More on calling the Election Protection Hotline for help with voting rights

Note: I am not affiliated with Election Protection. I just think they’re awesome and I want to make sure that people know about them.

If someone tells you that you can’t vote, or you run into other barriers, consider calling the Election Protection Hotline. 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). They’re a hotline run by lawyers who really, really care about making sure that everyone has the right to vote. (Hours and information about partner hotlines in additional languages at this link.) They’re nonpartisan; they don’t care which candidate you vote for, they just want to protect your right to vote. 

They can help you figure out what to do if your polling place isn’t accessible, or if it runs out of ballots, if someone tries to intimidate you (or someone else), or if someone tells you that you don’t have the right ID, or other things like that. If you’re not sure whether the law is being followed at your polling place, or you’re not sure who is an official and who isn’t, Election Protection can help. And just, generally speaking, they care about your voting rights, they know what they’re talking about, and they will tell you the truth.

The problem with this is, the only way to talk to them is on the phone, and talking on the phone is really hard for a lot of people. So, in case it helps, here’s some information about what it’s like to call them, and some scripts you might use if you’re having trouble figuring out how to communicate. (You don’t *have* to use these scripts; don’t let it be a barrier to calling for help if you need help. They’re offered in case it is helpful; these are not rules.):

When you call the Election Protection Hotline, they will want to know where you are. This is because the laws are different in different states:

  • Their phone system guesses which state you are calling from based on your area code, and asks you to confirm. 
  • If you say you’re in a different area, the system will ask you to enter your state’s two-letter abbreviation on your phone’s dial pad. 
  • (For instance, North Carolina is NC, which is 62 on a dial pad).
  • (If you’re not sure what your state’s abbreviation is, Wikipedia has a list
  • (It also may be helpful to know which county you’re in, because counties sometimes have their own rules. If you’re not sure, you can check online here. But if you’re not sure, call anyway.)

Once you tell the phone system where you are calling from, the phone system will transfer you to a volunteer:

  • (If no one is immediately available, you might get an answering machine that says you’re calling after hours. If that happens during hours the hotline is open, just try calling back.)
  • The volunteer will ask for your phone number in case you get disconnected, and may also ask for your name.
  • Then they will want to know what’s going on, and what you need help with:

If you haven’t voted yet and you’re trying to get information you need in order to vote:

  • You can say something like “I’m trying to make a voting plan, and I have a question about voting in my area”.
  • For instance “I’m preparing to go vote, and I’m not sure whether I have the right ID. Can you help me figure out if any of the things I have are accepted as IDs where I vote?”
  • Or “I’m not sure where my polling place is.” 
  • Or “I just got out of prison for a felony. Can I vote?” 

If you are at the polls and having a problem right now:

  • You might want to say something along the lines of “I’m at my polling place trying to vote, and I’m having a problem”. 
  • For instance, “I’m at my polling place, and they just told me that I’m not on the list and can’t vote. What should I do?”
  • Or “I’m in line waiting to vote, and people who say that they are poll monitors keep asking to see my ID. How do I get them to leave me alone?”
  • Or “I can’t get into my polling place because it’s inaccessible, so I need curbside voting. I can’t get anyone to acknowledge me. How can I get them to give me a ballot?” 
  • Or “I’m in line waiting to vote. Someone is approaching voters in line and speaking to them in a language I don’t understand. Some people are leaving right after this person talks to them. Is this intimidation?”
  • Or “I’m at my polling place, and I just found some Spanish language flyers that say that Election Day is tomorrow instead of today.”

If you’re reporting a problem that happened earlier or on another day, 

  • You can say something like “I saw something during Early Voting…” or “When I voted this morning…”.
  • For instance: “When I voted during Early Voting last week, some people were turned away because they didn’t have IDs. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I’ve heard since then that our state doesn’t actually require IDs for voting. What’s going on?”
  • Or “When I voted this morning, the accessible voting machine wasn’t set up, and no one there knew how to use it. I didn’t have time to come back, so I had someone assist me. Did the polling place break the law?” 
  • Or “I cast a provisional ballot. Do I need to do anything to make sure that my vote will be counted?”

And so on. Once they know what the problem is, they will talk to you about next steps. (This page has stories about issues they’ve recorded and/or responded to and their Twitter feed and Facebook page also have stories/examples.)

Answering “How was your summer?” when your summer was unpleasant

filosoraptor said to realsocialskills:
I go back to school soon and I’ve been trying to prepare for when someone inevitably asks me how my summer was. My first response would be that it was quite lonely because almost all of my plans ended up being cancelled. Would answering like that make someone uncomfortable?

Realsocialskills said:

That response would make most people uncomfortable.

Generally speaking, “How was your summer?” isn’t something people ask because they literally want information about how your summer was.

That kind of question is usually either just a greeting, or a way of opening conversation.

When it’s a greeting, it really just means something along the lines of “Hello, I haven’t seen you for a while.” The usual answer is something like, “It was good. How was yours?”. Answering that way doesn’t mean you’re literally saying you had a good summer. It really just means hello. It’s not a lie, it’s non-literal language.

When “How was your summer?” is a way of opening conversation, it’s an attempt to find something to talk about. The point is to find something that both people can comfortably discuss. The polite way to do this is to ask questions about what the other person said until you find a topic you’re both interested in. It’s considered a bit rude to just change the subject.

Here’s an example of how that can work (the people’s names are randomly generated):

  • Jacob: Hey, how was your summer?
  • Maxine: Pretty good. I was mostly working. How was yours?
  • Jacob: Pretty good — I decided to take a summer school class about color theory and painting.
  • Maxine: That’s cool — I’ve always wanted to try something like that, but I haven’t had the time.
  • Jacob: It wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be, but I did learn a lot of things that are surprisingly applicable to my other classes.
  • Maxine: That’s something anyway. Did the credits count towards anything?
  • (And so on).

If Maxine’s summer actually sucked a lot, mentioning it could end up being really awkward:

  • Jacob: How was your summer?
  • Maxine: It was really lonely. All of my plans fell through.

In this example:

  • Maxine only mentioned two topics: summer being lonely, and plans falling through. 
  • These are both uncomfortable topics.
  • In social situations oriented towards making pleasant conversation, most people won’t want to talk about loneliness or plans falling through 
  • Since Maxine didn’t mention about anything potentially comfortable to discuss, it could be hard for Jacob to keep looking for a mutually comfortable subject without feeling rude. 
  • He might also feel like he’s supposed to comfort Maxine or that there’s no good response to what she just said.
  • This is likely to feel awkward to both of them

There are ways to mention the unpleasantness of summer that are less likely to make the I-haven’t-seen-you-in-a-while conversation unpleasant. It helps if:

  • You avoid giving the impression that you’re upset that they asked, and:
  • You make it clear that you’re not trying to start a conversation about the unpleasantness of summer, and:
  • You include an opening to talk about something else.

