Mitigating Social Awkwardness

by Cayenne3 min read1st May 2011162 comments

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Edit - many apologies to anyone that feels that this discussion was a waste of time.  

 

I just ran across an article (http://techno-anthropology.blogspot.com/2011/04/rough-guide-to-social-skills-for.html) on Hacker News that gives the barest minimum of a guide for social interaction. Unfortunately this isn't the high-quality advice you need to really handle social situations, though it will help with a few of the worst problems.

A few other rules that will help:

  • Don't intrude on a conversation no matter how stupid or incorrect the arguments on either side are. No matter how you try, you will have turned your attempt to help into an intrusion into their social territory, and they will respond aggressively.
  • Don't assume that being smart is the same thing as social authority; seeing that people are going the wrong way and telling them won't work. This is really social territory again, you're trying to take leadership.
  • Don't assume that people equate brilliance and desirability. Don't even assume that people can tell that you're brilliant after talking to you for a while. Even if they do, they may not value brilliance.
  • Learn to listen to people. Conversations have a natural pause inserted between concepts that is an opportunity for the other person to respond. Do not talk over anyone, instead wait for that pause. Try to stay on the same topic as the previous speaker, or a related topic. Avoid jumping back more than one previous topic without explicitly saying something like "I had a few more questions about <topic>," unless they do it first in the same conversation.
  • To have a conversation with someone, ask them about their interests and when you find one that doesn't bore you talk about that. Try very hard not to talk about yourself unless they specifically ask first, and try to focus on what they have to say instead of what you have to say. If you are successful, they will give you opportunities to talk about your insights naturally. Avoid direct challenges; if you disagree then ask a question that exposes a hole, or say "it seems to me that ..."
  • Conversations share a volume, and speaking at the same volume as someone else is a signal to them that you are part of their conversation.
  • Avoid completing other people's words or sentences for them to speed up the conversation.
  • If people don't laugh at your joke, don't explain it. Just continue the conversation. Don't be afraid to smile to show you find it funny, but always wait for someone else to laugh at your joke before you join in.
  • To become friends with someone, you must have common interests and you must focus on those interests while you're with them. Do not assume that just because someone shares one of your interests that they will share others.
  • Most people are not broken, though they are subject to biases. If someone comes to a different conclusion than you do, it probably is not 'stupidity' so much as you seeing a benefit or cost that they do not, or you valuing the benefit or cost differently. This can go both ways; sometimes even someone very shortsighted can have a flash of insight. The only way to know for sure is to ask them about it.

On the physical side:

  • If you have not showered or bathed with soap in the last 24 hours and used deodorant, people will notice. If they do, they will almost never tell you. The same holds true for possible bad breath. The same holds true for clothing: avoid using a shirt two days in a row, change underwear and socks daily, while pants might be able to be reused for up to 5 days if they are not dirty.
  • Do not approach within arm's reach (fingertips ourstretched) without them facing you. This is the approximate 'personal space' boundary. As soon as they back up even slightly, stop; you've gotten too close to them. If you find someone constantly edging away from you, adjust that distance upwards.
  • If there is no space large enough to accommodate you around the person you wish to talk to, then wait for one or more people to leave first. When calculating this space, assume that each person is as big as their personal space, even if those spaces seem to be overlapping.

This is a long list, and it isn't even close to complete.

I'm linking to http://lesswrong.com/lw/372/defecting_by_accident_a_flaw_common_to_analytical/ at the suggestion of David Gerard.  It has a lot of deeper discussion into why this is worth knowing.

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Learn to listen to people. Conversations have a natural pause inserted between concepts that is an opportunity for the other person to respond. Do not talk over anyone, instead wait for that pause.

Does anyone else have difficulty with this?

In group conversations, I'm frequently unable to talk at all because that pause seems to be too short for me to notice. To me, it seems like person B magically knows when person A is about to stop talking and takes up the conversation the second A stops, no pause in between. I've had to learn to be more aggressive and less afraid to interrupt people, otherwise it might take half an hour before I get anything said.

