Someone from another department at work complained about how your team doesn't notify him when you make changes to a certain document. You're talking with one of your team members. She says that you shouldn't have to notify this person when you make changes, because it would take up too much of your time. You want to agree, so you say:
Yeah, I mean, what does he want us to do? Call him every time we make a little change?
The phrase "I mean" doesn't have a strong meaning of its own. Instead, it is used to express certain feelings about a topic.
One of the reasons to use "I mean" is to try to get the listener to sympathize with your feelings and what you're saying. Because "I mean..." emphasizes that you're stating your own personal feelings, it seems like you're asking the listener to understand those feelings.
Here's another example. You would say this when talking to your boss:
I really think I'm ready to take on more responsibility. I mean, I've been working there for over six years. It's not like I'm inexperienced.
In the statement at top, the speaker asks a question and then gives an unreasonable example answer, also formed as a question:
What does he want us to do? Call him every time we make a little change?
You ask a question in this way to disagree with what you think someone else is saying, or to make fun of the ideas that they have. In the example above, the meaning is something like, "I can't believe he wants us to contact him when we change that document. What a bad idea!" Here's another example. When a guy is trying to act like he is strong and heroic, but you're annoyed by it, you can make fun of him by saying:
Who do you think you are? Prince Charming or something?
(Prince Charming is the prince who rescues Snow White in the children's story "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves")
If someone continues to be mad at you even after you've apologized several times, you can ask:
What do you want me to do? Get down on my knees and beg?
You probably already know what this phrase means, but it's good to remember this all together as a set phrase because it's common in spoken English:
What do you want me to do? What does she want us to do?
The word "little" can mean "small", but it also brings to mind the idea of being unimportant.
I'm just asking for one little favor. Can't you do that for me just this once?
In the example at top, the speaker doesn't think that most of the changes she makes are important, so she calls them "little".
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