A Small Observation Regarding the Personal Touch

You know, some people, when they are talking to you, use your name and reach out to touch you because they are genuinely the sort of person who does that and to whom it comes naturally. Some people, when they are talking to you, use your name and reach out to touch you because they read somewhere that by using someone’s name and touching them during conversation, you can make them like you better and be more inclined to agree with you. Generally speaking, I know the difference between these two types of people.

As a point of information, if you are one of those people in the latter camp and think I do not know the difference (or alternately, you don’t know that someone else might, in fact, be able to know the difference), you will find that the trick works almost precisely the opposite of how you’ve read it would. I may or may not tell you at the time that your trick is not working, depending on my own inclinations, but you may be assured the information will be filed away for future reference.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

196 Comments on “A Small Observation Regarding the Personal Touch”

  1. John, is it really that obvious? Perhaps they are really being genuine, but you are just having a bad day, John (pats Scalzi’s shoulder).

    FWIW, you’re totally right – fake is fake, and even a generally successful faker is obvious to most folks given enough time.

  2. When someone of either group uses my name, then reaches out to touch me, unless they are a very hot chick, I tend to spray them down with Lysol then, kick them in a very unfortunate location. (This is when I am in a good mood.) Next time you reach out and touch someone, you might find that hand used to energetically transfer you to the floor. (Yes, people do bounce.)

    Not everyone likes their personal space violated, even if you are a “Natural”, it can have the other effect.

  3. The Pint:

    They were confident in their ability to pull it off, and/or did not entertain the notion that it could work in any other manner than the one intended.

  4. For what it’s worth, sometimes I’m having an extra-introverty day, and do basically “fake” things like eye contact, and using people’s names. It’s not because I’m trying to exploit them, or don’t care about them – it’s just that I’m tired, and out of extroversion juice.

  5. Edit to my comment above, Even when it is a hot chick using my name and reaching out to touch me, my first reaction is to check to see if my wallet remains in my pocket.

  6. My experience may be biased from years of retail bookstore experience, but the sort of people who buy the how-to-make-people-like-you books are a little creepy (and I use that word deliberately)…

  7. Amen, nothing creepier than someone using the personal touch as a tool. Salesman do it. I have a friend who is a natural hugger and I can also the difference. Most of the time.

  8. This is like the grocery store where they would stop to say Thank you Mr. S when handing me the receipt. Only my name is fairly uncommon and not easy to pronounce. So I get to sit there with my frozen food melting (it’s gets a little warm in Phoenix) while they stumble over my name. Just give me my damn receipt and let me go.

  9. I use people’s names in conversation with them because otherwise I will forget them (the name, not the person)

    Reaching out and touching people? Not so much.

  10. They fall into the same category as the men (mostly, not always) who poke you with an index finger when they’re trying to make a point, because you’re not bright enough to understand them without physical punctuation.

  11. I moved from a low touch location (Western Canada) to the border of a high touch location (Quebec). It took a while to adjust, but I firmly believe that the Quebecois have it right, that more touch is better. So I try to incorporate more touch in my life, but am still extremely awkward at it, so I probably come across as fake. Of course, I’m not going to try on anybody that isn’t a close friend, Quebecois/European or a fellow dancer, so hopefully I’m not creeping anybody.

  12. I stopped using people’s names in grade school. My aunt was the school principal, and I didn’t know whether to call her Aunt T. or Mrs. K. I decided it would be much simpler and less awkward to stop using names to directly address people.

  13. I *think* most of my experience with such are naturals and not fakers, though perhaps it means my faker detector circuit doesn’t work well. I still do not like it.

    I took a programming course from a professor who liked to put his hand on the shoulders of his students when they asked him a question while they were seated at a computer terminal and he was standing behind them. I’m pretty sure he was a natural, and I know some students really liked it. I did not.

  14. I don’t know what the situation that prompted this was, but a pet peeve of mine is people who read a service worker’s name of their name tag and proceed to adress them by it as if they were friends. I find it incredibly rude. I have a rule: even if I’ve learned someone’s name, I don’t use it until they’ve given it to me personally by their own free will.

  15. I probably should use names more because I do forget them. But that is different from touching. I do get irked when people call me to sell something and keep using my name.

    I used to be irked that stores tend to issue name tags to clerks with only their first names on them. It seemed like employer mandated familiarity to me until someone pointed out that badges with last names, or first and last names, might be considered a security threat in a information-centric world.

  16. Ah, it seems ’twas ever thus!

    And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
    You told us of some suit; what is’t, Laertes?
    You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
    And loose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
    That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
    The head is not more native to the heart,
    The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
    Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
    What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

  17. I never use people’s names in conversation unless I’m specifically trying to get their attention (or trying to memorize their name), I also don’t touch anybody unless they’ve indicated such is welcome. I personally prefer hugs for greetings and goodbye, but as a big guy, I never initiate it.

  18. A Small Observation Regarding This Personal Blogpost:


    I don’t like being touched/stroked/picked at by reptile-things pretending to be people.

  19. I have a similar reaction to anyone who calls me “buddy” who I haven’t known since the 3rd grade.

  20. I really loathe hugging, touching, etc that is unsolicited and meant to extract a particular state of mind from me. I’m polite and rarely call people on it but it’s just pushy and wrong and kind of bullying.

  21. Whenever I find someone attempting to manipulate me by manipulating my emotions, I get angry and rebellious! I am MUCH more likely to cooperate if they just plainly state what they would like me to do.
    Most advertizing falls into the first category.

  22. And some of us have a hard, hard time remembering names, so we need to really work at that skill. (We also have trouble remembering characters’ names and even book titles which are names).

  23. I’m the first type and trying to retrain myself so I always ask before touching. Now, instead of natural in conversation physical contact, my touching is usually followed by a squished face and “Crap! I did it again, I’m sorry. May I touch you? I’m a touchy person…”

    I am pretty good about warning people that I’m going to use their name a lot when they first introduce themselves so I have any shot at all of remembering it. Using someone’s name all the time always sounds fake and overbearing, but it does cement it in the user’s brain.

  24. Reminds me of Ned, the insurance man in “Groundhog Day”; “Phil? Phil Connors? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!”.

    I wanted to punch Ned out after the 1st time; God knows what Phil did to him after first couple of THOUSAND times.

  25. Sales People, Politicians and Motivational Speakers. All of them do it with a chalk board scratching irritation. When I complained to a friend, she pointed out that another friend does it. I didn’t notice in her. It’s because, as you say, it’s her natural style of interaction. When you do it to manipulate, it requires me to discount a huge amount of what you say.

  26. When I worked at catalog phone ordering place, we were required to use the customer’s name at least once in every call. And I can tell when other sales/customer service folks are required to do the same. It’s sort of different than someone doing it socially, but still, I think enough people must fall for the fake-friendly-how-to-make-friends-etc. routine or the sales world would have given up on it by now.

  27. Oh god! See, I don’t touch. I just don’t. Makes me feel uncomfortable. But yesterday I did it when I met someone new. Totally reflexive. Afterwards, all I could think of was “Why the hell did I do that? I *never* do that.” And now I don’t know where I stand with Scalzi’s ability to tell if I’m faking… *because I don’t know if I was faking or not.* Because I never do it… except for that one time. Would a fluke like that come off as sincere or insincere, I wonder?

    Now I’m paranoid.

  28. Keep in mind John the differences in culture. There are lots and lots of cultures in Europe and particularly the Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, France and more) where touching is part of the culture. Having been bred in that culture, I do not find it strange at all when I am “touched” or when I do it.

    Here is what has been really difficult for me: Realizing that not all people in this country find “this touching” acceptable, and quite a few are VERY adverse to it. Some even have germ, or touch phobias, so therefore one must be aware of these, and one must adjust to the person, the crowd and the conversation.

    Having just experienced this blog post, would I ever touch John Scalzi? No. However, if you saw me in my natural element, with friends and family, you would see me touching a friend’s elbow when discussing some point or other, or reaching across and placing my hand on someone’s shoulder, etc. Does this happen often and sometimes without thought? You bet. Do I do it because I am a pervert? No. That’s the culture I was brought-up in, and I am not “touch-averse”. Still, the thought has to be in the back of your mind how your “touch” might be interpreted, especially in a “mixed” crowd, especially in a non-casual environment (for example, work) because you don’t want a “touch” to be interpreted as “sexual harassment” or worse.

    There are studies that have shown that touching people makes them open-up, makes them more truthful, etc., but that is another, longer conversation.

    Thanks for hearing me out.

  29. I have fibromyalgia, a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis. I hurt all over, all the time. My own father has a nasty habit of grabbing me in a surprise bearhug, or patting me vigorously on my legs when I’m seated, even after I’ve repeatedly asked him not to. Even my husband knows to touch and hold me gently, so I don’t know why it’s so hard for my blood relatives to understand.

    Long story short, when strangers/salespeople try to touch me, grab my hand, whatever the case may be, it usually has the opposite effect of what they’ve intended. I’m so startled and in so much pain from the unexpected contact, I’m even less inclined to trust them or allow them to sell me something. While it’s true that a stranger doesn’t know about my physical limitations, when my “normal” is around a 6-7 on a ten-point pain scale, and the unexpected touching makes it skyrocket, however briefly, to a 10-12, I don’t care how supposedly well-intentioned the other person was, they’re likely to get an earful from me.

  30. I understand and agree with Mr. Scalzi’s observation that name/touch can be offputting, and I can neither confirm nor rebut his statement that he knows the difference between authentic and inauthentic use of name/touch, but I disagree with what I think is the unstated sentiment that most people will react badly to name/touch. There have been a number of studies done that find conclusively that restaurant servers who use your name, squat down at your table, engage you in conversation, touch you on the arm, and write happy faces on the bill get substantially larger tips than servers (even the same servers) who do not do these things. Mr. Scalzi may be a giant among men for his perceptive abilities but apparently most of us are perfectly happy to treat people who fakely engage us as friends as if they were our real friends.

    Any sufficiently advanced simulation of friendship is indistinguishable from real friendship…

  31. When used as a tool to manipulate others. it is a problem. It is a good thing however, when used as a way to offer hope and encouragement even when you are having a difficult day and can only fake an interest in others. I am not advocating faking your way through life, but a fake smile can help you through the occasional rough time.

