Qualitative and Quantitative Data in Conversation

A speaker can sometimes prioritize the wrong details in a conversation. When a speaker glosses over the essentials, it’s much harder for the listener to reason about what isn’t essential.

Andrew has booked a hotel room, but realizes he underestimated how long he would need to stay. He calls the hotel and longwindedly explains where he’s coming from, why he’s going there, even the month he’s staying, and that he has booked the wrong dates. The listener at the hotel front desk is confused about what Andrew needs, so asks what he needs. Andrew is frustrated because he just explained what he needs! He needs an earlier check in date.

Andrew isn’t communicating the quantitative data very clearly. He is caught up in a narrative.

Starting off on the right foot

Andrew is better suited by letting the listener know outright who he is and his relationship to whom he is calling. This is a common problem in both business-to-business interactions and business-to-customer interactions. The speaker starts with a story before they give the story context.

Andrew should be ready to spell his last name. An interruption asking for his last name shouldn’t startle him. He can then tell the listener the dates he has booked and what changes need to be made. It’s even okay to add a little narrative here so long as Andrew focuses on effectively communicating the quantitative information.

Andrew benefits from getting through the conversation faster having effectively communicated his needs.

Why does it matter?

It doesn’t matter to people who don’t care about being polite or communicating clearly. Andrew can carry on bloviating about the qualitative while glossing over the quantitative and do just fine.

For those wanting to be understood: focus on clarifying the data and then tell a story. Listeners will appreciate it.