For instance:

  • Jacob: How was your summer?
  • Maxine: Eh, kind of sucked. I’m glad to be back — now that I’m past the intro classes things are getting a lot more interesting. 
  • Jacob: What are you majoring in?
  • Maxine: I’m still deciding between history, political science, and pre-law. But a lot of interesting second-year classes count towards both, so I’m keeping both options open.
  • Jacob: I considered that too, but ended up deciding on theater. 
  • Maxine: What are you planning to do with that?
  • Jacob: Hopefully acting or set design. I figure that in any case speaking, acting, and logistical skills will be useful in any job.
  • (And so on).

You can also just say that your summer was ok and then ask how theirs was. That gives them an opening to mention things they did, which might work as a topic of conversation. Eg:

  • Jacob: How was your summer?
  • Maxine: It was ok. How was yours?
  • Jacob: It was pretty good. I took a summer school class on painting and color theory.
  • (And so on).

Again, even if your summer was awful, saying “It was ok” isn’t a lie, it’s just non-literal language:

  • “How was your summer?” isn’t usually meant literally.
  • Your answers to that question don’t have to be literal either.
  • The question usually means something like “Hello. Nice to see you again. Let’s talk about something. Is your summer a good topic of conversation?”
  • Saying “It was ok, how was yours?” usually means something like, “Hello. Nice to see you again too. Let’s talk about something other than my summer. Is your summer a good topic of conversation?”

Tl;dr “How was your summer?” usually isn’t literally intended to find out how your summer was. It’s usually a way of either saying hello or looking for something to talk about. Most people don’t want to have a conversation about how unpleasant your summer was. If your summer was bad, usually the best thing to do is to try steering the conversation to another topic.

knowing what you think - tools for thinking for yourself

Anonymous said to :

When I’m around people who disagree with me, I have trouble remembering that my own thoughts and opinions are valid, and I start thinking I must be wrong about whatever they disagree with me about.

Do you know any ways of getting more confident about disagreeing with people?

realsocialskills said:

To an extent, it’s a matter of practice.

Learning to distinguish between what you think and what others think depends on a few different skills. Some of them will likely take time and practice to acquire.

Some thought about what to work on:

It can help to get into the habit of noticing when your opinions change suddenly. If you’re susceptible to excessive influence by other people, it’s likely that this happens way more than you realize. Even just noticing it can make it easier to tell what’s your opinion and what’s someone else’s.

Eg, let’s say Susan and Jane are eating out together, and they’re looking at the dessert menu:

  • Susan: I want chocolate ice cream.
  • Jane: Chocolate is a disgusting flavor and it’s way too high fat. Raspberry smoothies are a million times better.
  • Susan: Ok, that does sound better. I’ll order that.

In that instance, Susan wanted chocolate ice cream, then suddenly changed her mind when Jane said it was bad. If Susan does this a lot, she may not even have noticed that it happened. Noticing this kind of sudden opinion change could help Susan to realize when it’s happening against her will.

That leads to another skill that can help: Remembering the question “Why?”:

If you just changed your mind suddenly, why did it happen?

  • Did someone say something you found persuasive?
  • If so, what?
  • Are you responding to the force of someone else’s personality?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Did you hear a new idea that sounds like it might be right?
  • Do you need time to think about it?
  • (It’s ok to not know right away.)

Asking other people “Why?”:

  • If someone says something, you don’t have to agree
  • And you don’t have to assume they have a good reason
  • If they’re saying something that is your business, it is ok to ask “Why?”
  • (Sometimes it isn’t your business and “Why?” might be a rude question. Eg, if someone says that they feel sick when they drink milk.)
  • (But if it’s something like: “Republicans are evil”/“Democrats are ruining America”, “Why?” is a completely ok question.)
  • Getting in the habit of asking for reasons can help you to understand and to think for yourself
  • Some other ways to ask for reasons: “What makes you say that?”, “Can you say more about that?”, “I hear a lot of people saying x, but I don’t really understand why they think that… Would you be willing to explain?”

Remembering that it’s ok to need time to think about things:

  • Sometimes you hear a big idea or an unfamiliar perspective and it makes things feel different
  • Even just knowing that someone thinks something can make the world seem different
  • (Or meeting someone who thinks something)
  • That can feel really weird and confusing or disorienting
  • That’s ok. It’s ok to be disoriented and need time to think. Some words that can help (either by saying them or thinking them to yourself):
  • “I never thought about that before.”
  • “I never thought about it that way before.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “I’ll have to think about that.”
  • “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • “This has given me a lot to think about.”
  • (Sometimes it feels like people are asking you to immediately agree with them when what they’re really asking is for you to listen to them. Saying one of these things can help in that situation.)

Paying attention to fear

  • Sometimes people are afraid to disagree with someone else’s strongly held opinions
  • Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid someone will hurt them
  • Sometimes that’s because they’re afraid doubting someone would make them a bad person
  • Sometimes it’s both
  • It’s actually ok to think for yourself. Reflexive agreement out of fear doesn’t help things.
  • Even when there’s a clear right side and wrong side, it’s *still* important to think for yourself and understand things
  • Agreeing reflexively won’t get you the kind of understanding you need to meaningfully be on the right side of an important issue
  • (And you can’t know what side that is without thinking about it, anyway)
  • Thinking about it until you understand will make your agreement much more meaningful (and actionable)

Paying attention after the fact to what you think:

  • Some people have personalities that loom very large
  • Some people are very good at sounding right
  • It can be very hard to tell what you think in the presence of these people
  • Sometimes it may be hard to tell what you think in the presence of other people
  • The effect tends to wear off after you’re away from them
  • If you’re having second thoughts after you’re away from someone, take those second thoughts seriously
  • Sometimes you will have really good reasons
  • (And even if you ultimately end up agreeing with them, it was *still* important to take your second thoughts seriously so that you can understand for yourself)
  • If you know that you have that reaction to someone, try to avoid agreeing to anything binding in their presence.

Remembering “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to be sure what you think
  • It’s ok not to be sure what you want
  • Saying “maybe” can be really powerful.
  • If you get pressured into things a lot, it might help to default to maybe
  • It’s usually a lot easier to say “Maybe”, or “I need to think about that” than it is to say “Yes”, and then “I thought about it and I changed my mind”.