  32. Way back when I worked at Motorola, it was a time when corporate indoctrination “training classes” were a popular thing.

    The teacher for one of these classes was obviously, BLATANTLY trained in “empathy skills”. If you were talking with her, and changed your posture, she would immediately change her posture to match. You sat up, she sat up. You leaned back, she leaned back. It was creepy and off-putting, but also entertaining when I started testing to see how far she would go. When I stuck my hands into my armpits, SHE stuck her hands into her armpits.

    She also had this creepy, constant nodding and other affirming gesture thing going on when “listening” to you. She would then paraphrase what you said. She would then ignore whatever you said and go back to the next bullet point of the indoctrination.

    This was also a “Learning Maps” class, which consisted of small groups sitting around a table with a Learning Map on it, and we were supposed to explain to each other what the map was trying to tell us. This was a clever bit of applied psychology, since people have a greater tendency to internalize things told to them by their peers compared to things told to them by an authority figure. They were attempting to sidestep that authority resistance by coaxing us into indoctrinating each other.

    Creepy, creepy, creepy.

  33. I dislike the tendency among some of my friends to hug me every time they see me. I hate even more the ones who think that a good way to accomodate my dislike of it is to ask first. If you have to ask, the answer is generally NO.

    The only people who get to hug me are my wife, daughter, and other family. And other than my wife and daughter, I’m not keen on the rest, either.

    I don’t even really like shaking hands; I consider it a ridiculous convention (though I do it because people are put off if I don’t). Yes, I’m weird. I know.

  34. I grew up in a “no touch” environment. My wife is a hugger, toucher, hands-on, sort of person. When we’re meeting someone in a friendly environment, if my wife gives them a hug and I shake the person’s hand, my wife will generally tell me to give the person a hug.

    Sometimes it feels a bit awkward, sometimes not. I have no idea how it occurs for the huggee. Not sure if they think we’re trying to pull a fast one or what.

    also: http://www.warhw.com/2012/08/18/all-non-verbal-communication-is-ambiguous/

  35. Yeah, I’m pretty socially awkward, and *I* have no problem spotting that kind of fakery. It always makes me wonder why those people bother to try it.

  36. Like bryanlarsen, I am from a low-touch area (same – Western Canada, NOT the coast). My partner is from Montreal, and it has taken me most of the last decade to suppress my flinches when we are visiting there and people do touchy greetings (although the kiss kiss still freaks me out because I do not have body memory of which way to go first). My response to the “friendly arm touch” is to back up (I have HUGE personal space). This is the opposite of the intended effect, and actual empathetic people will respond appropriately by no longer touching me. The fakes will keep doing it, and become increasingly puzzled when I become increasingly cold in response.

  37. Little kids are very good at picking up on the fake friendly touch. My job has me interacting with children much of the day, and I’ve never gone wrong with letting the child initiate the contact, if they want to give me a hug. Otherwise, I’m not big on being physical, having grown up in an area where people are more reserved.

  38. This lesson came home to me many years ago when I was actively involved in grass roots politics. There was a candidate who was magic at this sort of thing. And he was magic because it was so very real. He didn’t over use it, but he seemed to have this ability to make a personal connection to everyone he spoke to. This ability was contrasted with another politician who acted very much the same way but with very different results. There was just something in the second’s manner that made you feel like you were hearing a script being recited with the obligatory blanks (insert name here) and detailed stage directions (touch arm, smile, shake hand sincerely). Both were nice guys, both were good guys; but the first one just made you feel that for that moment in time the two of you had connected. The other one made you feel slightly…icky. I realized that this was something that could not be taught, at least not effectively. You either have it or you don’t.

  39. My husband has an aversion to touching or being touched by people, has taken just enough martial arts to be more of a danger to himself than anyone else, and has more than once automatically thrown up a block when a server tries to touch him. (He apologizes after!)

    When total strangers, like door-to-door salescreeps, try to shake his hand, he just stares at them, hands in pockets, and deadpans, “I have a phobia.” Usually throws them off their game.

  40. I only use people’s names when I am saying goodbye. It is my We’re Done message. As for the other, you better know me before even thinking about touching me. It will get ugly otherwise.

  41. @Steve: That’s a good point. There’s a difference between an aspirational kind of faking to get through a tough time, and faking to manipulate. It’s not simply displaying indicators of an emotional state that you don’t feel that’s a problem; it’s the manipulation.

  42. I’m in a wheelchair, and an awful lot of of people think that gives them an invitation to touch my arm or shoulder. Since I also have allergies that are set off by being too close, I hate it even more than I would otherwise. Once a friend noticed I was looking off, hugged me and asked what was wrong.. I told him I was upset because several people I didn’t know had touched me. Oops.

  43. B-b-but let me explain it to you. Creepy fake touchers don’t KNOW they’re being creepy. Why don’t you consider THEIR feelings for once? It’s unfair for you to say this is creepy when they’re just touching you because they don’t know any better. If they’re socially awkward they need tools to relate. Otherwise they might never get laid by you make friends with you! Is it so hard to put up with a little touching in the service of being friendly? Don’t you want the community to be friendly? Do you really want fake touchers to have their feelings hurt? They might have Asperger’s! I propose that fake conversational touch only be deemed creepy if the following twelve OBJECTIVE criteria are met….

    &c. ad infinitum 3000 comments 3 weeks

  44. @Michael S., giving a waiter a bigger tip is not the same as liking the waiter. Restaurant servers who use your name, squat down at your table, engage you in conversation, touch you on the arm, and write happy faces on the bill may get substantially larger tips than servers (even the same servers) who do not do these things because their customers are rewarding them for trying harder, not because their customers like them better.

  45. You know, John, I think this might be a bit heavy-handed. I think there are a lot of people out there (like me) who have always been socially awkward. They genuinely want to make connections with other people, but, for reasons of shyness or lack of confidence, their gestures lack the ease and smoothness of people who are more naturally gifted in social communication.

    Sometimes, these same socially awkward people have excelled in “book learning” — those domains of human experience that can be mastered by observation, research, and experiment. So, to try and achieve their goal of making connection, they research and try new “methods” to build connection. Some of these skills are, initially, not easy. And it might take practice until the genuineness of the gesture matches the genuineness of the desire for connection.

    Personally, I’ve always had a hard time with physical contact with people who are not direct family members. It’s a complicated mess of basic primate desire for physical contact fighting with issues of desert, lack of self-esteem, probably something to do with my mother. Whatever. In any case, just because I’ve had a hard time with physical contact does not mean I don’t want it, and it does not mean I want to refrain from touching those I care about. But, when I reach out to pat someone one the shoulder or lay a reasuring hand on an arm, it can come off as awkward or conflicted, and I can see many people perhaps interpreting that gesture differently than I intend.

    So, where is all this leading? I’m thinking that whenever people sense this awkwardness or conflict — like when someone ‘overuses’ their name in conversation and pats their shoulder woodenly, they might too quickly intepret this as some sort of heavy-handed manipulation in order to advance a hidden agenda. And, as a result, ‘file this away for future reference’ with a sense of self-congratulations. “Aha, f*cker! I’ve got your number now,” they might say to themselves as their eyes narrow over a false smile that shows just a bit too much teeth.

    (I’ve seen that smile a lot as I’ve tried to practice those social skills that seemed to come so easily to others and so hard to me. Even now, the memory of that smile summons a visceral cringing.)

    I think that’s too bad. I think a kinder response–a response that would more likely lead to the happiness of both participants in this awkwardness–is to say, “Here is a person that wants a connection. They are trying to make a connection and they might need some more practice on how to do that. I’m going to let them practice with me on making connection right now. I’m going to let them try out this skill so they can get better at it. I’m going to be friendly. Maybe I can become a friend.”

    This doesn’t mean that you let others take advantage of you. But it keeps you open and optimistic and trusting and, ultimately, I think, happier. Isn’t it a better world to think that we are all human beings who want to make friends rather than a world where there are sharks out there trying to manipulate you somehow?

    As Plato said, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  46. I had to laugh when I read this. Our 11-year-old daughter does this! She’s been doing this since she was little (like around 6 or 7). My husband and I would laugh privately when she did this –usually trying to get us to buy her a video game or get us to see things her way in some other scenario. It usually goes like this:
    Ceana: Mom, [Ceana places hand on her parent’s arm, then continues] If you will please get this game for me, I promise….

    About a year ago, we finally called her on it. She still tries it, but now she knows we’re ON to her. Of course now when she puts her hand on our arm, we just look at her hand, then look back up at her with raised eyebrows. Sometimes we’ll laugh and she’ll put her other hand on too. ;-D

    We honestly have no idea where she got this to begin with. Neither one of us does this…that I know of…

  47. Generally speaking, I know the difference between these two types of people.

    Fair enough, but before anyone goes laying hands on a complete stranger it’s worth remembering 1) plenty of people don’t, and 2) it’s highly debatable whether they should have to.

  48. I like 3ft of personal space at all times, only pets are allowed to violate that. However, I am aghast that using a strangers name, provided on a name tag is rude. I will never do that again. What about phone calls when the sales person or service provider introduces themselves? I thought using their name implied you were listening.

  49. I agree with John, fake touching and fake hugging are so easy to detect, but there is a trick here. To be that sensitive you need to be a natural hugger yourself, otherwise you don’t get the right feeling and tend to misjudge. So, Signor Scalzi, i very much suspect you are a natural hugger yourself :D.

    I think is only a cultural atttitude; i was born in a culture of smile/laugh/touch/hug, and fortunate enough to land in Montreal, and yes, the Quebequois have it right. And also, the reverse situation might be discussed as well, the hugger situation. You can feel immediately if people respond with genuine pleasure (even surprised one), or they just bear it with social stoicism and give you a fake smile in return. I can’t even remember how many times i was put off by one of those ok-for-now-don’t-you-ever-do-it-again smiles.
    Just sain’ :)

  50. Whoa, Nelly. Yeah, I hear ya, John. There are people and then there are people. In your line of work it must be frequent. My uncle is a pretty well known drummer in the music business and I know he gets those a lot. Let me say he puts on a very very good face regardless, but he always remembers the one and the other.

  51. Arclight, I know at least one very-very-low-touch person who met a new friend and subconsciously knew that this person was okay to touch and be touched. Sometimes you find that a particular person magically gets past your touch boundary. I don’t think you were faking or being insincere, and I hope that reassures you.

