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30. Making people repeat themselves

I’ve found myself in situations where I absolutely cannot hear what a person is saying, whether it is because they have a thick accent, or if they’re speaking too fast, it can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask them to repeat themselves a third time.

Sometimes people ask “what did you say?” even if they have already understood you, just for the heck of it. Actually that’s pretty awkward itself. I’ve stayed quiet before when people ask “What?” and they just end up answering the question that they “didn’t hear”. This post is about that awkward feeling when you can’t understand somebody, and ask them to repeat themselves over and over. Eventually the other person begins to wonder if you have a hearing problem, or if they have a speaking problem and are coming off as a weirdo.

I used to work answering and re-directing phone calls in an office, and sometimes I’d get people with thick accents that I could barely understand. I would ask them to repeat themselves up to three times and then deal with them raising their voices and saying a bunch of things to me (which thankfully, I still didn’t understand). Angry people..

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  1. ohanabee #

    Just say Yes. Best policy :))) even if they are talking w a heavy Indian accent…just say yes :)))) That is what I do. And if I’m face to face I also put on a retarded smile :))

    May 17, 2011
  2. If I’m talking to the unaudible persona in person, I usually just nod and look distracted to pass off the fact I still didn’t understand what they said after asking them to repeat it.

    May 19, 2011
  3. I’ve been a receptionist for a few years of my life, especially for high end law firms, and the other attorneys or Real Estate mogels get pissy with you.

    Sometimes, you cannot understand their last name and when you are uncertain how to spell it (when taking a message) and they gruffly sigh and bite out the spelling.

    That’s always nice. I think what’s even more awkward, is we had a guy that would call in and seriously his name was DICK HEAD. Seriously? I felt so uncomfortable almost certain he was pulling my chain. When the partner walked by I said “Mr. Head is on the line for you.” Who? Oh, Dick. Put him through…

    Why wouldn’t that man go by his full name Richard?

    Then, I love when they call back an hour later and get irritated because you don’t recognize their voice instantaneously. Dude- 100 phone calls have come in…

    Lake Forest, CA

    May 31, 2011
  4. That happens to me all the time! I say, “What?” and then I answer the question, I guess since my brain finished processing it…

    June 21, 2011

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