How do I deal with colleagues/supervisors who will always answer everything with:

"You know what I mean."

Even if prompted multiple times to elaborate.

It's especially confusing, if that sentence is said with basically no to little context or very vague 1 short sentence context.

I worked for a software company where this was more or less the most said sentence ever. All communication went 50% with that sentence and finger pointing on code sections.

Is there any way to force someone to elaborate about something you're lacking knowledge about.

Eg. your supervisor tells you what to do, but is so vague about what he wants the result to look like that you have no clue what your task is. Especially in the context of teamwork, where you share a task with 5 people, and the 4 other people already work as a team and know exactly what their task is. However you have no clue what you should do to not overlap with them, nor do you understand the task, because you don't have enough information about the project, the separation of tasks, the organization.

  • 1
    Can you give more context? How does it affect your work? What is your work relationship? What kinds of things are they saying that about? What have you tried? With this very little context and very vague 1 short sentence context, we don't "know what you mean" Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 7:40
  • That question of your's is good. A question can answer more than 1000 words. I think the situations in which something like that would happen are more the problem than the sentence itself. The answer to those situations, is most likely RUN. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:00
  • It's possible THEY don't know what they mean. Have they never even offered to put time aside to explain things further? That's probably a warning sign.
    – user34587
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:37
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    @HopefullyHelpful Are you trying to answer your own question with that comment? It's an odd one to make...
    – Draken
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 8:48
  • I was answering the question in @雰囲気読めない人 comment indirectly. Also thanks for the grammar improvement. Your writting style is great. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 9:55

3 Answers 3


Sometimes, the only thing you can do is: Come up with your own interpretation, spell it out and send it to the ones involved, for confirmation. That way you force them to either elaborate or you have at least a written confirmation that you are working on the right task.


In such circumstances, I reply "no, I do not know what you mean, please explain".

If they are expecting you to do something for them, you could elaborate that to "no, I do not know what you mean, and I can't do X for you until I do. Could you please explain".

If you are asking them for information to help you, but not them, you have more of a problem. I would suggest "no, I do no know what you mean. If you can't explain it, perhaps I should ask [boss]"?

One very important rule at work is to always communicate problems as early as possible. If you are unable to work because of Mr. YNWIM, then your boss needs to know. And if you don't tell him, he will find out eventually and his reaction will be worse, the later he learns of the problem.


Some people use phrases like this without any real semantic meaning. It's a crutch. What it really means is "did you listen to what I just said?" much like some people use "right?" or "innit?". It's unlikely that someone who uses this crutch would accuse you of contradiction if you said something contrary later, because they weren't necessarily seeking agreement in the first place. But if you don't agree with the speaker, don't say yes, even if you just want to end the question to move on to your own.

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