  52. David Amann:

    “You know, John, I think this might be a bit heavy-handed.”

    Did you intend the pun?

    And no, it’s not. As noted elsewhere on the site, you don’t get to be in charge of someone else’s response to you. If your use of touch is demonstrably false to me, I’m going to note it and it’s going to inform my opinion of you.

    Beyond this, it appears that you seem to be under the impression I am likely to confuse “awkward person trying to fit in” with “smarmy person trying to manipulate,” which generally speaking is not often the case.

    That said, for my part at least, when in doubt of appropriateness, not touching the other person is almost never the wrong way to go. Especially if you don’t already know, and are friends with (or at least friendly with) the other person. Very few people ever complain about inappropriate NOT touching.

  53. Such an interesting discussion! Personally, I don’t use people’s names unless I’m trying to get their attention, and I usually start with a nick name and then work up to their actual name. I have the same problem as another commenter when someone tries to say my last name; it’s not an easy one to pronounce and there are often-hilarious results.

    Like Jennifer, I have fibromyalgia and I am so happy I don’t know anyone who is rough like she had to deal with – best wishes to you! I’m not much of a toucher except with those with whom I an intimate, although my mom was a big hugger and when I brought a friend of mine home for Spring Break who was touch-phobic (due to abuse when she was younger) she acted like a grabbed cat when Mom gave her a good-bye hug… I had even warned my mom, but Mom was just like that.

    I am really bothered by overuse of a person’s names; I’ll often call writers out when they use things like that in conversations – the people always saying the others’ names when talking – because it just isn’t natural and isn’t how conversation usually flows. I can see why salespeople do it, since they need to remember a person’s name quickly and repetition is the easiest way to do it. I’m most impressed by people who can remember the name without overusing it, personally, but we’re not all like that.

    Anyway, great discussion; I’ll have to pop back in here later and see how it has gone!

  54. It my opinion/experience there are four types of “touchers”:

    1) Genuinely natural touchers whose instinct is to make physical contact with people when they are interacting with them – their motive is “I like this person and I’m having a good time interacting with them”
    2) People who may be somewhat socially awkward who enjoy touching in a friendly way but fear they come across as fake – their motive is usually essentially the same as 1
    3) Creepy sexual harasser type touchers – their motive is power and control
    4) People who have read that touching people while talking to them has certain effects – their motive is “I want to make this person feel a specific way about me” along with a strong dose of power and control.

    I have pretty good social radar and can largely tell the difference between the 4. 1 and 2 are fine, 3 and 4 are bad. 3 I will avoid like the plague. 4 I won’t trust as far as I can throw them.

    As for wait staff who do those things – it only gets you better tips in certain venues. What works in Chilis is not going work on an upscale steak house. My reaction is “oh, how cute. Look how well (s)he has been trained. Will (s)he roll over or beg if I ask?”

    In the same category as the sales people and wait staff – automatic phone answering systems which try to fake a more “realistic” interaction as in: “So, tell me what you want to do. You can say …” and “hmm, I didn’t get that.” They have the absolute opposite effect on me as companies probably want. I’m already annoyed at having to go through a ton of menu options, having a computer pretend to be a friendly human just pisses me off more (and I won’t respond to the voice recognition systems – I either do my best to fake the numbers, stay silent until the computer gives up and sends me to an operator, or press 0 till I get an operator).

  55. Very few people ever complain about inappropriate NOT touching.

    I predict a creeper will, in this thread.

  56. Also, if you think this is annoying, imagine what women who have to put up with men who just finished reading “The Game” have to put up with.

  57. I find this to be extremely off-putting as well. I also loathe it when the cashier ringing up your credit card calls you by your first name while you are trying to buy something. Ugh. Creepy creepy creepy.

  58. Thing is, I don’t touch for emphasis to dialogue, as John appears to me stating. You know, the almost deliberate touch on the arm that accompanies an equally stated utterance of ones name. I touch people because I’m just so damn happy to see them. Hugs, pats on the shoulder, etc. I’m just that way, but only to those I’m truly delighted to see. Empathy can also draw that out, but it’s usually in cases of intense emotion–tears and the like.

  59. By nature i’m not touchy and not very receptive of it unless I have known the person for awhile. I do try to use people’s names when I first meet them. After that I just use their name when I approach them, not constantly during a conversation, unless it’s for emphasis on a subject.

  60. I had a weird finale to an interview several years ago. The interview was very casual and I had a good time talking with everyone that interviewed me. At the end of the interview the chair of the department asked for a hug. That was…really odd. I didn’t get any creeper vibes off it, but still…really odd.

  61. When I get to thinking about all this the point is not so much the contact itself, but the ‘feel’ that accompanies it. That is palpable and very indicative of many things. People can be very interesting to watch. Lots of signals and triggers going off in social gatherings. It’s like two parties in one!

  62. I was smacked around as a kid and have a nasty case of PTSD to show for it. Touch me when I’m not expecting it and you might get “touched” back.

    I’ll accept a handshake or fist-bump, but for anything else, please ask, first.

  63. Sandflake:
    ” At the end of the interview the chair of the department asked for a hug. That was…really odd. I didn’t get any creeper vibes off it, but still…really odd.”

    That may have been the final interview question? But, yeah, unusual.

  64. The physical touch thing isn’t a problem in most circumstances in my area. People are pretty much hands off, thankfully. Trouble for me comes with names. I once dated a woman who took the “Using someone’s name gets their attention” school of empathy and every single fight we had, she would use my name in every other sentence. Got reaaaaallly annoying to the point of me yelling, “I’m the only person in the f*cking room, I know you’re talking to me.” Shortly after that relationship ended, I was the festival director for a 300+ person, long-weekend event. Everything that went wrong came to me, and everyone always barked my name out before they started kvetching. Between those two events, I automaticall flinch if someone uses my name more than once in a conversation.

  65. Michael Johnston, I’m not sure I’m understanding this: “I dislike the tendency among some of my friends to hug me every time they see me. I hate even more the ones who think that a good way to accomodate my dislike of it is to ask first. If you have to ask, the answer is generally NO.”

    So you say no, right? In my experience, the people who ask are asking because they want to know whether or not it’s OK. If it’s not, they won’t hug. if it is, they will. I’m not a big hugger, wasn’t raised that way, but I’ve been socialized into it by the hug-happy culture that seems to have become fairly pervasive in the U.S. I myself don’t go in for a hug with people unless I’m already used to hugging them. If someone asks and I’m not averse at that moment, I say, “Sure,” and we hug. If I’m asked and I am averse, which also happens, I say, “I’m not much of a hugger,” and we don’t hug.

    In my own experience, many people who ask are aware that their propensity to hug might not be welcome, and they’re trying to make sure to hug only people who are comfortable with hugs. I can’t see why the ones who ask are more hate-worthy than the ones who just hug. Is it because you believe that the just-huggers really have no clue that anyone would mind, so they get a little bit of a pass? Or because you’ve answered the askers before and they should know by now and quit asking already?

  66. ben @ 1:52pm

    I seem to get a lot of men calling me “guy”. Though the one that really gets me is “boss”.

  67. Even for people who believe they can tell the difference between fake and real need to be careful. I’ve been reading a few books about psychopaths and sociopaths and those are some scary people. The worst of it is that the successful, high functioning psychopaths are some of the most “genuine”, “real connection” folk out there.

    They can fake it so well they can convince almost anyone that they really care.

  68. John Scalzi:

    “As noted elsewhere on the site, you don’t get to be in charge of someone else’s response to you. If your use of touch is demonstrably false to me, I’m going to note it and it’s going to inform my opinion of you.”

    Forgive me. I was not trying to dicate your responses to others to make others feel better or more comfortable. I am in complete agreement that type of admonition oversteps the bounds of personal autonomy. Of course, everyone can respond in any way they wish to another person.

    Rather, I wanted to recommend a course of action inspired by kindness for your own benefit. There’s a few reasons why I think this would be helpful to you.

    First, for me it’s been helpful to act as if I could be very wrong about person’s unstated intentions and internal states. Often, there have been situations with others where I thought I knew what motivated another person to act in a certain way, and it turned out I was horribly horribly wrong. Occasionally, my interpretation said more about my own state at the time than anything that was going on in the mind of another.

    Since I know I can be wrong about a person’s internal states, I do my best to try and intepret their unstated gestures and conntations as charitably as I can. For me, I feel better when I think that other people are basically good. They may be misguided or untrained or awkward. Or it may just be me at this moment. But operating from this “people are good” mindset makes me feel happier.

    Second, like any skill that is acquired, I think people go through stages. For social skills, when a person is making an attempt at getting better, they might start off obviously awkward. (For me, this is when I would recite by memory whole monologues of George Carlin or Eddie Murphy at the least provocation. Yeah. It wasn’t pretty.)

    However, at some point, I think they get good enough that they reach an “uncanny valley” of social skills. They are good enough that they come off smooth or polished or whatever. In fact, they are *too* smooth and polished. It’s like that computer animation that looks too human to be a cartoon but not human enough. And it weirds people out. This weirding out often gets interpreted as “fake” or “ungenuine”.

    When I tried to get better socially, I definitely went through that stage. (I might still be going through that stage.) And even though it was easy to see on others faces that I was failing miserably at making connection–even though I knew that my gestures were not aligning with my intentions–I still tried. I got a little better when I allowed myself to be a little more vulnerable.

    So, since I know that I came off as “fake” even though I really liked the other person, wasn’t trying to manipulate them, just wanted to be friends, it makes me pause when I get that feeling that someone is acting in a demonstrably false manner. I get a little doubt.

    Finally, for me, I found myself becoming a better father, friend, and husband, when I realized that human communication is hard for everyone, not just for me. That we all are misunderstood. That we all want to be seen for what we truly are, yet get in our own way. When I had this attitude, it made it easier for me to see beyond whatever “tricks” I thought someone else was using, and see the person behind it–potentially fearful and insecure, with burdens of duty and family, trying to grope their way through this darkened world. Being able to see beyond the “trick” to the bad magician. And beyond the bad magician to the man who’s trying to earn a buck to feed his baby, makes me a better person.

    I don’t know if it will make you a better person. That would be presumptiuous. But perhaps you can take something from my own experience.

