The other day I met my friend Barb for lunch. She arrived at the restaurant first, and the server asked, “Just one?”
Barb often eats out alone, and she frowns when she hears that question. This time she replied, “Here is where I should have a snappy comeback, but I don’t.” Then she explained her issue with the question “Just one?” to the server.
When I arrived, Barb told me about the conversation. She explained that when she eats out alone, she does not want to be characterized as “just one.” She doesn't appreciate the suggestion that there is something lacking in her experience. One should be plenty when dining out.
Of course, servers and greeters simply want to know the number of diners to expect. What could they ask instead of “Just one?” Which alternatives can you think of? I have a few below.
Instead of "Just one?" they might ask:
- One for lunch?
- Table for one?
- How many?
- Will anyone be joining you today?
Any of those options would sound better to Barb and would not diminish her dining experience.
Barb's feelings as a solo diner led me to think about ways in which writers make their readers feel the same way, that is, as though they are lacking or insufficient. As a reader, have you had any of the experiences below?
- Emphasizes your mistake or forgetfulness, with a direct statement like "You have the wrong price" or "I told you that in my previous message."
- Leaves you feeling uninformed by using jargon or abbreviations you don't know.
- Asks a question similar to "Just one?" that minimizes your experience, such as "Is that the only item you want to order?" or "Is that your only feedback?"
- Focuses on what you can't do rather than what might work, with a statement like "You cannot open an investor class account with an amount that small" or "That ballroom is not available to your group."
- Introduces negative words to characterize your behavior, such as "I received your complaint" or "I understand your confusion."
What's your experience? Do you occasionally receive messages that seem to diminish you? Could you relate to Barb's feelings? Or do you recognize how you might improve your own communication? I look forward to your comments.
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