Journaling or blogging can also help:

  • If you write things down, it can be easier to track changes in your opinion
  • It can also be really helpful as a way of processing and figuring out what you think
  • (Tumblr *can* be good for this, but it can also attract hostile attention that makes thinking for yourself harder. Sometime more private like Livejournal or Dreamwidth might be better.)

Another thing that can help is paying attention to how people are treating you:

  • Are there particular people you’re afraid of contradicting?
  • If, so, why?
  • Do they treat you badly when you contradict them?
  • Do they treat others badly in your presence?
  • Do they spend a lot of time aggressively mocking people for not understanding, for disagreeing, or for asking questions?
  • If a lot of people in your life act this way, thinking for yourself can be really hard.
  • Seeking out people who treat you and others better can help a *lot* in making it possible to figure out what you think.
  • Not everyone with passionate opinions or commitments is a jerk
  • (Related: It is entirely possible pursue justice and other important causes without being horrible to everyone who disagrees with you or has an imperfect understanding or things.)

Learning to hold on to your thoughts and sense of self is going to be hard at first. Realizing that it’s going to be hard can make it more possible. (Especially since some people are really, really skilled at making people feel that their thoughts are invalid.)

As you get more experience intentionally paying attention to what you think, it gets easier. It will still be hard and confusing sometimes, but it won’t be as hard and confusing all of the time.

tl;dr It is important to think for yourself even when you’re uncomfortable or others don’t want you to. There are a lot of reasons this can be hard. There are some skills that can make it easier. Scroll up for concrete suggestions.

Thoughts on asking better panel questions

At panel discussions, there is usually a chance for members of the audience to ask questions. If you want to get good answers to your question, it helps to ask the question a certain way. These are not absolute rules, but these general principles often help:

Ask one question:

  • If the panelists are interesting, you will probably have a pile of questions you want to ask them
  • It can be tempting to try to ask all the questions together in one long paragraph
  • That never works, because the panelists don’t actually have time to answer all ten of your complicated questions
  • And if your question gets overly long and complicated, they quit paying attention and just talk about what they want to talk about
  • If you want them to answer a question, you have to pick one.

Make sure your question is actually a question:

  • The point of asking questions is to get the panelists to share their perspective on something you care about
  • The question you ask should be possible to answer, and you should be interested in what the panelists think of it
  • Otherwise it’s not really a question
  • Sometimes people who think they’re asking a question are actually presenting a long monologue about their views on something
  • That really annoys everyone.
  • The people in the audience came to hear the panelists, not you. If you monologue instead of asking a question, it will annoy them.
  • (There’s almost always at least one person who does this.)
  • (There are some exceptions to this: if you’re sufficiently popular in that group that people are likely to be just as interested in what you say, *and* the panelists hold you in high regard and won’t mind, sometimes it’s ok. That’s rare.)

Questions to panelists should be specific, and easy for the panelists to understand. They should also be at least somewhat open-ended, so that the panelists will be able to give substantive and nuances answers. A few possible scripts for forming good questions (there are many others):

Asking how something works, or how something will happen, eg:

  • “How will the new version of your app support VoiceOver?“
  • “How do you decide what to put in the parameters for casting calls?”
  • “How do you respond when the alarm goes off in the spaceship?“

This can also be a short statement, then a question, eg:

  • “A lot of comedians tell offensive jokes. When you’re working on a routine, how do you figure when a joke you’re considering is crossing a line?”

Asking them to expand on something interesting they referenced by starting with “Can you say more about…”, eg:

  • “Can you say more about the time you quit a job at the Very Highly Regarded Charity for ethical reasons?“
  • “Can you say more about your methods for attracting butterflies without also attracting wasps?”

“What do you think about..?” or “Here’s a statement. What do you think about that?“

  • This can be good, but it can also be hard to make it specific.
  • Example of an overly vague question: “What do you think about pie?”
  • A better question: “What do you think of replacing cakes with pie on ceremonial occasions?“
  • Another example of a question that would be overly vague in most contexts: “What do you think about progress?”
  • A question that’s more likely to be answerable: “What do you think about the role of People in Our Field in making the world better?”
  • another example: “Some people say that if we wait long enough, things will get better on their own. What do you think about that?“
  • “What do you think about Other Person’s Theory? Does that seem true in your work?”

“Do you think that…"

  • This can be a good way to ask stuff
  • The problem is that it’s prone to cause a question to be overly closed
  • Eg: “Do you think that you will enjoy your next job?” is very unlikely to get a good answer
  • This might get a good answer: “Do you think that other women are still facing obstacles in your field?“
  • Offering alternatives can sometimes make the question seem more open, eg:
  • “Do you think that standardized testing is a good approach to improving special education outcomes, or do you favor a different approach?”

Asking about a rumor:

  • Make it clear which rumor you’re talking about, then ask about it (Asking “So, are the rumors true?” will not generally get an interesting answer).
  • “Is there any truth to that?” will often get a better answer than “Is that true?”
  • Example: “I heard that you’re working on a book of poetry about cats from a laser pointer’s perspective. Is there any truth to that?“

Questions that start simple and also ask for an explanation. There’s sometimes another way to phrase these too:

  • Adding “why or why not?”
  • eg: “Did you enjoy being a voice actor on the Simpsons? Why or why not?“
  • you could also ask that question this way: “What were some things you liked and disliked about being a voice actor on The Simpsons?”
  • another example: “Do you think that there is life on other planets? Why or why not?“

There are also questions that are challenges. These are harder to pull off. They still should be real questions, that it is actually possible to answer in a substantive way.

  • For instance “Isn’t it true that you’re an ableist and only care about yourself?” isn’t a good question because there’s no good way to answer it.
  • Asking that way makes you look like a jerk, even if you’re completely right in your assessment
  • It’s much more effective to challenge them on something specific, and to ask a question that it is possible to answer
  • (This can sometimes force them to consider the issue, or to reveal publicly that they’re getting it wrong.)
  • Example of a better question: “Why doesn’t the board of your Disability Organization About Disability have any openly disabled members?”
  • Or, you can push harder and say something like: “There are no openly disabled members on your board. What are you doing to address this problem?“
  • How far it’s useful to push depends a lot on context.
  • (The rule of only asking one clear question at a time is particularly important with challenges. If you ask a complicated or ambiguous challenge question, it makes it easy for them to evade it.)

If possible, keep your question short:

  • Most people don’t like to pay attention to long complicated questions
  • If your question is short and easy to understand quickly, you’re likely to get a better answer
  • Short questions are easier to understand
  • They’re also harder to evade
  • If your question is 1-3 sentences long, you will probably get a better answer than if it is substantially longer.

