Goto Fumio

Dear husband, please stop

You can learn a writing lesson from my dear husband.

It drives me crazy when he says to a restaurant’s hostess, “You don’t have a table for two, do you?”

I nag him afterwards, saying “Ask a positive question, not a negative one! It’s easier for the listener to understand what you want.”

The “go positive, not negative” rule applies to statements as well as questions.

Here’s an example of a negative statement that sticks in my mind due to my having earned a Ph.D. in Japanese history.

“The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage…”

This is how the Japanese emperor announced in 1945 that Japan had lost the war. Did you understand that?

The Japanese prefer roundabout sentences. Americans do not.

7 replies
  1. Bud
    Bud says:

    It appears that your husband is trying to get a positive answer to his request. That’s a good thing. A little indirect, but still good. Please cut him some slack.

  2. Susan Weiner, CFA
    Susan Weiner, CFA says:


    You’re right. I should cut my husband more slack, especially since he puts up with my blogging about him. I’m lucky he’s so tolerant.

  3. Allan Squirrel
    Allan Squirrel says:

    Your husband sounds like a great person. I’ll bet he helps you with other aspects of your business.

  4. Wayne Buckhout
    Wayne Buckhout says:

    I assume you really prefer that your husband would ask a neutral question – “Do you have a table for two? – rather than a “positive” one – “You DO have a table for two for us – right?”
    But give him a few points for speaking. When my wife and I go out, and whether the host or hostess asks, “How many?” or just looks at me expectantly, I just hold up two fingers.
    That frosts her pumpkin something fierce.

  5. Susan Weiner, CFA
    Susan Weiner, CFA says:

    Wayne, yes that’s what I mean. I was thinking “positive” in contrast to the use of “don’t.”

    Your pumpkin comment made me laugh out loud. Thank you!

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