Saying no: in words or in silence (negation)

30 posts in this topic

 

And I tell them that in the UK at least, when you have to say to someone that you cannot help them, you first give an apology or some other softening words and then you EXPLAIN why you can't.

 

A "sorry, ich würd dir ja gern helfen, aber ich hab da was anderes zu tun" in German conveys a sarcastic sublime "fuck off" - a "nein, da kann ich leider nicht" would be a lot less rude than opening with the "oh i'd love to but..." shot.

 

Regarding the original question, it's a generational thing amongst Germans to some extent. Younger people (up to late 20s) often tend to weasel around and try to avoid a direct no since they feel pressured and cornered by any question aimed at them anyway.

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This non-response - keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort - is my pet peeve... the courtesy of an answer and all that - because I tend to interpret it as a passive-aggressive failure to have the courage to take a stance. Just leave 'em guessing... but it is a fact that the Germans do use it all the time. You just have to understand the silence and try not to let it rile...

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A wise person once said that there is a BIG difference between "saying bugger all" and saying "bugger all" ;)

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as a fellow aussie - one of my biggest gripes since living here has been the fact (I have found anyway) that Germans hate being asked questions in the most part. Heaven forbid my mistakes when I ask rehtorical questions or "re-confirming" questions when you know the answer... it has taken a Long time to get used to.

 

eg

My wife says to me "the potatoes are in the pan, and the bread is in the cupboard for you to eat" ... I immediately say (as many of us aussies naturally would) a "confirming question" like "Ah so the potatoes are in the pan ?" ... it took me about 6 months of my wife getting the shits with me thinking im not listening to her to explain that in Australia we like to say alot of rhetorical questions as part of a conversation and that it doesnt mean I wasnt listening to her. She gets it now, but it was a very painful 6 months..

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@aussierugger I know what you mean... I have had so many conversations that went:

 

"the potatoes are in the pan.."

"ah.. how many potatoes are in the pan?"

"what did you mean by asking that?"

 

I often get the sense that, because no-one here would ever ask such a direct question, there is an expectation that there had to be a deeper meaning behind it..

 

avagudweekend ;)

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yes! or quite often I would have a friend ask me a question, ill give a "ah its no Problem for asking" type answer... with them angrily following up "its just a question" .... when I wasnt angry in the first place and said its ok to ask. I was told that i looked irritated when being asked a question so they were embarrased . Which baffled me because everytime someone has said "its just a question" it was in a tone that would Sound in Australia/English speaking Country like they were pissed at me . still coming to Terms with it!

 

or my absoulte favourite (which resulted in a massive argumetn with my wife before I realised what had gone on ... she asked me "what do you want for dinner".. I made the mistake of saying "ah what ever makes you happy" .. what followed was a Diatribe of how ist not only her that has to be happy and I dont have to please her all the time and that I can choose what to eat too... took me a while to tell her it meant "es ist egal für mich" or I didnt mind! ... slowly teaching her aussie slang ;)

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Oddly Germany seems similar. If I ask to borrow something, then a German may feel guilty if they say no. They might feel that I am "applying pressure though feelings of guilt". So they may say yes anyway. But will then go VERY quiet. And a German friend explained that was the meaning of "Keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort". The person asking is meant to understand that the "going quiet" means that the real answer was "no" all along.Anyway will practice my "no's" and carefully watch for "going quiet" times.Thanks for all the input!Michael

 

It's either I'm becoming very German, or I'm just living in the south of Germany.

 

I've never understood why people would say yes to something they know is a complete no. Used to drive me crazy when I lived in Asia. You'll ask for directions and instead of most people saying they don't know, they'll give directions even if it's completely wrong.

 

From my experience, and it's mostly from South Germany (don't know if that makes a difference) - if it's a no, they'll say it. If you give them a no, they're fine with it. If they're not comfortable with your questions, you'll get about a minute of silence, then they'll restart a conversation about something else.

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I find that many Germans ask personal questions- but I get the feeling it is because they are interested in newcomers.   Asking after family, work how much rent you pay etc! When  I have declined to answer, never seemed to upset them.

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My wife says to me "the potatoes are in the pan, and the bread is in the cupboard for you to eat" ... I immediately say (as many of us aussies naturally would) a "confirming question" like "Ah so the potatoes are in the pan ?" ...

Hahahahaha, I think that would drive me crazy. I would probably react like your wife and answer angrily "YES, this is what I am saying!!!!!".

But going back to the original question - if it is rude to ask a question when the answer is likely to be "no". I think Germans (unlike other cultures) don't have a problem saying no. But some questions are just considered to be impertinent, maybe because they are considered to be intrusive or too much a favour someone wants to give, like the example of the car. And yes, there are cultural differences what kind of questions. What is normal in one culture is rude for Germans. Once an Egyptian friend asked me to drive her to Frankfurt airport, which was 250 km away. She could have also taken the option flying from the airport which was only 50 km away, but then she would not have been able to take a direct flight and flights would have been more expensive ... I found myself generous agreeing but asking her to find a car seat for her 2-year-old child. They could not find a car seat and pushed me to drive the family without a car seat for the kid, which I refused. Although I said 'no", this request made me quite angry and somehow damaged our relationship - I was angry because they requested this form me and they were angry because I said no.

I think is true, sometimes if a question is considered as too impertinent, people might not even bother answering it. You might get blank stares that say "are you serious??!"

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