Think about your question before you start talking:

  • You will probably have to wait your turn to ask
  • While you’re waiting to be called on, it’s worth planning what you want to say and how you want to say it
  • If you wait and don’t figure out what you’re going to say until you start talking, it will probably be more verbose and less clear
  • If you can, it’s worth planning
  • (For some people, writing the question down first helps) 

None of these things are absolute rules, but all of them are potentially helpful. If you can’t communicate this way, you still have the right to ask questions. These are suggestions, not rules.

tl;dr If you’re at a panel discussion and want the panelists to give interesting answers to your question, there are things that make that more likely. Scroll up for some general principles and some scripts.

How to talk to strangers in social situations

It’s ok and socially expected to initiate conversations with strangers at certain kinds of gatherings. If a lot of people who don’t know each other are at the same gathering, and there is a social element to the gathering, it’s considered normal to initiate conversations with strangers.

Some examples of this type of environment:

  • Parties
  • Conferences
  • Freshman orientation
  • Kiddush after services at a synagogue

A script that usually works well for initiating conversation with a stranger:

  • You: Hi, I’m [Your name].
  • They will usually reply: I’m [their name].
  • Then the next thing you do is ask them a question that is slightly, but not very, personal based on the context
  • Then they usually answer and ask you the same question
  • This tends to result in you discovering something of mutual interest and having a conversation

Some examples of contextually appropriate questions:

  • If you’re at a party someone is throwing: “How do you know [host’s name]” usually works
  • (Even if they don’t actually know the host, this still usually works because they can answer something like “Actually, I came here with my friend.”)
  • If you’re at a conference: “What brings you here?” usually works. (And will usually get to an area of mutual interest quickly, since being at the same conference with someone implies that you care about some of the same things).
  • This is a better question than “What do you do?” because asking about someone’s job as an initial question is often interpreted as you asking them “Are you high status enough that I should bother talking to you?”. “What brings you here?” is more neutral
  • If you’re at a kiddush at a synagogue: “Are you a member here?” usually works, so long as you’re not asking it in an accusatory tone. 
  • If there’s a bat or bat mitzvah, “Are you relatives of the bar/bat mitzvah?” usually works (even if you’re not and they’re not. The question works no matter what the answer is
  • At freshman orientation or similar: “Where are you from?” usually works well as an initial question.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve met before, you can still introduce yourself. This is a script that works:

  • “I’m not sure if we’ve met before - I’m kind of bad with faces. I’m [Your name]”.
  • Then, if they don’t know you, you can use the usual script.
  • And if they do know you, then they’ll usually explain the context you know them in.
  • And then you can talk about that.

tl;dr It’s ok (and can be fun) to initiate conversations with strangers at parties and conferences and suchlike. Scroll up for some scripts.

Anyone else want to weigh in? What are some initial questions that work in other contexts?

Coming out at Christmas?

anonymous asked:
I’m planning to come out at christmas before dinner. How do I do it without it becoming awkward or making the holiday all about me? Also I’m very bad with spoken communication when I’m put on the spot or nervous so I don’t know how to deal with the string of Straight People Questions I might get.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure what kind of situation you’re in. I’m assuming that you’re gay or lesbian, that you’re probably not out to any family members, that you don’t currently live with family, and that you’re talking about a big family gathering. Some of this might not apply if I’m getting some of that wrong.

Coming out will probably be at least somewhat awkward, no matter how well it goes and no matter how you do it. Coming out to people who aren’t expecting it is inherently awkward. If you’re not sure whether or not they will react positively, it’s especially awkward. Akwardness isn’t something you are likely to be able to completely avoid. That’s not your fault. It’s a problem with our culture. 

That said, making an annoucement at a family gathering is one of the most awkward and risky ways to come out. If you make an annoucement, then you become the center of attention in a group of people whose reactions it might be hard to gauge. Also, at big family gatherings, it’s fairly likely that people will be drinking, and alchohol can greatly magnify bad reactions. For most people, coming out by making an annoucement on a holiday is a very bad idea.

There are other options that might go better:

Coming out casually in conversations with relatives who you think are likely to react well. This allows you to talk like you’re already out, rather than making an annoucement:

  • If you’ve been closested from family for a long time, you’ve probably been using linguistic tricks (like avoiding pronouns) to avoid outing yourself
  • One way to casually come out is to stop doing this, and see what happens
  • Some people will react badly, others will ask questions, others will treat it as no big deal
  • When this works, it’s the least awkward way to come out


  • Aunt Jane: Sarah, are you seeing anyone these days?
  • Sarah: No, I don’t have a girlfriend right now.


  • Aunt Jane: Bill, are you still seeing Susan?
  • Bill: No, we broke up. I’m with Jason these days.

This doesn’t always work, but it can work really well.

Another option: Coming out via email ahead of time:

  • If you want to let everyone know that you’re gay without having to have a lot of awkward conversations, email has several advantages
  • If you send an email, you don’t have to be the center of everyone’s attention all at once
  • People see it when they see it, and react individually if they want to react
  • Relatives who might have a knee jerk negative reaction will have time to process. Some of them might be less inclined to be mean and more inclined to put family relationships ahead of homophobia if they have time to processes.
  • Once the actual Christmas gathering arrives, your coming out will be somewhat old news
  • If anyone has a really horrendous reaction, you will know ahead of time and will be able to take that into account when making your Christmas plans.

Consider coming out to a family member who you trust first:

  • It will be a lot easier and more comfortable if you know that someone is on your side
  • The most reliable way to be sure of this is to come out to someone you trust ahead of time
  • In particular, if you have a gay relative, it’s worth telling them that you’re gay too and asking for perspective on how to handle things.
  • But even if you don’t. If you’re relatively sure that one of your relatives will treat you well when you come out, it’s worth coming out to them first so that you won’t be alone at the gathering.

If you think you need to come out in person by making an annoucement rather than some other way, consider doing it closer to the end of the gathering.

  • If you make an annoucement early in the gathering and it goes badly, then you still have the rest of the gathering to get through
  • If you come out later in the event, the stakes are lower
  • (Eg: after dinner is likely better than before dinner)

If you can, have somewhere to go: 

  • If you’re staying with family at a big family gathering, that can get really overwhelming really quickly
  • Especially if they’re homophobic
  • Especially if things get awkward after you come out
  • If you have friends who live nearby, it could be a really good idea to make plans to spend time with them. (Or, to have that as a backup plan for if things go badly).
  • If you don’t, spending time with friends online is likely to be important. So, if you can, make sure you have reliable access to an internet-connected device while you’re at the gathering.

tl;dr Coming out is likely to be awkward no matter how you do it. This is not your fault. Coming out by making an annoucement at a family holiday gathering is probably a bad idea. Coming out more casually or emailing ahead of time might be a better idea. It helps if you identify supportive people ahead of time.