    All my best and I hope I’m not being the biggest idiot on John Scalzi’s blog.

  69. Michael S. (43) says “Any sufficiently advanced simulation of friendship is indistinguishable from real friendship…”

    To a different point, but you make me wonder if that’s the explanation for why so many of us can peacefully coexist with Facebook’s use of the term “friend.”

  70. David Amman

    There is a profound problem with proceeding on the basis that whatever makes you feel happier is innately desirable. After all, you could decide that strangling kittens on the day of the full moon is a fun, fun, fun thing to do, and urge us to get happier along with you…

  71. Ergh. I have a similarly strong negative reaction to the NLP/pop-psych/getting-to-yes crowd. It’s not just the manipulation and the assumption that they are somehow smart enough to pull one over on me because they read a self-help book or hired a life coach; it’s the fact that, like many in this thread, I’m reserved and do not do social touching.

    In fact, I’ve had to partially train myself to see past it, to stop myself just shutting down and summarily dismissing whatever anyone who tries that crap has to say. Because the saddest thing is although it’s usually a deal breaker in, say a job interview, (as in, “no way am I working for this person”) I don’t want to miss any potentially useful information on my way out the door.

  72. What’s the worst for them – the manipulators – is when they keep calling you Joe when everyone who knows you calls you Joseph – or perhaps Dave, from your middle name, or even Lefty.

  73. For the life of me, I cannot recall ever being told this as a child but, somehow and somewhere, I picked up the notion that one did not strike up a personal conversation with a stranger until and unless there had been a third-party introduction. Imagine how this impacted my social life as a teenager …

    I’ve been fighting it ever since I realized I had this social rule in my head, but I still have problems initiating conversations unless a third party has introduced me to the other person. Once there’s been an introduction, things go much more smoothly for me (and hopefully for the other person as well).

  74. OTOH, when meeting John for the first time, you will find him eminently huggable but try to control yourself.

  75. Whew, I’m safe. Most of the time can’t remember the other person’s name. And I’d rather pass someone a beer or suitable beverage than try touching someone I barely know. If I’m going to manipulate you, at least you’ll get that beer for free.

  76. David Amann – Stipulating that Scalzi has a firm grasp of this situation specifically, and all situations generally, I’m with you on the idea of loading up on caution, at least to the point of abundance. Whether someone I know really well, or someone I know not at all, I try to be well aware that my perception of a person or situation could be way off the mark.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t make judgments based on what I feel or think that I know (couldn’t get through a single day without doing so), but I surely do try to be careful about it. I’ve been positive of things (good and bad), and too many times have been so very wrong.

  77. And, just in case you forgot to pack your teddy bear and want to adopt John as a substitute, please bear in mind the very lovely lady, with the very lovely mallet, because it would be a pity if the very lovely mallet was damaged, sorry, you were damaged, whilst the very lovely lady was giving us a demonstration of the very lovely mallet in action.

    OK, so it would be great on YouTube but you have to factor in the medical bills…

  78. I’ve always thought that that suggestion was funny and poorly thought out – I’m a natural toucher, but try very carefully to NOT touch people until I know them well enough to have an idea whether or not that will make them uncomfortable. I suspect that the people who write/wrote those suggestions to people aren’t touchers and aren’t especially in tune with the comfort level of other people, or they wouldn’t recommend indiscriminate touching as a way of connecting.

  79. @TheMadLibrarian: Your point about children is a good one. I teach third graders, and part of the first week or two of each school year is spent sorting out the the majority who are very touchy/feely/clingy/whatevertermyouchoose from the relative minority who just don’t like to be touched or who require some time to become comfortable with you. Recognizing the difference, and taking it into account with each kid, is supremely important in building a sense of trust and comfort in the classroom. Most of “my” kids are in my personal space far more than would normally be considered polite in the adult world, but you have to be able to deal with it or get out of the profession. On the other hand, the quickest way to drive a kid away from you is to be too “familiar” too fast with one who likes to be left untouched.

    It’s obvious that at some point most kids develop a more refined sense of personal space–I have never seen nearly as many adults who want constant hugs and touches as I have younger kids. Personally, it never bothers me in the slightest when elementary kids basically attack me with an unannounced hug, but I am almost always uncomfortable with physical contact (or even physical proximity) with adults…….

  80. David Aman,

    I’m with you on this David. I think you were completely correct when you stated
    “Since I know I can be wrong about a person’s internal states, I do my best to try and interpret their unstated gestures and conntations as charitably as I can. “
    Unless it’s obvious the other persons goal is to manipulate you out of material goods in some fashion which you can never know for sure until the actual sales pitch comes about I think giving people the benefit of the doubt is a better strategy. But I will admit that this strategy is likely to be less effective to someone with a growing notoriety like Mr.Scalzi who likely attracts a significantly larger number of people with nefarious motives than most of us less famous individuals.

    I’m not an anthropologist but I would say the current cultures that propagate and continue the theme of larger amounts of personal space are in general filled with less happy people. I say this because I can’t come up with a verbal equivalent than a comforting touch at the right moment even by a complete stranger. And while I respect every persons right to what they feel as an appropriate amount of personal space I still wish that we were all a bunch of huggers.

  81. rick: I say this because I can’t come up with a verbal equivalent than a comforting touch at the right moment even by a complete stranger.

    I discovered early on in my marriage that saying “I love you” to my wife didn’t communicate how I felt nearly as well as saying “I love you” and giving her a hug and/or kiss and/or squeezing her hand at the same time. I’ve also learned that there are no words I can say that communicate “I want to comfort your sorrow” the way a silent hug can.

    One thing I’ve noticed about the times I feel uncomfortable about getting a hug, at one point I realized that the discomfort I feel is exactly the same discomfort I feel when someone wants to be generous to me, or take care of me, or give me an unexpected gift. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable because there’s a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve it, I didn’t earn it, I’m taking something that I shouldn’t have.

    I have an old, old program that sometimes kicks in that says I have to earn/deserve everything I get, and if someone is is simply being generous with me, giving without expecting anything in return, that program can sometimes scream like an alarm.

    Some people are just generous with their friendship, with their love, with their time, with their energy, with their kind words, with their hugs. And sometimes, it freaks me the hell out. And I get its my problem, not theirs.

  82. If I interpret you correctly, Mr. Scalzi–that both the name-using and the touching are equally offensive–I must regretfully call riidiculous.

    There is truly no group of phonemes anyone wants to hear more than their own name, and I am sure to use the name of the person I am speaking to in only one case–when I want to be sure I’m being listened to.

    And I am sure this is not just a universal principle, but a universally understood one as well. I expect other people to use the same approach, when they’re talking to me. It is not phony or corny or evil, or whatever you may be suggesting, to use the other party’s name. It is a method of good communication.

    However. Perhaps my best bud can get away with an arm around the shoulder. Other than that, beyond the standard handshake, anyone but my lover touches me on their initiative, it’s a liberty they should not have assumed they could take. And here too, I would expect my feelings to be somewhat universal.

  83. Thank you sir for shopping here, we do love our customers
    now please give me your receipt so I can repeat, in ten minutes,
    what the cashier did in about forty seconds. —
    I was acting worried because the bus was due in five minutes
    and the next is 1:40 later and itsa one hour walk home.
    He tried for a reassuring shoulder pat but since he had his hands
    in my purchases a half step back worked.

    In that case it was because the
    checkout lines were (are?) arranged in a stupid way, and they
    had cashiers in several departments.
    Trivial to do would be buy a pillow, pay for it at lingerie, rip out
    most of its stuffing and fill it with expensive small items.
    The ‘Oh, are you leaving us?’ annoyance would not have caught
    Well, /probably/ not if I were a thief: it would depend on how those
    shoplifting tags are deactivated.

  84. Speaking of calling someone by their name and touching them:

    Psycho: The name’s Francis Soyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.

    Leon: Ooooooh.

    Psycho: You just made the list, buddy. And I don’t like nobody touching my stuff. So just keep your meat-hooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I’ll kill you. Also, I don’t like nobody touching me. Now, any of you homos touch me, and I’ll kill you.

    Sergeant Hulka: Lighten up, Francis.

  85. @ rick

    I’m not an anthropologist but I would say the current cultures that propagate and continue the theme of larger amounts of personal space are in general filled with less happy people.

    Causation is not correlation, and happiness is not a readily measureable quantity, nor even one single state of mind. I’m fairly happy right now, taking a moment from preparing dinner to comment on an engaging discussion. I was very happy this morning after I woke up. I was mind-bendingly pleased with a book I was reading over lunch. I was content after teaching a good class earlier today. I was amused by a news story on the radio. I’m glad I’m working my ass off to finish my education. I’m satisfied with the course of actions I’m taking in order to make me and my life better. None of those things involve physical intimacy with strangers (I don’t consider sparing practice intimate despite the physical contact). Every individual is psychologically complex. Human happiness doesn’t reduce to a single cause or metric.

    I say this because I can’t come up with a verbal equivalent than a comforting touch at the right moment even by a complete stranger.

    While I totally respect your prerogative to accept intimacy from strangers, realize that many of us believe intimacy is not for strangers. With me, intimacy, like trust, is earned. John mentions people who try to use touching as a substitute for real intimacy. It’s like professing on a first date; it’s hallow.

    @ rastronomicals

    If I interpret you correctly, Mr. Scalzi–that both the name-using and the touching are equally offensive–I must regretfully call riidiculous.

    A) That’s not what the post said.
    B) You have no power over what offends other people.

    I know reading is hard, but try. When someone uses your first name and touches you in an obviously feigned attempt at intimacy, that is offensive. Not addressing people by their name in a show of mutual of respect.

  86. I’m from Finland. We don’t touch people except for sexual intercourse or aggravated assault.

    (I’m still a hugger, though, and it’s only just occurred to me that in the aforementioned local context this may come across as a little creepy.)

  87. Totally agreed. If someone seems to be genuinely friendly–smiles, uses my name, etc.–I’ll respond positively, but when I find out it’s a front it’s like an extra slap in the face. I met a certain artist at Dragon*Con this year whom I’d always respected, and who greeted me very respectfully and cordially before turning back to his friend and saying–loudly–“I’m SO sorry about that.” I…don’t anticipate buying his work in the future.