It's particularly annoying when I come up with a comment to something that's being said, but by the time I'm able to say anything the conversation has shifted to something else entirely. This happening once or twice wouldn't be an issue, but half a dozen times during the same conversation starts to get frustrating.

8TheOtherDave11yAs I understand it, this is to some extent a cultural thing: different cultures have different expected latencies of verbal response... that is, different lengths of expected inter-utterance pauses. I learned to speak in the Northeast United States, in a Hispanic Jewish household: my LVR was negative for most of my life * (that is, the rules I grew up with say it's OK to start talking a little bit before the other person has finished, which has its own set of difficulties), which I imagine is incredibly frustrating for folks who are actually waiting for a pause. (* -- My LVR increased a fair bit after my stroke but is still pretty low.)
2steven046111yIt's not just frustrating; to someone who is not used to such a norm, and who in practice ends up not having a chance to say their part in a group conversation that includes some people who are used to such a norm, those people may well seem rude.
4TheOtherDave11ySure. To someone raised with one social convention, conflicting social conventions will often seem rude. I've similarly seen people with high LVRs seem rude to low-LVR communities ("Why doesn't he ever speak? Does he think he's too good for us? What, you need an engraved invitation to participate in a simple conversation?" and so forth). But I suspect it's easier for a low-LVR person to introduce longer gaps in their speech (once they get over the idea that doing so is unacceptably rude) than for a high-LVR person to shorten the gaps in their speech (even once they get over the idea that doing so is unacceptably rude). Somewhat relatedly: I do a fair amount of directing of amateur actors, and one thing I always have to work on explicitly is inter-utterance latency. Most people have an exaggerated notion of how long those intervals are in ordinary speech, and they consequently drag a bit when portraying speech on stage... the result sounds weirdly slow and kind of boring, even within the same speech community the actors are drawn from. (Amusingly, the same actors often overly speed up their delivery within a line.)
7RichardKennaway11yFrom my own observation of conversations, it looks to me like a cooperative thing. Usually, A doesn't simply stop talking, having said her piece, after which B takes a turn. The handoff from A to B (or to C, or to D) is an interactive process involving both voice and body language extending for a perceptible interval (below one second) around the moment when one stopped and the other started. B does not know when A is going to stop. Neither does A. Instead, B has something to add and sees a juncture at which a handoff can happen. There are many places in a conversation where it could occur, but doesn't, or did, but might not have done. I'd draw an analogy with improvisational dance or music, if I had experience of those -- maybe someone who has could comment. Or perhaps friendly sparring in martial arts. Or sex. ETA: Which is why it can be a mistake to wait until A has "finished". Depending on A's conversational style and the subject matter, "finishing" may simply be the wrong concept to apply. In a one to one conversation it may seem to you like you can't get a word in edgeways, while A is wondering why you aren't saying anything and she's having to do all the work.
4Vladimir_Nesov11yI believe one of the greatest benefits of interactive conversation is ability to interrupt, so that less effort is spent on crafting words that don't help, and efficiency improves dramatically, allowing to communicate more novel ideas faster, to a point where some things get communicated that wouldn't at all otherwise. If you aren't allowed to interrupt, this benefit largely goes away. (Another is in reducing trivial inconveniences that can otherwise prevent you from getting the ideas out, and here audio conversation trumps text chats.)
3steven046111yIt sounds like by "interrupting" you mean "speaking when a line of reasoning has not been finished", whereas Kaj meant "speaking when there is no pause". It seems to me that the latter kind of interrupting only has the benefit that you say it does when the expected behavior is to speak for a long time without any pauses that could be used for the former kind of interrupting.
3Cayenne11yYou might try to add nonverbal cues such as leaning forward or a slight hand gesture to draw attention to yourself when you have something to say, before the current conversational chunk is done. This will help warn others that you would like to speak. Watch other people in the conversation to see if you can identify other cues, since people probably are more receptive to cues that they use themselves.
1David_Gerard11yI may be completely wrong, but this suggests the sort of conversation where the point is displaying your quick wits and facility with small talk, and keeping up with the flow is most of the point. Is this with one particular person, one particular social group or something that you find happens lots in many situations?
2Kaj_Sotala11yHappens lots in many situations.
0jhuffman11yDoes booze help?
0Kaj_Sotala11yInteresting question. I'm so rarely in a group conversation situation involving drinking that I can't tell.
0David_Gerard11yIn that case it sounds like you need to be faster at keeping up with the flow and not worrying too much about your input. The display of social wit is itself the point of quite a lot of conversations, including ones that one would assume were about the content. As usual with humans, everything is tribal politics.
0[anonymous]11y.
0jwhendy11yI have problems when I'm the speaker. Perhaps I pause to much and am a bit of a passive type, as I have noticed I get cutoff a lot and don't get to finish my train of thought. And yes, having my "train" then derailed to something different is a bummer as I can't even get to the point after laying the preamble :)
[-][anonymous]11y 16