Anyone else want to weigh in? What ways of coming out to family members have worked well for you? Which ways have worked poorly?







Trick or treat ettiquite in the US




In most areas in the US, it is traditional for children to go trick-or-treating on the evening of Halloween (October 31st). This means that they put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy.

If you put up Halloween decorations, or you have your…

Many of my older special education teens like to dress up and go trick or treating. They sometimes get refused or hasdassed for being too old, despite being like “children” in many ways.

I also know of teenagers who go “trick-or-treating” just for free candy, knowing it is not really for them. I have seen some of these older youth be rude to the younger children by pushing past them, cutting them off and scaring them.

Here is what I do:
If the trick-or-treater is dressed in costume and following norms like taking turns and watching for smaller people, I do not address their age and treat them as you would the other kids. (Don’t say, “You’re too old for this.”)
If they are dressed up but not following norms, I take make them wait a bit and tell them that because they are bigger then other people out they need to be extra careful around the smaller people because we want everyone to have fun. If they are resceptive and understand, I give them candy and tell them to have fun. (I do this if I witness little ones being rude as well, with a shorter and different talk)
The only time I ask how old they are is if they are not in costume and not following norms. I may not give these teens candy depending on how the conversation turns out. However, as an educator and youth worker, I am comfortable having these conversations.

I guess I would want others to know that even if a person looks “too old” they may be developmently delayed or large for thier age. I don’t believe this things disclude them from participating.

annekewrites said:

In my neighborhood there actually weren’t a lot of kids of trick-or-treating age at the time I was of trick-or-treating age.  What we did have was a neighbor whose mother was from another country (I believe it was either Sweden or Switzerland, but my memory is fuzzy) and who had never been.  So they dressed her up as Big Bird and took her trick-or-treating, and it was awesome.

As far as older teenagers who really should know better, something that often happened in my experience was for them to be “in costume” in a really inappropriate way while trick-or-treating - “pimp and hooker” seemed to be a perennial favorite.  That’s one where I WOULD (at least sorely be tempted to) say that they’re too old for this.

realsocialskills said:

Do you know a good way of reacting to teenagers who do that?

genderhaunt said:

A script that I’ve used in the past and that I’d feel ok hearing when I’m out as a 19 year old this year is as follows:

“Trick or treating is basically a trade, you come to my door in costume and behaving in a family friendly way, I give you candy.  You aren’t holding up your end of that unspoken deal by [being rude to the children/wearing a costume that isn’t family friendly/not wearing a costume/etc] so maybe come back when you’re doing so.”

I found that it worked, most teens didn’t come back but a few did.  I think it works because it assumed maturity instead of assuming that they were being “bad” in any way by still wanting to trick or treat.  Halloween is hard when you’re too old to really trick or treat but too young to do anything else. 

Dealing with sales pressure: Say no and walk away



I’m reading through old posts (because I do that sometimes) and I found an old post of yours from like your first month of blogging here about handling sales pressure when you plan a major purchase. I have a strategy for it that works really well since I can’t think while being pressured: Develop a no reflex.

By which I mean: Teach yourself to say no and walk away the moment you feel pressured or confused. When you’re pressured, you need to get yourself space and time so you can think. If you’re feeling pressured, say no and walk away. If you’re feeling like you’re not allowed to leave, say no and walk away. If you’re feeling like you can’t get a word in edgewise, say no and walk away. If they’ve manipulated you into being so pressured/stressed you can’t talk, then shake your head no and walk away. Above all: get yourself away from the sales person so you have space and time to think. Practice it over and over and over so it becomes your reflexive response to feeling pressured or coerced in a sales environment.

It feels like you’re being rude to do this, especially if you were socialized to not have boundaries. But you’re not. You’re asserting a boundary: You’re saying, “I will not be pressured into this decision.” Say no and walk away. Get yourself the space and time to think clearly. 

If the person won’t leave you alone, leave the store. Say no and walk away. Nothing says you have to get it from that particular store or on that particular day. If you’re not confident that someone will let you make your own decision, say no and walk away.

High-pressure sales people work by manipulating you into thinking that saying no isn’t an option or that leaving isn’t an option. They don’t tell you this explicitly, but they know how to trick you into thinking it. They badger and badger and badger until you want to shove money at them just to shut them up. But they lie. No is always an option when you’re buying something, and if you find yourself feeling like you’re not allowed to decline something or if you’re feeling so overstimulated that you’re desperate to make it stop, it’s time to say no and walk away. You do not have to give them your money, your time, or your attention. Say no and walk away.

Another thing they might do is try to convince you to take something more expensive than you can afford or more expensive than the one you want. In this case, reassert what you want, and if they won’t take it for an answer, you can say no and walk away and get the thing somewhere else or at some other time.

I’m not the best at budgeting (to put it mildly) but since I’ve developed my no reflex, I actually have a surplus at the end of each month because I don’t get pressured into buying things I don’t need and can’t afford.

Now, full disclosure: Say no and walk away can backfire if you apply it in the wrong situation. If an authority figure is pressuring you into something, they probably won’t respond well to it. As well, it can lead you to refusing to buy things you were going to buy anyway, but in that case I judge it just as well because I don’t think that someone who distresses me so much that my no reflex is activated deserves to get a sale off me. But with most situations, and especially with the majority of sales situations, it works well as a way of getting time and space for thinking.

empiredice said:

I would like to add to this. Because some people are more comfortable with scripts, and I handle salespeople coming up to me pretty well, generally, because of some that were unintentionally given to me when I was little, and they are polite, firm, non-defensive scripts.

#1. “I’m just browsing.” I say this whenever a salesperson rushes up to me eager to help their new customer, me. It effectively shoos them away. They typically respond, “ok, let me know if you need anything!” then go back to what they were doing before. I don’t think it’s ever failed me.

#2. “Can I try this on?” (while holding clothing) or “do you have a bathroom?” Not what they seem! While you might really need these for the intended purposes, if you’re overstimulated or having a breakdown these are private places most stores have where you can take a little break. I highly recommend a dressing room over a bathroom for overstimulation because it’s cleaner and there’s less musical doors going on. Ask these when you don’t know where the rooms are but need a break.

