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My cousin wrote a complaint to the tax department as her tax was wrongly calculated, but the department replied by telephone. As every employee with whom she has spoken all gave conflicting and contradictory information, she needs written communication for a paper trail.

She has already tried:

I would like to communicate only in writing.

But the employees still replied:

I'm not willing to email. I still think that verbal discussion over the telephone is fastest.

How can someone politely insist to communicate in writing only without offending and how should they proceed if the person insists on verbal communication instead?

The following appears too offensive:

I'm insisting on written communication because I've lost all faith in anything that any of your employees says. I already telephoned with three employees who all alleged different, conflicting reasons for the wrong calculation: a waste of my time. You appear to refuse email because you're trying to shirk leaving a written record that'd be evidence if your employees fib again.

The employees refused my cousin's request to record the telephone conversation that may be legal in England & Wales if you're part of it, but still make you appear sneaky, underhand, and immoral to a third party.

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    Hey there! I'm not sure I agree with the reason for this being closed but I do think it's lacking in details necessary to provide an answer. Right now it looks like you want us to write your cousin's email for you... but we really can't do that. We're here to give the skills you need, not to put words in your mouth. We could draft a perfect IPS-filled email for you but it may still not work and then you're nowhere closer to a solution. Tell us what you want to achieve in this interaction. The only explanation of what you want is the title - that's insufficient. – Catija Nov 15 '17 at 13:04
  • As your question is written now, it looks like your cousin just tried once and then gave up? The last blockquote seems to be suggesting that 'this is what my cousin wants to say in rude form, please make it nice for her'. – Tinkeringbell Nov 15 '17 at 13:34
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    I would suggest recording the calls along with times/names etc, one could even transcribe them later if one feels so inclined – Maxim Nov 15 '17 at 23:17
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    Was that initial complaint by email or snail mail? You may find they have rules about dealing with paper written complaints but emails and telephone calls aren't covered. – Separatrix Nov 16 '17 at 10:42
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If you can get an email address, do it. If they don't want to talk to your cousin via email, have your cousin tell them that she has some documents that she's scanned and needs to send them.

Then have her ask again if she can discuss things via writing. If at that point they still refuse, she'll have their email.

Then, after every phone conversation, send a polite email starting with

As per our phone conversation on x/x/xx

and throw in something like

I just wanted to be sure I understand

and then quote the relevant parts. ending with:

Please let me know if I am incorrect.

That way, you are creating the paper trail by citing the phone discussion and giving them the opportunity to correct if wrong. If something pops up later, your cousin can say

Well, I sent you an email, why didn't you correct me?

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It's usually complicated to completely refuse to have a verbal conversation with someone. And it is normal to refuse only communicating by writing: It takes up a lot more time and effort to achieve more or less the same.

However, if you are looking for a written record of communication, what you could do is send or ask a summary of your discussion by mail right afterwards. Once that both parties have confirmed that the content summarizes effectively the discussion, you'll have a trace of what was said.

  • "Once that both parties have confirmed" - I doubt they will confirm. They don't seem to want her to have anything black on white ... (also known as "evidence") – Fildor Nov 15 '17 at 15:31
  • @Fildor, possibly ... however this is something that is simple to insist on : You write your summary and send it by mail whilst stating that you will only acknowledge that the discussion happened according to this summary. If the other person doesn't confirm, you can ask specifically that the other person denies that the conversation happen. – everyone Nov 15 '17 at 15:38
  • The advantage with this method is that the other person only has to write "yes we talked about that". Whereas putting into writting the equivalent of a conversation could correspond to days worth of work and dozens of pages of writing. – everyone Nov 15 '17 at 15:41
  • This assumes they read the comprehension, accept the content and are willing to give OP a written evidence of what was spoken. - I bet, they'll deny. It's not their problem after all. – Fildor Nov 15 '17 at 15:43
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    Don't get me wrong - under different circumstances this would be a very good suggestion. – Fildor Nov 15 '17 at 15:44
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Meet them half way

I know your question implies you want a solution where they agree to your terms and communicate in writing...however a large part of interpersonal skills is about seeing things from the other person's point of view.

Putting ourselves in their shoes

Perhaps they're avoiding written communication because they don't want to be on record...but perhaps they have hundreds of people to get through today and phone calls are just so much quicker. I don't know what the process is there but to remind themselves of your case maybe they have to spend a while reading the details and then formulate a response. On the phone they can just ask you the relevant questions.

A middle ground

When they call just inform them that the call is being recorded so you can refer back to it. More likely than not they will be fine with this as it saves them a lot of time.

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contradictory information, she instead wants to insist on written communication only to create a paper trail.

Your cousin's concerns are perfectly sound. Although telephone is a lot more convenient than writing, a good way to minimise accountability for one's poor conduct is to avoid creating a paper trail to begin with.

How can someone politely insist to communicate in writing only without offending someone and how should they proceed if the person insists on verbal communication instead?

If you want to remedy this with minimal fuss, my suggestions are further below.

But i find the response she is considering sending interesting:

I'm insisting on written communication because I've lost all faith in anything that any of your employees says. I already telephoned with three employees who all alleged different, conflicting reasons for the wrong calculation: a waste of my time. You appear to refuse email because you're trying to shirk leaving a written record that'd be evidence if your employees fib again.

She believes she needs to qualify her request, as though it was unreasonable and she must now elaborate upon it. If she were asking to communicate via carrier pidgeon, yes, by all means, provide a reason why the party should accommodate your request. But when that request is essentially the standard modality of communication, unless that person has a health-related impediment, I would have zero flexibility.

I'm not willing to email. I still think that verbal discussion over the telephone is fastest.

A more professional response would avoid making accusations about lying. Instead, regardless of who is at fault, what you have been trying so far is not working:

Yes, telephone is faster. Unfortunately, we've experienced a number of mistakes and miscommunications. So instead of focussing on resolving this quickly, I suggest we try to resolve it correctly. And you may just find that this is actually the fastest method.

However, there is something about the following that irks me:

I'm not willing to email.

Regardless... perhaps your cousin is more polite and less prideful than me.

I had a similar experience about two weeks ago, for precisely the same reasons. I really wanted a paper trail because I knew it would come back to bite them. I think this is the answer your cousin is actually looking for:

Them: Can we please arrange a me so we can discuss this over the phone?

Me: If it's not too much trouble I would prefer to correspond via email. However I am in no particular rush so feel free to respond at your convenience.

Them: I believe it would be easier to discuss this over the phone so there aren’t any misunderstandings and no further delays. [Accepts request and continues]

... [All subsequent correspondence via e-mail]

...

One alternative method that might be to bend the truth without lying:

I have hearing difficulties, and I believe it has already lead to a number of misunderstandings. If it's not too much trouble, I would prefer to correspond via e-mail.

Imagine now, if the employee said: "well, because I only communicate over the phone, it will be a lot trouble. I tell you what, when you resolve your hearing problems, call me get back and I'll sort this out for you in a FLASH"

LOL. I would love to see the outcome of a performance review where their boss saw that.

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