had I done that, I had a temp job at IBM in the testing group. This was where they brought in people to test the user manuals to see if the instructions were comprehensible to the normal person. (No, I am not making this up. They really tested their user guides. And they were still horrible.)

We were doing some project with keyboards. There used to be a feature on computer keyboards - boy, am I dating myself - a button you could press so the keyboard sounded like a typewriter. Because people were used to typewriters and didn't want to have a completely silent typing experience. We were testing some keyboards that were not as noisy as a typewriter but still made sound.

The guy who was running the project had a PhD in psychology and explained to me that most people didn't want a completely silent keyboard because we as humans need audible feedback as confirmation that a task has been completed. Hence the beep you hear when you lock your car with your little remote lock thingy. If you didn't hear any feedback, you might wonder if the door had actually locked.

SH has a high need for audible feedback, apparently, although I don't know why the feedback of my actually performing the favor he has requested wouldn't be enough. This is why he always has to ask if I will do a favor and then wait for my response, which is usually yes but is becoming more and more often no just because I want to mess with him, before he will ask the actual thing. I think he was raised on typewriters.


Gaylin said...

Can you do me a favour? is right up there with Can I ask you a question?

I have management trained at my office. If they stand in front of the photocopier and can't get it to work (OH NO OH NO OH NO). I do not help. They can mutter and get as frustrated as they want. OR they can say, Gaylin, can you help me with the photocopier? Yes, of course I can.

I also get to the point with people when they phone the office, a lot of times they want to open a vein and bleed their problem all over me. Since I can't actually help them, I very civilly and firmly, redirect their call. Succinct. One of my favourite words.

Can you take this plate? Yes I can. Done.

pam said...

Yeah, tactile feedback works, too, which is why I still like my Blackberry keyboard and don't want an iPhone with the touchscreen keyboard. I like feeling that I have depressed the key.

Go, Gaylin. I do the same thing. The copier is just outside my door. In past offices, I employed the same tactic with 'Does anyone know how to make coffee?' "Not I." Succinct...and precise questions. Ask me what you really want. (Once you've asked me if you can ask me a question, you've already asked one. Did you mean TWO questions?)