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1wedrifid11yI like the way you think!

I think the most important advice in learning how to function socially is: study people. Watch them, analyze them, try to figure out why they do things. Examine both positive examples - people who function well in social settings - and negative examples.

Most people are fascinated by other people, and so will learn about them without prompting. I think the problem with socially awkward folk is that they find humans and social situations uninteresting and thus not worthy of study.

3wedrifid11yI think this is a big part of it in most cases! (It's also somewhat self reinforcing.)
0Cayenne11yThis is one of the things I have planned for my IA meetups, when the random walk takes us to a crowded area.
[-][anonymous]11y 13

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1candid_theist11yI assume Systems 1 and 2 here refer to this Elephant and Rider article [http://lesswrong.com/lw/531/how_you_make_judgments_the_elephant_and_its_rider/] . I suspect this is one of those things where both ways are true. I do believe that at least to some extent, social skills are hard-wired into human brains, and spending too much conscious thought on social actions can actually impede them. For a bit of anecdotal evidence, I fairly often experience difficulty finding the "right" moments to insert a comment into a conversation among several people. But at other times, in a very similar conversation I can easily join in the conversation in a way that feels natural and doesn't appear to startle or annoy anyone. One obvious factor correlated to the difference is familiarity with the group. So possibly my Mind 1 / Elephant knows more about their particular cues for attention-sharing, and/or they know more about my own semiconscious signals for having something to say. But I can also experience different degrees of ability to speak in conversation among the same group of people. A second factor which correlates to that ability is whether I feel comfortable, or anxious. I would describe the effects of anxiety (at least on my mind) as preoccupying the Mind 2 / Rider with unproductive thoughts. So it seems this might be a simple example of overthinking interfering with social skills I do have. (Though sadly, I can't "switch modes" at will, nor easily take precise measurements of what happens when I am doing it "right". And yes, these two "factors" are themselves very correlated.) On the other hand, many social skills can only be learned. The ones we don't get for free with our brains, we can train with conscious effort, and with luck engrain them into the semiconscious "System 1".
1wedrifid11yYou have a good point there. (But for me the reference to arbitrary 'System 1 & 2' designations was annoying and potentially misleading.)
1[anonymous]11y.
5Cayenne11yDoes this version flow better?
1[anonymous]11y.
0nerzhin11yThis is interesting because my initial response is to disagree, but I don't think I have good reasons or evidence. To drastically oversimplify: You seem to be saying that intelligence is primary and social skills are learned. You're born smart or dumb, and if you're smart, you over-analyze social situations and become afraid. My initial reaction is the opposite: Social skills are primary, intelligence is learned. You are born with or without good social skills, and if you don't have them, you read a lot (by yourself) and hack computers or whatever, so that you become smart.
0[anonymous]11y.