  88. I usually draw the line at a handshake. Mainly because I remember the New Year’s Eve party where the hostess turned out to be one of those folks who greets all her guests at the door with a kiss. I could have dealt with that, but in my case she decided to do an inspection during the process to determine if I’d ever had my tonsils out. Ugh.

  89. Michael Johnston: omg please own your issues and turn down hugs you don’t want. If someone asks if they can hug you and you say yes, that is a hug you explicitly asked for. I turn down and duck hugs I don’t want all the time. You can, too.

    John: I believe you may have given me a complex. I can’t recall if I’ve touched you during conversation or at any other time in a way that could be interpreted as manipulative (and I don’t do that really–I think), but I think this could be the makings of a lying-awake later. THANKS! (I would hope you’d just tell me if I ever annoyed you, because I’m cool that way, but not everyone knows that.) Sincerely, your socially anxious friend Cath

  90. If you’re within arm’s reach of me, you’re in my personal space. I like my personal space, and I don’t like to be touched. I’m also violently allergic to people using the short form of my (True) name. If you’re doing both of these, congratulations, I already hate you.

    New Zealand isn’t a very physically demonstrative culture, but I’m aware that I’m a step away from the norm within it.

  91. I’m a high-touch kind of person from a low-touch culture (New Zealand – hello Fletcher), so I keep my hands to myself. But I regret the lack of contact. When I moved to Vancouver, BC, I had to learn about social hugs – my group of friends hugged on arrival and departure and it took me a while to figure out who and when to hug. My Vancouver workplace was the most touchy-feely place I’ve ever hung out. My female colleagues came round for hugs, patted me as they passed by, and offered shoulder massages. I enjoyed it – but it would have been horribly trying for all the touch-averse folk in this thread.

  92. I *always* ask if touching would be welcome before attempting to do so. My mother was very touch-averse, although I’m not, so I’m really sensitive to people’s wishes in that regard. I’d never dream of touching a stranger — that would invite an extreme response, with my kind of luck. Even with friends, I ask if they want a hug, rather than simply grabbing them up. It seems the polite thing to do.

  93. Katherine: I met a certain artist at Dragon*Con this year whom I’d always respected, and who greeted me very respectfully and cordially before turning back to his friend and saying–loudly–”I’m SO sorry about that.” I…don’t anticipate buying his work in the future.

    So…. Artist was in the middle of an intimate conversation with Friend. Artist interupts conversation with Friend to have converation with Katherine. After Artist finishes conversation with Katherine, Artist returns to conversation with Friend and apologizes for making Friend wait.

    and…. Katherine hates Artist because of that?

    I think the Whatever thread that says no one can control how anyone else thinks of them is accurate. But the thread being accurate doesn’t mean that what the person is thinking is right, either.

    I’ve had Young Earth Creationists tell me I’m something along the lines of a god-hating helper of satan. I can’t control what they think of me, true. But that doesn’t mean what they think of me is right.

  94. I had a boss who did this. You could look at his eyes and see him reading a script for how he needed to respond. Whenever a person talked to him he would lean forward, head slightly cocked with an open mouthed smile while staring intently at the person and constantly nodding his head. It was rather funny to say something to him and have him nodding ‘yes’ in understanding even when he didn’t get what you were saying. It was creepy as hell.

    Some people realize they don’t have great personal skills and they try to fix that, which is fine. Self improvement is a good thing but some of them take it into ‘children of the corn’ territory and that’s when I try to leave the room.

  95. This is very difficult for me, as a fairly touch-positive person. But I do try to remember that some people are touch-averse and not to presume consent even for a shoulder pat or forearm touch unless it’s someone I know well enough to know that touch would be welcome.

    As for names and nicknames, there are two common nicknames from my given name. One is used almost exclusively by family and OLD friends, and new acquaintances who use it get the hairy eyeball. The other is the one I use myself when I think a nickname is appropriate, and was first used by my buddies in college, so it feels more chummy to me, and I usually won’t object when it’s used by casual acquaintances. No prizes for guessing which is which.

  96. @ Greg

    The situation Katherine described could have been the Artist apologizing for not giving his undivided attention to the people with whom he was already talking. Or it could have been the Artist passive-aggressively letting Katherine know she was unwelcome after he’d already talked with her. If it was the former, as you suggest, then why did the Artist announce his apology loud enough that it was apparently for Katherine to hear as well, as opposed to directing it only at the people he interrupted his conversation with to speak with her, and delivering it without the sarcastically emphasized SO? And if speaking with her was an imposition, why didn’t he simply ask if she would be around later to say hi, instead of letting her know after the fact and in an especially rude manner?

    Personally, I’m inclined to give people, including Katherine, the benefit of the doubt that they can tell the difference between someone sincerely apologizing to someone else and someone being a two-faced jerk. But even if you aren’t inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, I expect you’ll agree that there are two sides to every story. Which leads me to ask why you assume her interpretation of the event was wrong while yours is correct, when you weren’t even there?

  97. I’m the ‘Please respect me as a person by respecting my personal space’-type. I am not a teddy bear, nor am I seeking warm-fuzzies from complete stangers; I’m also not looking to be a source of warm-fuzzies for strangers. If you’re not family or very close friends (and if you’re not sure if we are close friends, then we probably aren’t), then please don’t touch.

    Natural ‘touchers’ make me uncomfortable, but ‘fakers’ seriously irritate me, often to the point of calling them out on it. Salespersons in particular creep me out when they do this. My personal space, please respect it.

  98. Gulliver: Personally, I’m inclined to give people, including Katherine, the benefit of the doubt that they can tell the difference between someone sincerely apologizing to someone else and someone being a two-faced jerk.

    Well, I’m more of a “show, don’t tell” kind of guy.

    show: showing me what the person did and said and letting me make my own assessment


    Tell: not telling me what the person specifically said and did, but paraphrasing, and summarizing and telling me via narrative that the guy was being a two-faced jerk.

    Katherine showed me what the person did and said and I came to a different conclusion than she did. Maybe she left out some critical information, but based on what she SAID the person DID, I can easily see someone trying to juggle multiple conversations and trying to apologize to one person without demeaning the other person. I’ve had to do it myself on occaission.

    It sounds like you’re a “tell” kind of person. Like I could tell you “Alice is a bitch” and wouldn’t have to show you anything specific that she did or said. Which is fine. It’s just not how I generally approach things. Someone says “Alice is a bitch”, I get curious and want to know why. What did Alice do and say that would lead me to believe she’s a bitch.

  99. Garr: that should be:

    Tell: not *showing* me what the person specifically said and did, but paraphrasing, and summarizing and telling me via narrative that the guy was being a two-faced jerk.

  100. Greg, my question to you is: Are you aware that very often when you make comments like these here, it looks like you are going out of your way to pick a fight with someone?

    Because if you’re not aware that this is how you come across, then that is something that I want to pop on to your radar.

  101. “They” say that, when you’re feeling down, smile anyway, because the muscles make the emotion as much as the other way around. I doubt that this, whoever, was trying to fake him/herself out rather than you. But, I’ve been wrong before.

  102. Scalzi: it looks like you are going out of your way to pick a fight with someone?

    Sorry, I wasn’t trying to pick a fight.

    I just see a huge gap from what Katherine said happened (who said what and when) and the conclusion she reached (never buy the person’s art ever).

    I mean, if she forgot to mention when the Artist said to the Friend “sorry I had to deal with that plebe”, then I’m totally with the “artist is an asshole” assessment. But as it is, well, huge, huge gap.

  103. @ Greg

    It sounds like you’re a “tell” kind of person. Like I could tell you “Alice is a bitch” and wouldn’t have to show you anything specific that she did or said.

    Actually, I’m an I wasn’t there so I’m not going to correct the interpretation of the person telling me about it kind of person. I have no idea which it actually was, and neither do you – hence the benefit of the doubt, with emphasis on doubt. If the Artist wants to chime in with his side, I’ll be happy to listen, but it’s not my job to tell his side of the story, nor am I in any position to do so anyhow.

    I’ll just point out that you could have delivered the same message by saying to Katherine Is it possible he meant this instead… rather than just telling her how wrong she was about him.

    I doubt you mean to be so confrontational, but that’s how it comes across.

    @ Jonathan Laden

    But, I’ve been wrong before.

    I was wrong once. The year was 1985 and it was the summer of geek…

  104. John. Johnnie. Booby! C’mon! How can you even BE that way with me? Ya don’t feel the connection? I feel aarrghgh christ, no I can’t even finish the sentence.

    I made me feel soiled. How ’bout that?

  105. No fans of the “free hugs” movement here then? Personally I’m conflicted about that, there is evidence that hugging is good for people but I’m not especially comfortable with it myself.

    My own thought is that some of the generalisations in this thread about national characteristics probably conceal more than they explain. My personal experience is that people in the UK are a lot more comfortable with physical contact than they used to be.

  106. Kevin

    I agree that the national generalisations are somewhat iffy but I think you need to introduce some qualifiers into the ‘hugging is good for you’ statement; it isn’t good for someone who has pain in their upper body and it isn’t good for someone trying to avoid acquiring other people’s bugs. Those of us who are both tend to regard the whole hugging thing with some scepticism…

  107. I also agree with you Mr. Scalzi (only second post so don’t feel right by calling you by your first name haha). I would also point out that some of these same people have no qualms about telling you what they think as, for example, your appearance. My 20 year old son has seen this with me standing with him. He has some piercings (in his ear, his eyebrow, and one in his lip) nothing over the top but they are there and noticeable. It is surprising when we are out shopping or just out in the town that a complete stranger feels they have to point out this to him by exclaiming “How could you do that to yourself?” or “What in the world were you thinking?”. And of course my favorite when its directed to me is “Why would you let your son do something like that?”. My son has my tact (cough cough) and will usually reply with a “And it’s your damn business because…..?”. My opinion, whether right or wrong, is many of these people have that ME attitude. It’s all about ME and if you have a problem with ME calling you by your name, giving you a hug, or making a comment about your appearance, well that’s your problem, not mine. Why? Because it’s all about ME. I agree with these posts that we need to be aware of the other person. That ME attitude is the quickest way to get, as I read earlier, the hairy eyeball look. And a quick one finger salute. :D

  108. People find me more approachable just because I wear a metal codpiece and a hockey mask. I am tired of people pretending they missed the handshake “a little.” I also don’t like how so many strangers feel they can make little comments to me out of the Blue like “Why so serious?” “Cheer up! It may never happen!” and “His eyes! What’s wrong with his eyes?”

