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I have a friend of mine who absolutely refuses to begin conversations online by just asking me what they want, and instead insists on formalities that drive me crazy. We're online gaming friends, so it's not like we have a professional relationship. For example, this conversation took place through text over Discord.

Person: Hello.

Me: Hi.

Person: How are you?

Me: I'm fine, you?

Person: Great.

Five minutes later...

Person: What are you up to?

Me: Working on classwork.

Person: Are you enjoying it?

Me: Sure. It's something new.

Person: Good to hear.

Five minutes later...

Person: OK. So the reason I'm messaging you...

I understand they are just trying to be nice, but this happens for every conversation with them, constantly. Sometimes even multiple times a day. These responses aren't instant, either, so there have been multiple times where it takes 15-20 minutes for them to even get to the point where they tell me what it is they want to tell or ask me. I find this to be extremely frustrating, and it causes me to dread a message from them. It means my next 20 minutes are going to be spent getting interrupted every few moments to answer small talk. When I'm focusing on something, this is extremely annoying.

Nobody else I know does this. Every other person will say something like "Hey name, can you do thing?" or if they insist on being "nice", will be something like "Hi name, I hope the day is going well for you. Just checking to see if you'd like to do thing later." This is much more natural and quick for both of us. They get the message across, they still get to be "nice", and I only get one notification so I'm free to answer it and get back to focusing.

I don't want to come across as rude or seem controlling, but I find this behavior incredibly annoying. How can I bring this up?

  • Are you open to answers that don't involve trying to change their behavior? – Adam Davis Feb 15 '18 at 17:15
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It sounds like your friend is trying to indirectly ease into the conversation, hoping that you will give them a graceful entry point to their purpose, and it's only after several back-and-forth exchanges without such an entry-point that they can bring themselves to come right out with it. For some people, this is a natural way of interacting, and it is very hard to un-learn, especially if there is positive reinforcement of the behavior in other parts of life (i.e. maybe your friend's parents or boss or other important connections prefer this method of communication). You can try to discuss how you would prefer a more direct style of texting, but I'm going to suggest that you first attempt to change the nature of the conversations yourself.

Based on the conversation you have transcribed, it sounds like you are taking your friend's texts entirely at face value. If your friend is indeed looking for a graceful way to bring up their purpose, you can probably get them to cut to the chase by tweaking your responses.

Specifically, you want to give them open-ended responses that suggest you are receptive to whatever they want to ask/tell you. So for example:

Person: Hello.

You: Hey, what's up?

Hopefully, at this point your friend will tell you why they're messaging. However, if they persist, so should you:

Person: Not much. How are you?

You: I'm great, what can I do for you?

If your friend is just really diffident about bothering you or asking for favors, this should help put them at ease enough to come to the point. However, if you go back and forth this way more than twice without your friend coming to the point, then there may be more going on and you may need to actually discuss the issue.

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    Very clever and practical approach @1006a! I was thinking that OP's friend possibly comes from a non-Western culture (such as China/ Japan/ South Asia/ Middle East) where it is often considered impolite to go directly to business without a full round of social niceties... your approach helps OP 'lead' the conversation and cut out a lot of those stages but maybe it might also be worth telling the friend frankly that there is really no need for that laborious formal etiquette in routine online interactions with established acquaintances in this day and age? – English Student Feb 15 '18 at 12:07
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    "I'm great, what can I do for you?" is the key phrase. Connect the response to their initial message with a direct request to get to the point. – yo' Feb 15 '18 at 13:57
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    This is a perfect answer. From my perspective the OP was the one being rude. When a friend asked about their life they responded without reciprocating in kind. In many cultures it's considered rude to jump into direct requests or negativity without being invited to do so, so many learn to ask others what they want asked in order to prompt a reciprocal request. For the non-initiated this may seem over-complicated, but for those raised this way it's very simple, straightforward, and natural. I could see the friend in question being equally fed up with how long it takes to get to the point! – Nicholas Feb 15 '18 at 14:48
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    @Mindwin That sounds much more formal to me—it's the kind of thing I say when answering the phone at work, not something I'd tend to say to a friend. I'm in the US; this may vary by locale. – 1006a Feb 15 '18 at 16:40
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    Whereas there are nowadays many Indians in my own region who will go directly to business as a routine practice without observing the social niceties that used to be a 'polite' necessity 20 years back... That suggests there is much individual variance in these matters across cultures: many thanks for the insight @eirikdaude! – English Student Feb 16 '18 at 19:44
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Instead of outright attempting to convince them to skip their normal modes of communication, or expressing how annoying you find the behavior, I'd recommend you taking more control over the direction of the conversation by asking them informally what they want early on in the convo.