Regarding the "if people don't laugh at your joke" thing, but applying more generally: I am frequently genuinely uncertain that I have been heard, where by "heard" I don't mean the metaphorical "understood and respected and acknowledged", just the part where I make sounds and these are registered in others' ears. Partly this is my own audio issues throwing off my calibration, partly it's how often people ask me to repeat things.

So when I get zero feedback of any kind for an utterance, my impulse is to repeat it, perhaps in different words, until someone reacts, but by then the reaction often seems to be annoyed. So this is obviously suboptimal, but I need to be able to distinguish between "I am inaudible/incomprehensible" and "my utterance has been deemed valueless". (Ideally I'd be able to tell why my utterances have been deemed valueless but that's a secondary issue.)

6XFrequentist11yHow loud are you? Seriously, I just completed a voice training class, and it's really astonishing how bad I was at guessing my decibel level (although I was as likely to be too loud as too quiet). Some other people in the class were barely audible even when they claimed it felt like they were shouting. Get a webcam or smartphone camera, record your normal volume range (from "mouse" to "shout"). If you're hard to hear, get in the habit of taking a breath and using your diaphragm (to me this feels like tensing my stomach to get punched) when speaking. Overdo it for a while. If you do this and still get ignored, then at least you can cross off the "Too Quiet" hypothesis and keep exploring.
0Alicorn11yI was told to be quieter a lot when I was a kid. I think I am quieter now. I am still seldom told to speak up.
4Cayenne11yTry instead to 'ping' the other person. Once you've communicated a concept, ask "does that make sense?" or something similar, and see what they say. (This also has a way of forcing people to pay closer attention to you, since passive listening may not be enough... I have this habit. Is it Dark Arts?)
4Alicorn11yPeople ignore me when I do things like that, too.

That sounds like rudeness.

0Dorikka11y(You're not persuading someone to accept a proposition as true, so I don't think it would fall under the definition of Dark Arts [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Dark_arts]. I'd class it as 'potential social skill', similar to those above.)
1Cayenne11y(I may try too hard sometimes to not manipulate people. I think that it's possible that I may use manipulative tactics without realizing it myself, so I worry about things like this. I might be persuading people that the proposition 'what I am saying is something you value highly enough to pay close attention to me' is true, for example.)
3cousin_it11yI'm not completely certain, but it seems likely that they're just not paying attention. Do you have a good detector of other people's attention? Do you know on a gut level how to grab their attention first, before you even begin to say anything, and then keep it focused on yourself as you're talking? If someone is paying attention, they will feel "socially forced" to react to your words afterward, at least say "hmm" or shrug.
3NihilCredo11yEven so, the approach should be the same: keep going, don't break the flow. If they really didn't hear you and they are interested in the slightest about what you said, they'll eventually ask you to repeat, if not on the spot then when their turn to speak comes. If either is untrue, demanding confirmation from them is going to sound annoying. Also, I'm reaching out a little here (I'm no social wizard), but I get the impression that, in a conversation, taking the job of making sure that the communication went through correctly places you on a slightly lower status.
1Alicorn11yIf they didn't hear me, how are they going to know there's anything to repeat?

I used to operate under a similar heuristic. Eventually I figured out that 90% of the time, if someone didn't respond to me, it's because they couldn't think of anything to say or it wasn't funny or interesting. Occasionally someone might miss something I said, the but the utility-hit of ALWAYS repeating myself (and being annoying 90% of the time) is not worth the benefit of occasionally repeating something useful.

Or put it this way: If you're about to repeat something, first think about how important it is and the consequences of it not having been heard. Then divide that importance by 10. If the result is more significant than sounding annoying by repeating yourself, then go ahead.

