Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Nate posts more than me. I admire his commitment to the yourselfinfiveyears readers. I also admire Nate's ability to stay direct with me in his attempts to get me to blog more.

"Did you blog?" he'll ask me in the morning (post-hug). Other times, he'll say, "you need to blog tonight. Blog about [insert topic]."

That's something you have to admire about Nate: he's direct. Me? I'm more passive aggressive. It's a skill (?) that I learned over time that helps me to fulfill my lifelong quest to avoid controversy. (As a sidenote: earlier this year, I dedicated myself to "boldness" in 2008. I'm attempting to embrace the benefits that can result from speaking your mind. So far, that boldness has landed me with exactly zero dates, and some upset friends and family members). But, back to 'voluntelling.' Here's an example.

Last week, I was on a client call, and it went something like this:

Me: "Sorry to volunteer you, Charles, but I'm wondering if you could [insert task]"
Charles: "Sure, no problem."
Client: "Um, I don't think that's called 'volunteering,' R. J., I think that's called 'voluntelling.'"

Since then, this hybrid verb, 'voluntelling,' has shown up repeatedly in my life. I submitted an entry to Urban Dictionary for it. Not only because it's funny, but because there are so many times throughout a day that voluntelling is used as a way to instrust, ask or demand someone to do something.

I got a taste of my own medicine last week when I was voluntold to share my allotment of two swimming lanes at the weekly swim lesson I teach. In this instance, the aquatics director approached me on the pool deck:

Her: "Hi R. J."
Me: "Hi"
Her: "I wanted to run something past you"
Me: "Sure, what's going on?"
Her: "You don't mind giving one of your swim lanes to Peter"
Me: ". . . "

I had no response.

Because there was no response; there was no question! To voluntell is to make a statement that's cleverly diguised as a question, but it's positioned in a way you can't refuse. Or if you do refuse, you're going to later say, "you know, that really wasn't worth it." Because it just wasn't. So instead, you agree. Or don't say anything in response. Because the voice and inflection made you think it was a question. And you were momentarily under the spell. A swaying pocketwatch. You're getting sleepy. You've been told. Voluntold.

So this week, be on the look out for:

"you wouldn't mind if. . . "
"sorry to volunteer you. . . "
"you can't see. . ."
"you probably wouldn't. . . "
"you don't care. . ."
"sorry that I didn't mention it earlier. . . "

I'm sure there are others. Sorry to ask, but you wouldn't mind commenting on what I'm missing on this list.


Nate Romance said...

2008: The year of the bold RJ.

I think that voluntelling is just being manipulative but not being very good at it.

Caitlin said...

I engage in the passive aggressive Olympics with a man in our billing department named Emmanuel pretty much on a daily basis. It's gotten better, but my favorite way to voluntell him is to end an email with "Thanks in advance for taking care of this today." Or "I look forward to hearing back from you before lunch." A part of me secretly hates this man, hence me getting my jabs in anywhere I can. There are two reasons for this, one he is almost as passive aggressive as I am, and is a MAJOR rule follower which just gets obnoxious. The second is he has taken to calling me "Catey" in emails. No one calls me that, and if they did that is not how I would spell it. Even worse than Catey, he also has a tendency to refer to me as "Lady C." and says things like "Great, you're the woman!" Yes, I am a woman. Not sure why you just felt the need to remind me. This makes me want to hurt him. It's a good thing for his safety he is in the New York office... apologies for using your comments section as my own personal therapy session. I know you don't mind, right?