#3. “I’m not buying today.” I love this one for pushy salespeople and big purchases. For the big ones, it leaves the door open to asking questions about something I want to purchase but need to weigh pros and cons before committing to. But it is also explicit that I’m not going to make a sale that day. It says, I won’t appreciate being pressured to buy right now, and if you can respect that and just answer my questions I will probably ask for you when I come back so you still get the commission. Awesome huh? Who knew four words could say so much. There is a caveat, though: payment plans. Stores that carry expensive items (like furniture, for example) tend to offer payment plans and an eager salesperson may interpret this script as “I don’t have the money right now” (which may also be true, and something you needed to ask about.) But don’t fall for it, too. Committing to such a plan is no different than making a purchase. I don’t have scripts for this, but “no thank you” will probably work fine. “I’ll have to sleep on it” would probably work if you needed to ask questions about a plan but suddenly find yourself being asked if you want to go with (buy) their payment plan.

#4. “No, thanks.” Just a simple, polite, no.

I’m extremely terrified of people in general and typically can’t talk to people I don’t know but I’m good with these and usually have a pleasant shopping experience or at least, the unpleasantness of my experience is out of wanting things I can’t afford.




“Does everyone understand?”


When you are making a presentation or giving a speech, it can be really helpful to check in with your audience about whether they’re understanding.

It’s also helpful to think carefully in advance about who your audience is and what it’s likely that they will already know,…

mathionalist said:

As a teacher, very much yes. In addition, I like to ask “What questions do people have?”, because it assumes there will be questions, and I ask “How do people feel about this? Confused? Ok? Totally got it?” and then scan the room making eye contact. This gives people time, it gives them scripts for saying they’re confused, and the eye contact sometimes makes people speak up.

realsocialskills said:

I really like that script.

Does this also work with the students who never make eye contact?

ruairidhohboy said

I really like this because “Does anyone have any questions?” puts the students who do into the position of feeling like this is a bad thing. “What questions do you have?” makes me at least feel as though my questions are expected and welcome.

Time after time I’ve had teachers frame having questions as somehow unwanted and looked down on, and subsequently half my study group is too scared of humiliation to actually learn much from the lesson…

I had a couple professors in college who used “Who has questions!” with a big excited grin, and then treated every question as relevant and exciting, which worked pretty well when the class wasn’t half asleep. 

My best high-school teacher was fond of “Let’s talk about what I’ve just said. *Opens with a brief restatement of facts*”

realsocialskills said:

Wow, those are great scripts.





Anyone have tips on cashiering while autistic/nvld? 

I got a job in a grocery store, and those seem to overstimulate me really fast. Hopefully it won’t be too bad because with cashiering I only have to do the same thing over and over, rather than trying to maneuver around people. (uggh but the lights and the intercom and the noise and the people and the long shifts)

so far I have:

1. Stim specifically when I get home/ do a lot of “active relaxation” things like guided meditations and yoga rather than tv or internet

2. I have a nice pocket figit toy that makes waiting on line in food places almost bearable- so bring that

3. Try to keep my blood sugar steady

4. when I feel myself start to get overwhelmed do some breathing 

andreashettle said

In addition to doing stims and “active relaxation” after you’re done or arrive home, could you also do these things (or similar things) before you start? So that way at least you’re not adding stress on top of more stress from whatever you were doing before starting to cashier stuff.

Is there a way you can occasionally go to a quiet spot somewhere for a couple of minutes in the middle to do stimming or active relaxation as an occasional break during?

I’m not autistic so I cannot draw upon my own experience here (my ADD does sometimes get me overwhelmed in certain overstimulating situations like trying to shop for clothes, but I think not to the same degree as overloading for an autistic person), but extrapolating from what you do already …

realsocialskills said:

Do any of y’all have suggestions?

kinthulou said:

I cashier! And do customer service. And I’m pretty sure I’m autistic. 

Cashiering is my least favorite thing but over the last year I have gotten really good at it. I’m lucky that my store isn’t super big or loud all of the time, but sometimes it is and here is how I cope. Maybe some of it will be useful for you, too, asexual-aragorn?

1. Purposeful stimming while working. There’s music in my store which is really nice and good for dancing to, and I’ve found that swaying and rocking and repetitive arm movements, all components of dancing in one spot, are super helpful and don’t bother anybody. My boss thinks I dance because I’m cheerful, but really I do it because it’s helpful. Some of it I can even do *while* ringing up customers!

I also have a ring on a string around my neck that I fidget with when I am super stressed. Similarly, I will fidget with my ace pride ring. 

I basically stim in one way or another constantly and it’s the most helpful thing.

2. Scripts. So many scripts. Ninety percent of everything I say to customers is scripted. I have a script for when they come into the store, arrive at my register, answering the phone, explaining the rewards cards, and separate scripts for each way that a person could pay. I have scripts for when it’s too loud and I can’t hear the customer talking to me, and for when a customer has a heavy accent that I can’t make out. There are scripts for telling customers where things are and for telling them I don’t have an answer for their question and need to get the manager. I practice them. I write them down if need be and read them over and over. I’m terrible at multitasking but I know my scripts so well that I can rattle them off while doing other things. I can say any of these scripts when I’m incapable of saying anything else. I probably say them in my sleep. 

3. On days when the lights are too much for me, I wear my hat. See if your store has a uniform hat and get one. It’s invaluable for shading eyes against the lights. 

4. If you’re having a day where you can’t do eye contact, don’t do eye contact. Smile, be cheerful and helpful and polite, but just keep your head down and ring. I’ve been doing this a year now and no one has noticed that I often don’t look at their faces. 

5. If you ever get overstimulated and it’s making it difficult for you to answer a customer’s question or something, call your manager for help. even if it’s something you can usually handle on your own. You don’t even have to be out to your supervisors as autistic, just tell them that you’re having an off day and got confused. The important thing is that the customer stays happy, not that you can do all the things all the time.

6. If there are things other than just ringing up purchases that your job requires (like mine does), make lists. Break the lists down into manageable chunks and keep them where you can see them. Even if I don’t need the list to help me remember things, just having it there is a little grounding, because I know that if I get overwhelmed I still have it there to tell me what to do.

7. Going to second breathing exercises and keeping your blood sugar steady. Those will be fantastic for you. 

8. I don’t know if this is a common thing or not, but I always function significantly better in spaces that I have taught myself to think of as “safe spaces.” It took a couple of months, but I turned the space behind all the counters at the registers into safe spaces and now I feel better just being there where I am supposed to be.

9. If you have a locker at work to keep your things in while on duty, it’s a good idea to get stuff to put in it that will help you calm down and get centered again on your breaks. I keep a book in mine to read and most recently added the softest microplush throw blanket I have ever found, so when I’m frazzled I can wrap up in it for a few minutes. It really helps. 

10. Establish routines. A beginning of shift routine and an end of shift routine are super important. I always start and end my shifts with the same little actions of setting up and then tidying up my work station. That gets me into “work mode” and mentally prepares me for whatever the work day might throw at me. 

