If I call my husband in the house, he answers “Yes, dear.” I believe he thinks this is an improvement on “What?” It appears that “Yes, dear” is more polite than “What?” But it isn’t. Here is the problem: tone. I am very sensitive to tone. Tone can be especially problematic in emails. You can say something very mundane like “Why did you do it that way?” and it could have many meanings.
For example, “I noticed that you melted the butter before you added it to the batter. Why did you do it that way? Did the recipe call for that? I usually put it in cold. I’ll have to try that.”
That’s a calm tone, just asking.
“I have told you a thousand times not to put the garbage bag in inside out. Why did you do it that way? You, idiot!”
That was clearly mad.
So that leads me back to my husband. You see all roads lead to my husband. When he says “Yes, dear” what I hear is the following:
“What in the world do you want now?”
“Don’t you see I’m in my office trying to work?”
“You just called me two minutes ago!”
“Would you stop bothering me?”
“What silly thing is she going to tell me now?”
“I hate interruptions!”
“Dear Lord, please stop the noise!”
In other words, “What?”
So I told my husband, instead of confusing me with “Yes, dear” which leaves me with nice words with an irritated tone, just say “What?” It’s more honest. 🙂