2

Background

I have a coworker with whom I communicate online (slack). When this coworker has something to tell me, they always start by saying:

Hello, how are you?

Then they wait for me to answer ("Fine and you?") before actually asking/telling me what they wanted to ask/tell me.

Problem

I find that, having to respond and sometime chitchat a little before actually knowing what they want from me, is annoying me.

I would like to tell them "could you just go to the point when messaging me, please?" but I'm afraid of being perceived as rude.

Question

So, how can I ask my coworker to go straight to the point without being perceived as rude?

Like, having them directly saying something like:

Hello, hope you are well, here is my problem I need your help with.

Notes and clarifications:

  • Talking face to face is a possibility

  • Not sure it's important but I'm on the autism spectrum

Well explained and backed-up frame-challenge are welcome.

9

There's no real effective way to pre-empt this scenario (and it's one you're likely to encounter a lot) but you can effectively and politely usher them to the point in the minimum amount of time.

So if you get:

Hello, how are you?

then simply respond:

I'm fine thanks, what can I do for you?

You've politely responded to the "icebreaker" and given them the straight shot to the point. In fact getting to the "point" is the most natural response to your message because you've left the conversation at a direct question. They then have the same conversational "pressure" to answer the question that leads you to respond to theirs

You're skipping the "traditional" return query on their well being but that's largely irrelevant since the majority of the time people aren't actually looking for you to ask that question, and you're also skipping it to allow them to get to the reason why they contacted you in the first place.

Source: Personal experience mostly but I've used this exact approach for the last ~15 years or so and it's literally never failed me.

PS: Someone mentioned "nohello.com" in the comments - please, I implore you to avoid this approach! It's incredibly rude in my experience and comes across as very critical of the other party and manages to do so before they have even said anything at all. I'm a straight-to-the-point person myself in IM-environments but if I see someone with nohello as their status or similar I will instinctively consider that person to be unapproachable.

  • This is exactly what the OP did not want. However I agree nohello in a status looks somehow strange. – puck May 9 at 16:43
  • 1
    Maybe you can specify that people using pleasantries can't just be "cut off", that you may have to suck it up a little in order to remain polite, but can more or less "stop the flow" by doing what you recommend? (if I properly got the idea...) – OldPadawan May 9 at 17:21
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    @OldPadawan pretty much yes, in the scenario the OP discusses the third party has already opened the conversation so the intent is I assume to get things to the point ASAP, have edited my answer to make this clearer – motosubatsu May 9 at 17:54
  • This might be a personal style thing, but it would feel more polite to me to separate the two clauses in the recommended response: "I'm fine, thanks. What can I do for you?". Separating them with a comma reads (again, to me) more like rushing through the "politeness", while the period suggests a natural conclusion to that portion. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica May 9 at 19:41
0

I had the exact same conversation in a work setting. All my colleagues were annoyed by the social norm being that of "greet-chat-first, do-business-second". Back then we had a team meeting in which we discussed the issue and we found out that we all agreed on cutting down the social part. From this experience, it is possible that your colleague too is doing it out of some unspoken social considerations, when, in truth, they'd love to get to the point right away.

Porting that to your situation, you could in a face-to-face encounter, address the point.

It is so good to catch up in person. On the other hand, I do not mind, actually I prefer it, to get direct questions on slack, without any hello, how are you, etc... I find that it saves time, and keep focus.

Also, I don't know if that is the case in your company. It was in the one where I worked, which prompted us also to reduce non-work related information exchanges to zero: some companies record all these messages. They may become public material in the case of trials. I am not sure what is the level of personal disclosure that your colleague would like to have in such a scenario. If that is the case you can mention it in person.

We should probably not leave any work-unrelated information on slack. They record it.

Finally, this also worked for me in emails, where people are more keen to delve into the courtesy bits. I establish a short tag that reminds them that they can cut straight to the point:

Question of the day :) [QUESTION]

or

Control tower to [COWORKER NAME]: [QUESTION]

That's two examples of the emails I send, where I replace [QUESTION] with the question I have, and [COWORKER NAME] with their name. I send this first to them, with work questions. After a few of such emails, they use it too. I imagine it could work wonders in a messaging system.

-1

Communicating your preferences on messaging app or in person would be a good idea- something like this might help them:

I imagine this would look and sound better if you approached him in person over the water cooler, during lunch, etc. that would show you care about him and like interacting with him.

Hey there! I was wondering if you wouldn't mind adjusting the way you talk with me on the messaging app- I'm just the kind of person that likes having to-the-point conversations. It's not really anything to do with how you talk to me or your personality, it's me. I like having messages that explain what the goal is from the get-go. Would it be okay if we can do that for each other?

Then after that, to help him understand that you really do care about him, you can ask:

Hey, having said that, what's your usual style? I wonder where you got the habit from, just curious? I understand how it looks nice when you open with a nice greeting then go on to the message. Did it come from your childhood?

The conversation can be a nice short one, with him revealing a little bit more about himself and you can listen and then wrap it up nicely by saying something like "I have to get back to work, so do you! see ya!"

This comes from personal experience when I was learning how to interact with my roommate- short story: I am a chatty person in the morning, and my roommate wasn't. I chatted her up too much and too long once that she missed the bus. She told me later that day in a very simple but direct way that she prefers to have a quiet morning and if I didn't mind adjusting how I interacted with her in the morning. Everything worked out afterwards because I immediately adjusted my morning "chatter" with her, from then on out I just said a quick "good morning" and let her do her thing.

  • Honestly, if I were the co-worker and got that first text, I probably wouldn't know what you want from me, because getting to the point after greetings is getting straight to the point for many people. I think you'd need to be more explicit here, maybe give an example of how you want things communicated. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica May 10 at 6:28
  • I did say that approaching the person in person would be best in this situation and the example messages are guidelines. – ElizB May 10 at 13:35

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