Accepting compliments that don’t mean much to you

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I’ve recently been talking about my body image issues on my blog, and some of my friends have contacted me to tell me that I’m pretty and that I shouldn’t feel bad about myself. It doesn’t make me feel better (or worse), but it’s a nice sentiment, so I want to thank them, but I don’t want to give either a “thanks for the input” canned response or a fawning “omg thank you so much ❤❤❤” fake response. How can I accept these comments politely, especially if it’s in real life and not online?

Realsocialskills said:

It’s fine to just say “thank you” or “thank you for saying so” in a simple way. Simple compliments don’t need a complicated response. It’s perfectly polite to just say thank you. 

You could also, if you like, be a bit more specific. Eg “Thank you for reading” or “thank you for your support.” But it’s not necessary. “Thank you” is fine on its own. 

If it *was* helpful, you could also say so, eg “Thank you, I really needed to hear that today”. But you don’t need to say something like that, especially if it’s not true.

I wouldn’t say “thank you for your input”, unless the comments bother you and you would like them to stop. Statements like “Thank you for your input” and “I’ll think about that” tend to be polite ways of saying “That was unwelcome, and I don’t want to discuss that topic.” (It’s also totally ok to dislike their compliments, even if you appreciate the sentiment. You don’t have to like everything that is well intentioned).

If the compliments don’t make you feel better (or worse), and you want to express that you appreciate the sentiment, I think the best way is probably to just say “thank you”.

Civility is not the same as affect

Having a civil conversation is about mutual listening and mutual respect.

Sometimes that gets conflated with affect — people act like the defining feature of respectful conversation is things like the position of your body, the volume of your voice, and whether you’re using polite words.

Sometimes things like that can be involved in what makes a conversation respectful, but they don’t define it.

The rules of politeness allow people to be dismissive and cruel. Similarly, it is possible to have a mutually respectful conversation that violates the rules of politeness.

For instance, it is often possible to have a mutually respectful conversation with raised voices and cuss words. It is also often possible to use a lot of I-statements and gentle-sounding language to have a conversation that is fundamentally disrespectful and cruel.

Conflating affect with respect ends up drowning out a lot of voices, and privileging people who are good at manipulating the rules of politeness.

(Affect matters, and it’s ok if some kinds of affect are dealbreaking for you in terms of your ability to have conversations with someone. I’m not saying that everything should be acceptable to everyone. All I’m saying is that affecting politeness is not the same as treating someone respectfully.)

tl;dr Body language, tone of voice, and affect can be part of what makes a conversation civil and mutually respectful, but they don’t define it.

orima-kazooie answered: I think that if a friend’s spouse doesn’t get along with you but doesn’t hate you either, it may be appropriate to invite only the friend

realsocialskills said:

I don’t think it’s necessarily *wrong*, but it’s almost always considered *rude*. (For some reason, single-gender events are an exception to this if the spouse is not the included gender).

Do you know of a way to do this without it being perceived as rude?





Social skills for autonomous people: Non-literal greetings



In the US, certain things are ritual greetings that follow a standard script. Deviating from it is considered a bit weird (but it’s also common, and possible to get away with. I deviate from it often).

“How are you?” is not usually intended as a real…

A lot of time the answer to what’s up, is what’s up. You don’t even answer, you just ask the question back.

Oh yeah, I forgot that sometimes you don’t even answer. I remember when that started to be the case - it really weirded me out.

But yes, sometimes the expected answer is just “What’s up" back. Does it bother people when you answer “not much, you?“ and they’re expecting “what’s up?” repeated?


Is “Watcha doin’?“ a variation of “What’s up?” Because when I’ve been asked “Watcha doin’?“ by people coming up to me I’ve responded with “Talking to you,” which was Not Right judging by their reactions. Now, I respond with “reading/listening to music/whatever I was doing,“ but is that wrong too? 

I think answering briefly with what you were just doing is fine, but the expected answer often involves a question in return. For example “Listening to music, how about you?” Many people feel more comfortable when they feel like you’re inviting them to speak. :)

Is there any polite way to indicate that you’re busy and would rather *not* have a conversation right now when someone asks what you’re doing?

When people won't stop asking for reasons

When you don’t want to give the reason for saying no, and the other person is pressuring you, what is a polite way to get them to stop?
Unfortunately, there often isn’t a completely polite way to get them to stop. People who do this are often very good at manipulating the rules of polite conversation in ways that make it impossible to assert a boundary without being rude.
And even if you are being entirely polite, you’re still likely to offend them. Someone who feels entitled to an answer is probably going to feel wronged if they don’t get one.
That said, these are phrases that sometimes end that kind of conversation without making you appear too rude:
  • “Thank you for your suggestion. I’ll think about it”.
  • “Maybe; let me get back to you.”
  • “I’ll have to think about that.”
  • “I have to leave now. Nice talking to you.”
  • “Thank you, but I’m not interested, and I don’t want to talk about this further.”

Sometimes you can also just change the subject and ignore anything they say about the thing they’re demanding reasons about. This can be especially effective if there’s something they will usually take any opportunity to discuss. That doesn’t work in all situations, but it does work sometimes.

Basically, though, it’s not always possible to defend boundaries politely. It’s ok to be rude when you need to be in order to protect your boundaries. No one has to be polite all the time at all costs.


So, I’m often in an awkward situation in which I’m not sure how I should be addressing someone. Specifically: 

I don’t know whether I should be using their first name or their title. And, if I should use a title, which one. There are several sources of confusion:

  • I don’t know whether a woman prefers Ms., Mrs. or Miss.
  • I don’t know whether they have an academic, theological, or professional title that I should be using rather than the default Mr/Ms/Miss/Mrs
  • They have more than one title, and I don’t know which one they prefer
  • Or, I simply don’t know which degree of formality is appropriate to the situation

Are there any good clues to look for? And is there a polite way to ask?