    (Seriously, though, there are people who would still try to sell you Fios and pay as you go cell phones if you were dressed like that. It might deter most huggers though.)

  109. I had planned on gently rubbing the top of your head for luck if we ever met. I take it this is out?

  110. He or she probably just didn’t read the part about using the person’s FULL NAME every time you make contact. It invokes them.

  111. I’m generally a hugger (of the greeting kind, not the chiropractic inducing kind). Not necessarily with people I’ve never had any interaction with, but it is something I do given the slightest encouragement or opportunity. I also tend to use people’s names if its provided to me by any means including name tags. In my upbringing, it’s a way to show people you notice them as individuals, be they mechanics or cashiers, that you see them as individuals behind the services they provide. (I’m also inclined to follow the proper etiquette of introductions, self or otherwise: “Hi, I’m Dawn and I’ll be your server tonight,” “Hi Dawn, it’s very nice to meet you.”) granted there is also the use of the ubiquitous “ma’am” “miss” and “sir” failing provided names or my abysmal memory.

    Shaking hands works as well, but hugs are the most common greets with people I’ve had interactions with at some significant level, even if only online only to later meet at a convention or gathering. (I’m also pretty good at reading when that kind of full body contact makes people uncomfortable, so thus far I’ve never sent anyone running or had them take a swing at me.

    That said, should I ever have the pleasure of meeting you in person, Scalzi, I’ll offer my hand first.

  112. OMG, Flashbacks to college,I was a Social Work major. Take an educational setting with 99% females and toss in a bunch of super Christians and/or smaller space bubble cultural backgrounds. I have a HUGE issue with being touched and I was quickly known as the “crabby” one. It literally became a mission to get me to “open up” and “share” UGGGHHH!

    Funny thing, now that I am a mom, I find that I touch my kids constantly. Wait, that sounded creepy. I mean, I have noticed that a soft head stroke or a half hug when I am talking to my kids seems to calm them down. Maybe my teachers were on to something with the “healing power of touch”…but only when people are OK with it. I have worked with abused kids, juvenile criminals, teen prostitutes, and now sick people in wheelchairs. Can you imagine force hugging my clients???

  113. @Gulliver

    I know reading is hard, but try.

    Just wondering what gives you the right to use such condescension with someone who had made a more-or-less respectful post. Let me tell you Gulliver: the fact that people sometimes don’t agree with you does not make them idiots. You would do well to consider this.

    Not addressing people by their name in a show of mutual of respect.

    That having been said, I will formally state that despite your emphatically stated objections, I think you are incorrect. I still believe that using someone’s name is powerful and effective communication tool. Further, coming from an area where I can speak–as it is my livelihood–it is also a good sales tool.

    When someone uses your first name and touches you in an obviously feigned attempt at intimacy, that is offensive.

    Ironic that I’m saying this, of course, but you may also wish to re-read my post, as I had specifically separated the talking and the touching, even while being unsure as to whether Mr. Scalzi had

    Good luck to you.

  114. I did a google search and could not find anything that says ‘touch someone while talking to make them happy’ or something like that.

    Is there crazy etiquette book out there that teaches this stuff? Is it common for people to go up to a minor celebrities and just start touching them?

    @Ian: I was a server when I was in college. I used to call regulars by their first name(when I could remember them… you get a lot of customers) and they seemed to like it. They seemed more annoyed when I didn’t remember who they were(which was more common).The thought of ‘touching’ them would never cross my mind.

  115. @Guess: You probably worked in a very different neighbourhood than the one I grew up in. Which is my point: So-called ‘universal’ behaviours aren’t. Rastronomical clearly has no idea how rude he would seem outside of his core culture.

  116. The name thing bugs the crap out of me. Real people rarely use the names of the folks they’re talking to in the middle of a conversation–people know they’re being addressed by context and because you’re looking at them or giving other body language that cues them (e.g. leaning toward them, tilting your head slightly in their direction).

    The name thing doubly bugs me when people assume they can just shorten my name to the nickname of their choice. My real name is one that has a zillion potential nicknames and shortenings in English-speaking culture. People who are trying to create the illusion of buddy-buddy invariably pick the one nickname I hate the most. I really want to have a large game-show buzzer that goes off: “AAAANK! Thanks for playing, but you chose wrong. Please make room for the next contestant. You do not get any departing gifts.”

    When salesmen do that, I immediately say, “Please don’t call me X.” They never have a script for dealing with that, and there’s a couple of moments of fumbling while they try to apologize without losing the conversational upper hand. On good days, this amuses rather than annoys me.

    The other one I hate (being female and over the age of 35) is the automatic use of “Mrs.” Here in the 21st century, lots of women–even middle-aged ones–are not using their husband’s last name, or they have divorced and taken back their own name, or they never were married in the first place. “Mrs. Lastname” is my mother. I am MS. Lastname, thank you very much.

    I realize there are married women who would be offended to be called “Ms. Lastname.” This is why people should cultivate an ambiguous “Mzs” sound that can be interpreted either way.

  117. I have an uncle who does names as part of his nightclub act. He remembers people, their names, and trivia; you can be introduced to him in Chicago in ’66, not see him for decades, and he’ll recognize you without prompting in the crowd in Aruba in ’08 … “and there’s Jill Anderson, still blonde, who was at McWhatever’s in ’66, Chicago, with a redhead … oh he’s sitting next to you. Hi, Bill, are you finally retired from selling Ford trucks? … I see he’s bald now, Jill, are you sure you still want to keep him? … Some guys are just lucky!” I don’t know how he does it. Neither does he, or if he does, he’s lying and won’t tell me.

    So I try, when I meet someone, to use their name at least three times in that first conversation. It helps. Offer a handshake, yes. Strength contest, no. Declining is probably wise because of the germs, but I’ll risk it if offered. Touching … no. Not the two-handed hand-holding, not the shoulder touching, not ….

    Hugs are one of the worlds great goods. Ask and I’ll give you one; if I decline I must be seriously upset with you, or very busy in my head about something else. If you’re close and I’m joy-filled to see you, I may scoop you off your feet and spin us about. (I ask, usually.)

    Spice kept her maiden name. There have been tiny hassles about that. The great advantage is dealing with the cold callers. If they ask for Spice MyLastName or Mrs. MyLastName or Mr. HerLastName … we know they don’t know us.

  118. A business world variant of this is the two-handed handshake. I was at a wedding when and young insurance salesman decided to hit on me (despite my many references to my boyfriend). When it was time to leave I decided to be pro-active about my personal space in the elevator by putting out my hand to shake. Instead I got a business card and a two-handed handshake. Ugh. So smarmy.

  119. The effectiveness of any tactic designed to influence a person’s opinion or behavior is inversely proportional to the number of times that it has been tried.

    If Godwin or somebody like him hasn’t already had that law named after him, you can call that Enders’ law.

  120. I totally get what you’re saying, because the second “touch” feels more like manipulation. And I hate it when people try to manipulate me.

  121. I am an inherently touchy person, raised in a very touch family, come from a low personal space culture. My problem has been to learn to step it all back because, as a woman, saying a person’s name too much and touching them is seen by some men as flirty and an invitation to be inappropriate. So I always found this bit of ‘advice’ about how to get people to like you is very male-specific, I think it is bad advice to either gender, but probably even worse for women.

  122. Hugs and touching (asides from the occasional handshake) are for close friends, family and lovers. People who don’t belong to either of those three groups better keep their hands off me. The only exception is medical personal performing a treatment, and they’d better ASK before hand.

    And yeah, I *am* European – there are HUGE difference about what’s considered appropiate and not.

  123. Oy. I meant “Here in Europe there are HUGE differences about what’s considered appropiate or not”.

    I did proofread! How did that slip?

    Anyway, unwanted touch in general are upsetting me, because, well, my personal space, I get to decide who’s allowed to enter it, not the other, no matter what kind of hugger s/he is. Touch is a sign of intimancy and as such it’s really, really unwelcome when uninvited.

  124. If you touch me and I don’t know you, outside of an introductory handshake, I will lay you out on the ground head first.

  125. The name thing really gets on my nerves, too. Friends of mine are Robert and Rebecca, and sales people ALWAYS call them Bobby and Becky. It drives them nuts.

  126. @ rastronomicals

    Just wondering what gives you the right to use such condescension with someone who had made a more-or-less respectful post.

    Rights don’t enter into it. If John finds any of my comments unacceptable, he and he alone may do away with it. A right is merely a liberty of which you don’t allow someone else to deprive you or others. Although if you believe in “luck”, you perhaps also believe in other superstitions such as divine rights, in which case there is little point in arguing with non-falsifiable beliefs. But hey, to each their own.

    And the condescension was directed at your attempt to derail (whether intentionally or simply because you didn’t read the original post carefully) by “regretfully” ridiculing something John did not actually write.

    Let me tell you Gulliver: the fact that people sometimes don’t agree with you does not make them idiots. You would do well to consider this.

    You would do well to consider that your idiocy was not in disagreeing, but in arguing against a strawman neither John not anyone else here presented. Disagreeing good, misrepresenting others bad.

    That having been said, I will formally state that despite your emphatically stated objections, I think you are incorrect. I still believe that using someone’s name is powerful and effective communication tool.

    More evidence you didn’t carefully read what I wrote either, since I explicitly pointed out that there are times when its effective and times when it’s patronizing. I’ll leave it to your interpersonal-fu to figure out when it’s a sign of mutual respect and when it’s empty BS.

    Further, coming from an area where I can speak–as it is my livelihood–it is also a good sales tool.

    Good for you. I’m glad you can tell when it’s appropriate. Though for your sake, I hope you read contracts more carefully than you read blog posts.

    Ironic that I’m saying this, of course, but you may also wish to re-read my post, as I had specifically separated the talking and the touching, even while being unsure as to whether Mr. Scalzi had

    Indeed. And if you re-read my post you’ll (hope springs eternal) notice that I was not disagreeing that there are times when addressing someone by name is sincerely respectful. Nor is it anything other than counterproductive when used as a rhetorical trick in a clumsy and naked attempt to elicit a sympathetic ear.

