Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Something I wanted to say when I was a call center drone and never did:

"Have I asked you a question whose answer has to start with 'Well...'?"

If someone answers a question, especially a yes-or-no question, with the first word "Well," it means they're launching into a story. This drove me NUTS when I worked in a call center with our calls timed (rewards if you average short calls! Maybe. If you jump through these other hoops. And don't have callers who are morons and can't follow directions, delaying you further. NOT THAT I'M BITTER...), because then you're more likely to have to interrupt people, and more likely to piss them off by interrupting. How dare you stop their story! Because, of course, it's all about them. Even back story involved with why they're calling my call center to add minutes to their long-distance phone card.

My dad has a term: "interesting but irrelevant." (A shorter version of that idea I've heard: "Tangent!") I wanted to use that more than once with callers.

Stories are ways of corralling the world. They give more shape to things, helping us understand stuff better. They also can manipulate. I'd feel manipulated when callers started storytelling (especially about what asshats their bank and/or our call center were being). Simply put, I didn't need to know. But they felt compelled to tell me.

So: lesson, Chris. Don't be interesting but irrelevant. Be interesting instead. And be direct. Answer "yes" or "no" when it's called for. Sometimes that's all you need.
Tags: language

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