11. Remember that it is okay not to make small talk if you are not up to it. Most customers don’t care if all you do is make noncommittal noises and smile while they talk.

12. Remember the regulars. You don’t need names or anything complicated. Just remembering whether or not they have (or don’t want) a store rewards card or whatever will make them like you a lot and also make your life a lot easier. I’ve found that my regulars are now the highlight of my day, and I can banter with them and when they don’t see me for a while they ask about me and seeing them generally helps me out a lot. This is a thing that happens over time, though, so no pressure to get it all down immediately.

13. Be nice to your coworkers. Befriend them if possible. (Note: befriending doesn’t mean, like, actual friends. Just work friends. You don’t have to see them outside of work or anything.) Help them if you’re having a good day and they’re stuck on something you know how to handle. They will have your back when you get overwhelmed. I had a near-meltdown at the beginning of one of my shifts and everyone on the team helped me out that day so that I could get through. We’re at the point now where any time they see I’m struggling with my job, someone steps up to help. None of them know I’m autistic. They do it because they like me.

The repetition will be helpful and I think as long as you take care of yourself, you’ll find over time it’s not as overwhelming as you thought it would be. I know I am the most impaired—socially and by sensory overload and physical disability—at my store but I am the favorite of most of the customers and also most of my coworkers. I surprised myself a lot by really liking my job despite cashiering remaining my least favorite thing.

Okay that got really long but I’ve been thinking about this a *lot* and i hope at least some of it is super helpful. 

And if you want help coming up with scripts, shoot me a message! I’m really good at those! I will help!


making phone calls


Do you have any tips on how to make important phone calls when you need to but it’s difficult? I always end up getting myself all panicked about them and sometimes consequently unable to make them, but I can’t not worry about them…

ischemgeek said:

I also find phone calls very hard. If audio processing is an issue, try closing your eyes - I find eliminating visual stimulation helps my auditory processing and makes it easier to make out what people are saying (if there’s background noise or the speaker has an accent I’m unfamiliar with, I might only understand a third of what’s said if my eyes are open, but that might rise to about half if I shut my eyes).

Also, if the auditory processing stuff is hard, make up scripted socially-acceptable ways of asking for clarification/repeat. Some I use:

  • I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat it?
  • So you want me to [rephrase of what I think I heard]?
  • Pardon me?
  • Excuse me?
  • I’m sorry, it’s noisy here. Can you repeat that?
  • I’m sorry, my phone sound quality is bad. Did you mean [thing I think I heard]?
  • I think I misheard you. I heard [thing that makes no sense]. What did you mean?

In my experience, just saying, “What?” is considered rude.

If I know I’m having a bad auditory processing day, but I need to make the phone call and putting it off isn’t an option, I’ll start off the conversation with something like, “I can’t hear very clearly on my end, so I’m going to need you to speak a little slower than normal so I can make out what you’re saying.”

Having a stim toy for calming stims is useful, to. Something soft and fleecy works for me if I start getting too anxious.

When you prefer not to decide something

wolfesbrain asked:
Read the post about consent problems. Curious about not quite opposite problem. Lack of opinion/preference being mistaken as consent problem e.g. “Where do you wanna go for lunch?” “I’m fine with wherever you want .” “Yeah, but, where do /you/ want?”

realsocialskills said:

Sometimes you can solve that problem by telling them explicitly that you want them to decide. Eg:

  • “I’d like you to pick a place.”
  • “I’m kind of tired of all the places I go, do you know of somewhere good?”

If you say it this way, it’s clearer that you’re actually *expressing* a preference (that they decide), and it looks less like you’re avoiding saying what you want in order to be polite.

Another possibility is to ask them for help narrowing it down, eg:

  • “Can you give me some options?”
  • “What are some places you like?”

Then, if you really don’t have a preference, you can pick one of their suggestions at random. And if you do have a preference, hearing a list can make it easier to make a choice.

These approaches don’t always work, but they do in a lot of situations.

16 ways to talk about consent


1. “Do you like when I…?”
2. “I like when you…”
3. “Will you…?”
4. “How does this feel?”
5. “Do you want me to…?”
6. “Do you want to…?”
7. “Is there anything you want to try?”
8. “Show me what you like.”
9. “Do you want to go further?”
10. “Do you want to stop?”
11. “Can I…?”
12. “Does this feel good?”
13. “Are you happy?”
14. “Are you comfortable?”
15. “Are you having a good time?”
16. “Is this good for you?”

realsocialskills said:

These are good phrases. I think the original posted was talking specifically about sexual consent, but many of these are useful phrases in other types of situations as well.

How to get a blood test or other lab tests

When you will need a test, you can’t assume that doctors office will have the test. Whether an office has it or not varies, even if it’s the kind of test that is commonly offered in a medical office. 

That is also true of labs. Not all labs have every test, even really common tests. (This is particularly true in big cities with multiple labs).

Some labs will only do certain tests at particular times of day.

Some tests require fasting.

Some tests have different rules at different labs.

Some tests require a prescription from a doctor.

Labs will usually make you bring a prescription, a credit card, your insurance card, and a photo ID. Some labs do not accept cash.

If you can use phones, it’s a good idea to call ahead when you are trying to arrange to get a test.

A potentially useful script:

  • I need test x.
  • Do you offer that test?
  • Do I need an appointment?
  • What time can I come in?
  • Do I need to fast?
  • What do I need to bring?
  • What forms of payment do you accept?

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 question. The expected answer is along the lines of “Fine, and you?“

The default answer to “what’s up?” is something like “nothing", or “Not too much; yourself?“. It’s considered slightly less weird to answer.

It took me so long to learn this script. It was only last year that I realized I should reply “Good, how are you?”, instead of just saying “I’m good" and then leaving an awkward silence. Whoops.

I usually don’t answer “Nothing" to “What’s up,“ though. When I ask it, I actually want to know, and I’m disappointed when people say “Nothing,” cause then the whole interaction feels like a waste of time and I have no idea what to say next. So I usually reply “Not much, just X, and maybe Y later, what about you?“ in a way that encourages people to actually say what they’re up to. Examples!

  • Not much, just running errands right now, then rehearsal this evening. What are you up to?
  • I’m just on my way to work, but I’m meeting [mutual friends] for sushi later, do you want to come?
  • I have to finish this paper due tomorrow, but after that I’ll get to relax. You headed to class?