    For your edification, here is what you typed:

    If I interpret you correctly, Mr. Scalzi–that both the name-using and the touching are equally offensive–I must regretfully call riidiculous.

    …and here, for comparison, is the pertinent excerpt from the original post:

    Some people, when they are talking to you, use your name and reach out to touch you because they read somewhere that by using someone’s name and touching them during conversation, you can make them like you better and be more inclined to agree with you. Generally speaking, I know the difference between these two types of people.

    You may notice that John refers to people who “use your name and reach out to touch you” in a context in which their insincerity is evident. You may also notice that at no point did he suggest that using someone’s name is equally offensive to putting your paws all over them. You may even notice that he makes a distinction, in the first of the two short paragraphs no less, between someone who’s chumminess is sincere, and someone who’s chumminess is calculated.

  127. @ rastronomicals

    Perhaps you were merely being careless, in which case I was probably overly acerbic in my rejoinder. You were still wrong in your reading of the OP, but I apologize for jumping down your throat about it.

  128. Except for handshakes, I actually find reaching out kinda creepy. Must be the gregarious introvert in me. If I know you, it doesn’t bother me. If I don’t know you, dude, hook your thumbs in your pockets or something and keep your hands to yourself. The only strange person I ever got touchy feely with ended up becoming my wife. Since I am not getting married ever again and expect Nita to outlive me, you may consider the touchy feely an aberration. (Besides, even if you are as hot as she was when we met, it’s still pretty damn creepy.)

    My thanks to our gracious host for letting me make this all about me. Because it’s fun watching the universe revolve around me. You should try it some time, folks.

  129. Jonathan Laden said: ““They” say that, when you’re feeling down, smile anyway, because the muscles make the emotion as much as the other way around. I doubt that this, whoever, was trying to fake him/herself out rather than you. But, I’ve been wrong before.”

    You’re really right; my mom used to do this all the time and it was so obvious she was faking it. If you’re not feeling well, just … people can tell. A fake smile is a major turn-off when it’s done with clenched teeth, you know? It’s like them telling us as telemarketers: “Smile, the customer will hear it in your voice…” Yeah …the other day at the doctor’s office all the nurses were being all smiles and chirp, but you could hear the condescension in their voice. I felt badly for them having to do that.

    As far as people misinterpreting the way you communicate… I don’t hear very well, so when I’m in a situation with someone and we’re talking, I tend to watch their face to make sure I don’t miss anything. A friend of mine thought I was coming on to her. She was, happily, the sort to point it out, so I was able to explain about the not hearing and therefore needing to watch her face thing… :-)

  130. Ah, nicknames … If people call me by my full name, I’ll tell them “call me Katy” because “Kathryn” makes me think I’m in trouble. If people call me “Kathy” I’ll point out the lack of an “h” in my preferred nickname… seriously, yeah, okay, Kathryn as an “h” but Katy? Look CLOSELY now … avoiding the overuse of “h” since 1970…

  131. I agree with what Zan Lynx said above about psychopaths and sociopaths: even though I KNOW intellectually that most people aren’t nearly as good as they think they are at reading other people’s minds, I was recently COMPLETELY taken in by a very skilled (as I know now) sociopath. This person may NOT be a serial killer in reality, but given what I just said, I could be very wrong. To state the obvious: it’s dangerous out there.

  132. The Wild West welded a culture of forced politeness into the American Psyche, what with guys slinging guns and rifles and that time lasted about 75 years. I guess we were ready for it, the hat tippin and the diffident talk. But in Japan, tough men wielded sharp armaments and ruled for “hundreds” of years. The end result seems to be that there aren’t that many rude people in Japan anymore. Not a lot of touch or hugging either. In fact acquaintances talking to each other stand, for lack of a more precise measure, out of arms reach (unless of course they’re riding the train or are fleeing from Godzilla).

  133. @ rich

    There are manuscripts dating from feudal Japan lamenting the rise of the bow and arrow in warfare, particularly its deleterious effect on the preeminent role of the way of the sword, and predicting the erosion of bushido. As with the Old West, however, the reality was rather less noble than the nostalgic longing would recall, and included fun facts such as young girls being taught how to carry out the jigai ritual (suicide) as an “honorable” resort against rape by conquering armies.

    I’ll take my civility without the lawlessness and dehumanizing atrocities, thank you.

  134. rastronomicals: “There is truly no group of phonemes anyone wants to hear more than their own name, and I am sure to use the name of the person I am speaking to in only one case–when I want to be sure I’m being listened to.”

    I call bullshit. I **despise** being called by my first name by people who don’t know me. It even annoys me that AARP starts all their emails “Lila, blah blah blah”.

    It is true that calling my name will invariably get my attention. It won’t necessarily be positive attention.

    One size does not fit all.

  135. Lila, I agree with you. And speaking for myself, I might end up *not* listening to someone who keeps using my name. I’m just as likely to tune out at least some of what I’m saying and focus more on my own inner monologue–why does this person keep saying my name? does she/he think I don’t know my own name? what is he/she trying to sell ( or “sell”) me? okay enough with the name already, etc. Just because I’m still standing there doesn’t mean I’m listening.

    Unless there are several people in the conversation and someone needs to make it clear that a particular remark or question is directed at me and not the group, or unless I’m obviously not paying attention and they want to pull me back into the conversation, there’s no need to use my name.

    It seems clear to me, just from this thread alone, people have different ideas and feelings about both name and touch. The problem I have with rastronomical’s first comment was statements like this: “And I am sure this is not just a universal principle, but a universally understood one as well” and “And here too, I would expect my feelings to be somewhat universal.” In spite of people up-thread, including John Scalzi in the original post, having expressed quite different feelings both about being addressed by name and about being touched. How can someone expect it to be universal when a number of people have stated quite different feelings?

  136. Erk. In third sentence of my previous comment, it should have been “at least some of what they’re saying.”

  137. Oh, and did I mention that in Japan it’s common to be referred to in the third person? So altogether we have little hugging or touching and the limited use of a person’s name in the first person. Clearly Mr John was not doing a greet and meet in Japan.

  138. Gulliver (to rastronomicals): I know reading is hard, but try.You would do well to consider that your idiocy was…

    Gulliver (to Greg): I doubt you mean to be so confrontational

    I suggested to Katherine that her interpretation could be wrong.
    You called rastronomicals an idiot who can’t read.

    Your dictionary has an interesting entry for the word “confrontational”.

  139. Other Bill, “I told Katherine that her interpretation was wrong and compared her to a Young Earth Creationist.”

    Maybe that’s your interpretation of what happened. Maybe its just a deliberate strawman.

    Here’s my take: I never told Katherine she was wrong, I wrote out the Katherine/Artist/Friend interaction based on what she described happened, and ended with a question: “and…. Katherine hates Artist because of that?” Because I don’t see her interpretation as the only interpretation plausible. Maybe she left out some information about what happened. Or maybe she misunderstood. But I left it as a question.

    If she misunderstood, then she has every right to have whatever reaction to the artist she wants, but it doesn’t mean her reaction to the artist, her assessment of his intentions, was accurate.

    The only comparison to Young Earth Creationists as an example of having an assessment of someones percieved intentions that doesn’t match that person’s actual intentions. That’s the only comparison I made.

    And that’s not the same as saying I “compared her to a Young Earth Creationist”, because thats a much broader statement that brings along the idea that I’m saying she believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, she thinks dinosaur fossils were planted by the devil to confuse people and make them not believe in God, and other crazy nonsense. Which I didn’t say.

    I had some Young Earth Creationist say I was a god-hating helper of satan. But I’m not. Their perception of me and my actual intention didn’t line up at all. And maybe Katherine’s interpreation of the artist’s intentions didn’t actually match the artists actual intentions.

    That was the comparison.

    Generalizing that to say I compared her to a Young Earth Creationist and removing the context of the comparison takes what I said and widens it considerably.

  140. Greg:

    “Maybe its just a deliberate strawman.”

    Maybe. But, I am going to need some proof that you have the epistemological and theological training required to ascertain whether or not you are, in fact, a god-hating helper of satan.

  141. @ Greg

    I suggested to Katherine that her interpretation could be wrong.
    You called rastronomicals an idiot who can’t read.

    It may not make you feel any better, but I realized I was directing at rastronomicals the same hostility for which I’d just criticized you, and that’s why I apologized to rastronomicals despite my conviction that rastronomicals is wrong. Because no matter how wrong rastronomicals or anyone else is, I don’t want to be the sort of person who picks fights, even unintentionally.

  142. Perhaps you could carry around that gigantic new mallet you’ve acquired so as to ward off awkward touchers? Oh, and an added bonus is if someone tries to rob you, KA-BONK! in the melon with the old MoLC.

  143. Other Bill: I am going to need some proof that you have the epistemological and theological training required to ascertain whether or not you are, in fact, a god-hating helper of satan.

    I asked my hairdresser about it at the time. She said I’m void of any satanic connections.

  144. @ Greg

    Well, no one said you had evil coming out you’re follicles. I prefer to think of you more as a servant of helper demons, or perhaps Maxwellian demons ><

    I dated a beautician once. She went out with me, so obviously she had an uncanny sense of character judgment…

  145. @ Other Bill

    In all fairness, it’s never wise to disagree with someone using a blade on your head.

  146. I’ve spent the last hour mashing up Star Wars Jedi Knights into The Fraternity from Wanted and have come up with The League Of Hairdressers, making right what would have gone wrong: No Stray Hairs, By Any Means. I plan to option it to the Wachowskis. I’m hoping for a Sam Jackson cameo (mental squee)!

  147. The League Of Hairdressers

    Sounds like they’d have a lot of close shaves. *ducks ballistic vegetables*

  148. Well, my hairdresser was also a Bishop, so I figure she ought to have some epistemological and theological training required to ascertain whether or not I am, in fact, a god-hating helper of satan.

    I think she just did hair like Tuesday through Saturday, and bishoped on Sundays.

    Bishoped is a verb, yes?


    Ya know, maybe “Bishop” was her name, not her job title.

    I always thought it odd that she wore a little plaquard on her shirt that said she was a “Bishop”. A nametag probably makes more sense.


    Hold on….

    OK, I’m back. I just asked my Oiuja board if I’m a god-hating helper of satan, and the word “no”
    just wept a little bit of blood.

    So, I think I’m OK.