Example:

Person: "Hey"

You: "Heyyy, what can I do for ya?"/"Hey! Whatcha need?"

If you say these things in a friendly or casual manner (tone of voice if using voice chat, or friendly text signals such as the "heyyyy" or the exclamation point if using text chat), you can master using these as a greeting that invites them to just get to the point, without excluding them in the future.

For example, if they want something, they might respond with:

Person: "Well, I was wondering if you were going to be online to play X tonight? I need someone to help me with A, B, and C."

and on the off chance they don't need anything, they'll probably just say:

Person: "Nothing, just seeing what you're up to tonight. We haven't talked in a while."

I'm the type of person who often doesn't talk to/hear from my friends unless they want to plan something or get together (a product of our work schedules and lifestyles). I almost always use this greeting when someone messages me out of the blue, because I know there's probably something they're wanting to get at.

Often people try to make casual conversation first because they don't want to be rude and sound like they only talk to you when they need something. They're just trying to show value in your friendship. If you give them an opening to express their purpose early on, you're basically saying "How can I help you?" and they'll usually take the easy path into transitioning to what they want to discuss with you.

If nothing else, your friend might start realizing that you've changed how you're communicating with them and that you just want to get to the point. Either way, your conversations will be less stressful and drawn out for you!

9

As a gamer myself, I've run into people like this before, and I usually use past gaming experiences with the other person to provide a response that quickly leads into what they're looking to do.

For example,

Person: Hi!

Me: Hey, how's it going! Did you wanna play a round of X game?

This allows them the chance to have some formalities (in response to you asking how it's going), as well as leading them into whatever gaming-related question or activity they wanted to talk to you about.

If I know this person from playing X game, they'd usually respond saying "yeah, let's play". In the case that they weren't messaging about game X, they would say it's not about that, but instead about another game or some other issue, and start going into what that is. In both cases though, the conversation has some light (but not extended) formalities and gets straight to the point.

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Yes I have this problem all the time. While the fuddie-duddies are correct to say that it's normal, they need to understand that on apps like Discord you could be talking to hundreds of people simultaneously. My simple solution is to ALWAYS respond with a question, and don't be afraid of copy and pasting your original response to save time. At some point they need to understand you simply may not have time to fake-chat with them in a such a falsely friendly manner.

  • This looks like a very "aggressive" approach though... How are you? what do you want?. Just checking if you're ok CTRL+C / CTRL+V... and so on... – OldPadawan Feb 16 '18 at 15:35
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    That's true. However I find it impolite to continually make demands on people's time for no particular reason. I'm basing this response on my own Discord experiences (due to the fact the OP mentioned that app) and I do find it pretty false to pretend to genuinely care about the physical or mental state of another person who you just happen to be playing a game with. Finally, I reserve this approach only for repeat offenders, of which there are not too many. – Bob Duckerberg Feb 16 '18 at 15:40
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I have quite a lot of internet friends and I have faced this problem a few times before. Normally, I would bluntly say:

I would like it if you could skip the formalities and get to the point.

Or

I’d prefer if you’d get to the point.

I think it depends on the type of friends that you have. Some people like to do the formalities as it seems more natural to start a conversation with it. Sometimes this happens because your friend has something important to say or does not feel comfortable talking to you. I hope this helps though.

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