So it’s still brief and small-talky, but not meaningless either. Conversations are really confusing to me, so I try to give people easy exits and topics to latch onto. Like for that third one, if the person just said “What’s up” as a ritual greeting and they don’t actually want to interact they can say “Yeah, I have to run, good luck on your paper!“ or “No, I’m going to X. See ya!”. But if they do want to interact, they can say “Yeah, anatomy class. Today we’re learning about hand muscles, blah blah blah … “ or “Yeah, but not for another half hour. What’s your paper about?” or “No, I’m going to the library to write a paper too. Want to work together?“.

Sorry if all this sounds painfully obvious - but if I’d found a post like this two years ago, it would have changed my life. Yay for scripts!

Oh, it should be noted that sometimes these ritual questions are simply substitutions for greetings. Eg. Person 1: “Hello.” Person 2: “How’re ya doin’.“ The second person isn’t expecting an answer.

Also I hope it’s appropriate to add, as someone who is allistic but mentally ill and has to engage in these ritual greetings over and over again almost every day at work, I love people actually engaging me and telling me how they are instead of just the standard “I’m good” or “Nothing" etc. Personhood-erasure (for lack of what to call it?) is a huge problem for me at least in service positions, and asking customers these standard greetings and getting actual, genuine responses reminds me that I am being recognized as another person who is worthy of acknowledgment, and it actually goes a really really long way in helping me feel good in a job that otherwise can be very detrimental to my mental health.

I’m not trying to say that the OP is wrong, because scripts are wonderful and super useful, and any answer at all (even “Nothing,“ even just a smile, really any answer) is really helpful in maintaining some semblance of sanity. I also don’t want to push people into engaging other people in ways that are way more than they’re comfortable with. I guess I just wanted to extend some support for proudheron’s commentary from someone who has to deal with these ritual greetings way too often.

This. I didn’t mean to say that everyone has to use the scripts all the time. They’re worth knowing, but that doesn’t mean that you have to use them all the time.





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?




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?

Woah, I’ve never encountered that. Maybe it’s not common where I live, or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. Sometimes I mix up the order of the ritual greeting & answer “How are you?“ with “How are you?” but that’s a mistake, not on purpose. So if anyone’s ever just said “what’s up" back to me I probably interpreted it as a mistake.

But yeah, context is important. I’m getting better at telling whether people want to just greet & move on, exchange 20 seconds of pleasantries, or actually talk for a couple minutes - and I don’t want to intrude, so I don’t actually answer the question unless they actually seem inquisitive.

I wish I knew how to explain what “seeming inquisitive” looks like. I can usually tell, but I don’t know how to explain it. Do you know how to tell?


knight of wang: You don’t always have to argue






Sometimes people want to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do, and which aren’t any of their business.

Sometimes people want to argue with you about politics, and aren’t…

If they’re being pushy and you care about them it may help to say “I have said no. Let’s change the topic,” and repeat until compliance. Putting the ‘no’ in past tense makes it more final, which is harder to argue. If they still want to argue, walk away. You can’t help if they think it’s rude when they’re not leaving you a polite option to defend your boundaries.

Yes, that works sometimes.

You don't always have to argue



Sometimes people want to convince you to do things that you don’t want to do, and which aren’t any of their business.

Sometimes people want to argue with you about politics, and aren’t willing to have the conversation end unless you convince them or they convince you.

It’s ok to decide you don’t want to have those arguments. It’s ok to unilaterally end that kind of conversation.

You don’t have to convince them you’re right. You don’t have to convince them that you’re right about the issue in question, and you don’t have to convince them that you’re right about not wanting to discuss it.

It’s ok to say no to conversations you don’t want to have about things that are entirely your business.

The tricky part is backing out of the conversation gracefully. 

You can say “I don’t think this is the right time to talk about that,” which works well if you’re in a very social situation with lots of people, or at work, in the middle of class, or another situation where an argument or a personal conversation isn’t appropriate. You can say “I don’t talk about that/politics/religion at work.” Or there’s simply “I’ll tell you later,” and then never do. Only a really rude person would press someone to follow up conversation they tried to get out of.

Sometimes you can head off a personal question by answering very vaugly. If someone asks why  you don’t go home for the holidays, you can say, “My family and I are estranged.” You don’t have to give details. If they press, the phrase “It’s complicated” should shut most people up. But no polite person would press a stranger or co-worker to divulge family details. If they are being rude, say, “That’s a personal subject” or “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

It’s a bit about your attitude, I think. If you’re nervous or giggly, they may think they can pry more info out of you. Don’t smile, try to immitate a grownup person you admire for their authoritative voice, and look the nosy person in the eye, or at least the forehead. Then, continue the conversation. Ask the nosy person a question (not a nosy one), or talk about something else.

Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t work on people who are willing to manipulate the rules of politeness to keep you in the conversation. People who are willing to do that can pretty much always arrange things such that there’s no way to leave the conversation without appearing rude. This is very common as a high-pressure sales tactic, but it can come up other places too.

When someone does that, you don’t owe it to them to keep following those rules of politeness.

(Also, people who can’t make or fake eye contact still have the right to decide not to have a particular conversation).

An answer about messages

NOTE: I didn’t write this. It’s a submission. I haven’t tried doing it this way, but it seems to me that it would work:

To effectively leave a phone message:

  1. Write a list of what you need to convey - if you get nervous on the phone this is a good tip in general to call, because you might end up forgetting what you need to say as soon as that person picks up – happens to everybody!
  2. The most important things to include are your identity (name), reason for calling (to make an appointment? because they called you first but you missed it? to inquire or speak to somebody in particular in the building?), and your contact details (your cell/mobile or telephone number, email address).
  3. For example, your list could say: my name is John Smith, inquiring about doctor’s appointment, call back on xxx-xxxxx, evenings.
  4. Listen very carefully to any instructions you’re given on the answerphone. If you didn’t catch it the first time there is no harm in hanging up before the beep, calling, and listening again. Keep a pen to hand to make notes in the meantime.
  5. State your answer in the clearest way possible; you may be nervous, so aim to speak slowly and clearly. You won’t sound silly: the other person who will receive the message will be grateful that they can hear you clearly. Repeating certain details helps a lot too as hearing a number twice will allow the other person time to copy it down accurately.
  6. For example: “Hello there, I would like to make/ask about booking an appointment. My name is John Smith. Please call me back on my cellphone, my number is (speaking slowly) xxx-xxxxx. That’s xxx-xxxxx. I’ll be able to answer your call between 4 and 7pm any day of the week. Otherwise my e-mail address is john[at]email[dot]com. Thank you, goodbye.” Don’t hang up without an end greeting.
  7. You can alter this formula for informal things too, such as calling friends or family. If they already know your number just let them know that you’ll respond to a text more quickly, or when you’ll be available to receive a call.