The Case of the One Word Answers

You’re on a phone call. You’re chatting away. And a few minutes later you realize you’re not really chatting away per se, but instead you are asking away. Or telling stories, and all you are getting in return are measly one word answers. You start to wonder what you said wrong. Did you do something? Are they just not that into you? You retrace the conversation in your head and wonder what could’ve offended the person at the other end of the phone. ‘Is something wrong?’ you ask, hoping to get some answers so you can stop your worrisome head. And they respond, ‘Nope.’

And there you have it my friends, the case of the one word answers. As if the one word answer isn’t rough enough for us to receive, with all these new domains of communication – Facebook, Blackberry, text, email – it is now so vast. The one word answer coming from someone else and directed towards us is just the worst. And in the moment, we fall prey to taking it personally instead of putting things into context.

Why are you getting one word answers from someone?

– they are at work and are being watched like a hawk, but don’t want to be rude nor do they want to get into a whole explanation that they are being watched and why they can’t talk, so out comes the one word answers. Consider yourself lucky you got anything darling.

– they don’t want to talk to you. This person is answering surely but vaguely, hoping that you will get frustrated and furthermore get the hint. No matter how long you message, if the one word messages keep coming take the hint that is so happily being handed to you. When people want to stay in conversation, they too converse. Got it?

– you’ve offended them. They think you are a mind reader. The one word answer is a passive-aggressive tool being used at their disposal. If they one-word answer you enough, they will one-word answer you into a corner until you ask what’s wrong. But this person is so passive that you will have to ask, and ask and ask. Because they think you know (how can’t you?) and won’t give up that easily.

– they are driving. They want to talk, but there is a cop sitting in the car next to them, watching, staring, waiting to write up a ‘handheld use while driving’ ticket. One word is all they can get in when the cop blinks.

– they are in a relationship and don’t want to send the wrong message, nor do they want their significant other to think anything of this, so they one word their way to ultimate silence.

– they are holding a baby in their hands and can only get a word in before the tot tries to grab the phone from their hands (true story, as this was the case with me the other day as far fetched as it seems.)

– they are sitting at a dinner table with their parents and getting yelled at ‘Back in my day….’ yet they want you to know they are there, so they send one word answers to keep the convo rolling, though you’re the only one rolling it.

– they don’t remember who you are, or how you got their number, and are letting you talk up a storm responding as wordlessly as they can as they try to put the pieces together.

Why have you responded in one word answers to someone? Have you done any of the above. Feel free to post comments or email responses to

– Jenny Jen


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