10

The context is I told someone I'm looking for meetups in my area to network with certain people and this person sent me a link that does not seem relevant at all. How do I ask, "Why did you send me this link?" in a polite way?

If I didn't care, I'd just ignore the link, but the reason I want to ask the question is because maybe they understand a way to use the resource in a way that I don't. I'd be doing myself a disservice by not learning that.

  • 19
    "Why did you send me this link?" is perfectly polite. – curiousdannii Oct 6 '14 at 3:11
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    +1 to @curiousdannii's comment. If you are shy about asking, you can always ask, May I ask why you sent me this link? But there is nothing impolite with the question in your title. – Drew Oct 6 '14 at 4:19
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    @curiousdanni - it depends on the exact culture you're in. For me (relatively posh Brit), bib's approach is the only one that feels non-aggressive. – cloudfeet Oct 6 '14 at 13:44
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    "I'm a little confused -- what did you want me to see in this link?" – Hot Licks Oct 6 '14 at 15:42
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    @curiousdannii I don't think it's "polite" as much as it's "not rude". Over text, the tone could be misconstrued and they may think you're being ungrateful or dense. And it may also be inefficient to ask this way: They may reply with, "because you told me to send you links like this". – Daniel Kaplan Oct 6 '14 at 17:06
27

"I've taken a look at the link you sent me, but there must be something about it that I missed. What was it that you were particularly wanting to draw my attention to there?"

13

A polite way to get someone to explain something is to suggest that the problem is yours:

I seem to be a little slow today and not quite getting the connection between my question and the information you shared.

Similarly, when someone is not responding in a way that suggests they don't understand, you can say

I was not too clear, let me try again [and then recast your original question].

5

Unfortunately, there isn't a pithy one line sentence that expresses gratitude, and asks for clarification in a polite manner without appearing to be curt or rude. That is the nature of emails. Tone is very hard to convey in words unless you resort to elaborate and seemingly long-winded phrases.

In BrEng it is the norm to first apologize and then use softening expressions such as: Sorry to bother you; I was wondering if you could; Would you mind verb+ing; I hope I'm not creating a fuss; etc.

The first request is really an apology. You are openly blaming yourself for your "incompetency". This type of polite request could backfire if your interlocutor feels like an idiot for not noticing the error himself (if there is any error involved). Then again, the person could simply reply with a "Oops! My bad/mistake I sent you the wrong link."

I'm sorry, perhaps I am mistaken, but the link you kindly shared doesn't appear to be relevant for my situation. Am I'm missing something?

The second request implies that you know the link must be pertinent but you don't know where to look or how to use that information.

Sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to thank you for the link and ask if you wouldn't mind explaining how it can be useful to me.

  • 1
    Gosh, we really do tie ourselves in knots, don't we? :p – cloudfeet Oct 6 '14 at 14:08
  • @cloudfeet very true, but you could easily omit the introductory phrase and still manage to say what you need :) – Mari-Lou A Oct 6 '14 at 14:21
2

You mentioned that perhaps they can use the resource in a way you don't understand. You can say

Can you explain how this link is related to what I asked?

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    That sounds a little snippish to me. – Hot Licks Oct 6 '14 at 15:42
-1

Why were you kind enough to send me this link?

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    That sounds like you're impugning his character. I would really wonder if I had offended someone on reading this. – anongoodnurse Oct 6 '14 at 0:31
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    @WS2 Your answer already suggests the cynical view that most people wouldn't even have the tiny amount of kindness required to spend a few seconds mailing a link! But, putting that aside, I don't think this is a good approach. If I received that message, I'd think you were asking "Why were you kind to me?" not "Why did you mail me that link?" so you'd be likely to get an answer along the lines of "Because I'm a nice guy!" rather than something that would help you understand why the link was relevant to your situation. – David Richerby Oct 6 '14 at 9:42
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    @DavidRicherby Would you have been happier had I said 'Why did you go to the trouble of sending me a link?' – WS2 Oct 6 '14 at 10:30
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    @WS2 I think so, yes, though I'm not sure I could give a cogent reason why. On the other hand, it still seems a little less clear and no more polite than something more direct such as "I'm not sure how that page relates to the question I asked." – David Richerby Oct 6 '14 at 10:34
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    @WS2 Well, rephrase for politeness to your taste. But, we well as recognizing that the other person has helped you out, it's also necessary to clearly convey that the message is "Please tell me why that link is relevant to me" not "Please tell me why you went to the trouble of mailing me a link." – David Richerby Oct 6 '14 at 15:07
-1

Focus on why you want it. You may want to ask:

Thank you so much, but let me know how this link may help me.

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