  149. They could team up with the Fabulous Four and battle Doctor Groom and the Legion of Perfume.

    Okay, I’m done, I promise.

    @ Greg

    The voices in my head tell me your sources are impeachable.

  150. I have a huge problem about asking people’s names. I really prefer to just hear them in context. This has led to me having very good friends whose names I found out like three years after meeting them.

  151. I can’t stand those people either. I hate any situation when I have to interact socially in a forced/ulterior manner, when I know I’m trying to use the conversation to effect something but have to pretend I’m not. Awkward apologies, confessions, requests, out-and-out manipulations. (If I can, I’ll just try and acknowledge the facade ironically, so as to remove the falseness and be honest.)

    But these people, they seem to love the insincerity. Strikes me as rather sociopathic, really.

  152. As a response to some of the first half of the replies before this post, at which point my mind recoiled in horror: I wish I had Scalzi’s intuition, and I agree that fake people need not apply, but all the unhealthy disgust with human contact that I see here seems like evidence of a sick society to me. That body armoring will not serve you well in the long run. Do some yoga or something.

  153. I haven’t checked in in a while and couldn’t believe you posted about this. I went on this horrible date this last Saturday, and this guy pulled that crap on me. I kept thinking, why the frak are you touching me?! I don’t know you!! He would make some stupid joke, say my name and laugh as he touched my hand or my knee. It was absolutely disturbing and disgusting. It didn’t help that his hands were sweaty. Ugh… Guys seriously need to learn some etiquette on dates. Stay the hell out of my bubble!!!

  154. I am a “touchy” in that when I am in conversation with someone I know from previous experience — or may have just met, but the conversation’s going very well in a friendly fashion — I will invariably (and mostly unconsciously) reach out and lightly touch that person on the forearm or the bicep. Just a brief little brush of the palm or the fingertips: hello, I acknowledge you, we are having good talk time, and I like this between us. What I won’t do is touch someone on the forearm or the bicep if the conversation is clearly formal, there is no positive connection, or the vibe just isn’t right. So much of interpersonal face-to-face communication (it seems to me) is knowing how to read the vibe. I fear the “creepists” among us are either deaf to the vibe, or they simply ignore it. Unfortunately you have a significant number of those types at conventions where geeks gather, because too many geeks (*cough* males *cough*) couldn’t find their social etiquette even if it had a bell on it. Le sigh.

  155. Wow, that sparked a lot more response than I expected.

    @Greg: Of course I didn’t detail the entire situation, because it was meant as an anecdote in support of Mr. Scalzi’s point, not a specific condemnation of the artist in question (if I’d wanted to call him out, I’d have given details like his name, his medium, his age, etc.).

    Since you asked, I’ll go ahead and say that I was set off guard the minute he turned to look at me, because he had that look–the smile a little too wide, the eyes a little too fixed–that often comes with forced politeness. Because I respected his work, however–and because the greeting that followed was so very polite and effusive–I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided that his greeting was genuine. When he turned back to his friend, while I was still at his table, looking through his work, and said in a loud (and, in fact, rather exasperated) tone how “SORRY” he was, then yes, I did take a bit of offense.

    Do I hate him forever? No. Do I think he’s a horrible person? No. But I have a very good memory for encounters like that, and the books and artwork I keep around carry very strong associations for me. I met an author at a signing once who was very rude and brusque, and every time I look at the book I bought from him, I remember how unpleasant the encounter was. That was a year ago, and I don’t anticipate forgetting. Since I don’t, as a rule, like to surround myself with things that bring up unpleasant memories, I’m probably not going to bring any more of this artist’s work into my home.

    Also, I’m an old-Earth evolutionist.

  156. Katherine, you’ve given three bits of evidence, most of it subjective: (1) the smile was forced (subjective), (2) he said “SORRY” loudly while you were still at his table and (3) the “SORRY” had an exasperated tone (subjective).

    So, if I assume you’re assessment is correct, then either the artists actions don’t make sense or there’s some information/evidence that you left out.

    It sounds like this artist was in the dealer room? Standing behind a table that had a bunch of his art on it? And he was talking with someone else at (or behind) the table?

    If so, then I would assume he is there to sell his art. If you are a potential customer and walk up to his table, I don’t understand why he would give you a forced smile even before you’ve said a single word. He doesn’t know you, so there shouldn’t be any history like “Oh know, not her again” going through his head. He’s there to sell art, and you approach as a potential customer. This should not be a problem requiring a forced smile.

    I’m not saying he didn’t force his smile to you from the beginning. It’s just your description of events gives no indication why he would do such a thing. As it is, it requires him to do something entirely counter-intuitive to where he is and what he’s doing. i.e. give a fake smile to a potential new customer in the dealer room at his art table for no reason.

    Do you know why he gave you the forced smile right off the bat? If so, could you explain that missing bit to me?

    Secondly, if we assume you explain why he gave a forced smile right off the bat, then there’s still the whole “SORRY” in a loud and (as you said) “exasperated” voice while you’re still at his table, perusing his art, and still a potential customer. Which again, might have been his intention, but to me, it doesn’t make sense from his point of view to be so obviously rude to a potential customer for no apparent benefit to him.

    What benefit is there for him to be rude to you with the fake smile before you’ve said a single thing to him? What benefit is there for him to be rude to you by saying “SORRY” in a loud and exasperated voice after you’re done talking but whlie you’re still there, potentially about to buy some art?

    It’s quite possible he’s in the dealer room with a table of art to sell, but isn’t actually interested in selling art. But nothing you’ve said would indicate he’s crazy, and nothing you’ve said would explain why he’d operate in such a counter-intuitive way. Maybe he did stuff that you saw that would explain why he was in the dealer room behind a table of his art for sale and was so rude to a potential customer, but maybe you didn’t mention it because it was just obvious to you.

    But that missing information means this artist acted in what would seem like a completely counter-intuitive manner, sabotaging his own sales for no explained reason.

    Is there some evidence you didn’t mention yet that would explain this?

  157. Greg: What I’m saying is that I DON’T KNOW why the man behaved that way, but that he DID behave that way, and that it turned me off. People don’t always behave in reasonable ways. Maybe he was distracted. The girl behind the table was, admittedly, extremely attractive. I can only give you my subjective experience of the situation, which was that a man at an artist’s table behaved in a strange and off-putting way and that I didn’t like it. However, I WAS there, and you WERE not, so I’d appreciate it if you would give ME the benefit of the doubt and assume I’m able to read basic body language and facial expressions.

  158. Katherine: People don’t always behave in reasonable ways.

    I’ve found that to be a universal truth for all people.

    The girl behind the table was, admittedly, extremely attractive.

    That might explain why he wasn’t interested in selling art while standing in the dealer room. He may have had re-prioritized his goals.

    However, I WAS there, and you WERE not, so I’d appreciate it if you would give ME the benefit of the doubt and assume I’m able to read basic body language and facial expressions.

    Well, my experience is that people often times have misunderstandings. A common frame for a misunderstanding is when two people meet for the first time. Tthey have no prior relationship to establish some level of trust, therefore any ambiguous behaviour that could be a possible slight is more likely to be interpreted as an intentional slight.

    Your original post gave two possible interpretations. (1) the artist really was snubbing you or (2) you misunderstood something in the interaction.

    So, an interesting thing about misunderstandings: There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s part of the ambiguity of a lot of human interactions. So, there’s nothing wrong with you if you misunderstood. And yet, it’s not uncommon for someone to be offended if someone else suggests they misunderstood. Especially if the misunderstanding was perceived to be an attack. Because then the person who felt attacked sometimes transfers the attack to the person suggesting it was a misunderstanding.

    Me suggesting that you misunderstood the artist is not me defending him for snubbing you. It’s me saying maybe he didn’t snub you at all. It’s suggesting you misunderstood, which is something that happens regularly between even the most intelligent people, because a lot of communication is ambiguous. Suggesting you misunderstood isn’t suggesting that only a special dummy like you could have misunderstood. It’s just suggesting you misunderstood, and misunderstandings in human interactions happen a lot.

    That you had a misunderstanding seemed to me to be more likely than the artist was selling art in the dealer room and snubbed a total stranger who came up to his table to buy art for no reason. The other alternative was the artist snubbed you, but you forgot to mention some kind of information that would make the snub be a more rational act for the artist.

    In this case, you forgot to mention the person he was originally interacting with was some attractive woman. If flirting with this woman became more important than selling art, then it would explain more rationally why the artist was not interested in selling you art and blew you off. He might even have been worried that the attractive woman might say something like “Oh, you have customers, I should leave and let you work” which might be the absolute last thing he’d want.

    But here’s the thing. If you had some kind of relationship with this artist, if he was a friend of yours of some kind, if you were equals in various ways equality can be measured between two people, then you would be more likely to have not cared that he was more interested in flirting with the girl than dealing with you.

    Because the lack of relationship causes non-slights to be taken as slights, and causes slights to be taken as bigger slights.

  159. You can count me in the “gah! no touching!” column, please.

    Also, regarding hugs being good for you. GRRRRRRRRRRRR. yes, they are. You know what’s not good for me though? Being an introvert in a world made for extroverts. You know what makes it worse? People saying blanket statements like that – ones that do not distinguish between my mom hugging me and random strangers offering to give me hugs after I’ve spent the day at a social event being exhausted by “omg all the people. why so many people?”

    I mean sure, go around and offer hugs to people if that’s your thing. Just know that if I’ve spent all day at a con – hell, if I just walked into the con – I am probably going to be so overhwhelmed already that offers for free hugs are not oging to endear you to me. I will try to be polite and just say “no thanks” and move on, but I must admit that chances are you are going to get a slightly nasty “who is this random stranger and why are they asking if they can invade my personal space?” look. Possibly followed by a “WHY DID I COME? WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHY AM I NOT AT HOME PLAYING VIDEO GAMES?” internal dialogue.

    I mean, look, I’m not saying you deserve the nasty look, I’m saying that if your goal really is increasing world happiness, then this is a data point you would want to be aware of, yes? That you annoyed me so much that I have to suppress my inital “agh! go away!” reaction?

    Which brings me back to the “gah! no touching!” If you are my friend and we just shared stories about our 7th grade crushes after watching really bad scifi movies and eating the brownies we made earlier, touching is probably going to be acceptable. If we just met and are surrounded by even more people I barely know? KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF.

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