0wedrifid11y90% sounds a bit high. But even when not heard (or not comprehended) repeating a mediocre statement can appear mildly needy. If they want to hear they can, of course, prompt you themselves.
0Alicorn11yIt's useful to have this percentage as a guess at my own baseline, and I may fall back on your heuristic as a default. But what I really want is a way to find out before I have to repeat myself whether I've been heard. I refer back to earlier utterances in conversation; I adjust my models of others' intentions based on what information I think they have to work with; sometimes it's a question and the difference between "I didn't hear you" and "I have no opinion" matters for my next action.
2Raemon11yThis is going to depend a lot on what you're saying and why you want them to have heard it. If you're actually communicating about a problem/project that you're collaborating on, I think there's more room to repeat yourself because the consequences of misinterpretation can be pretty major. If instead you're navigating a social arena (either for its own sake, or to gain status that you'll need later) then I think it's almost always going to be better to go with the uncertainty. If you're worried that people DON'T think your statements are valuable, then it's probably better to focus on that. And in that case, it may be worth the status hit to ask point blank a few times: "Hey, did you hear what I just said" "yeah?" "Why didn't you respond?" "...because I (didn't care/wasn't funny/etc" "why didn't you care?" "Uh, because X, I guess" This is NOT a good general practice. But it may be a necessary cost to figuring out how to communicate better. Save it for people you at least reasonably trust (but who are close enough to the average social person to have advice that is generalizable).
1Dorikka11yData point: If you did this with me, then you'd need to be pretty careful not to sound defensive. I tend to shrug, grin, and make a fairly non-specific response because usually when people ask that question, I'm just trying to get them off my back. If you wanted to me to try and give you a thoughtful answer, you'd want to convey curiosity, even prefacing the question with 'I'm curious..."
2Raemon11yYeah, my actual script there wouldn't work very well. I didn't bother trying to do a better one because it'd be incredibly context-dependent, and any "good" specifics I gave wouldn't really work anyway.
0Raemon11yI should point out that the 90% number was mostly made up (it's somewhere between 65% and 95%, I haven't done a formal study.)
0NihilCredo11yI was assuming this was in the context of a conversation, where even if sound fails they will be looking at you and it will be obvious that you were talking. If you're trying to talk to someone who's not looking at you, that's different.
0Alicorn11yPerhaps importantly, I'm often talking to people who I'm not looking at, so I don't time my utterances for when they'd be looking at my mouth and would notice me talking. This seems pretty easy to learn to fix, so I'll try that.
2KrisC11yOn many occasions I get a similar reaction, most often at work. At the appropriate place in a conversation for interjection, I will start to speak. In the middle of the first syllable, I will be interrupted and the participants in the conversation will continue as if I was not about to speak. * Perhaps I am unheard. * Perhaps I am considered of lower status amongst the peer group represented. * Perhaps the participants predict my comment will be off topic. * Perhaps there is a physiological cause. Specifically, auditory processing delay. {The time span it takes your conscious mind to become aware of a noise.} Auditory processing delay is the one I find most interesting as I have accepted the outlier social role, perhaps too well. The role of auditory processing delay in speech, I suspect, is the initial cause of the interruption. For some time, I have been cognizant that I often reflexively react to sound before I "hear" it. Otherwise, why would I have tensed muscles when the unexpected noise occurs. The delay seems perceptible, perhaps .1 to .5 seconds by my estimation. This large a delay in a conversation may be atypical. This paper [http://www.csun.edu/~ainslab/readings/Victor/Corey_2008_Delayed%20auditory%20feedback.pdf] suggests a number of symptoms of high auditory delay and traits associated with it. These also suggest that I may the one experiencing an above average auditory processing delay.
1JoshuaZ11yNote that sometimes people don't reply when they have heard someone not because they think the comment is valueless but simply because they don't have any immediate, obviously relevant reply to make.
1Alicorn11yI would hope that people who don't reply for this reason would at least look at me and purse their lips or go "hm" or shrug or something.
1Raemon11yI've had a similar problem talking on the phone with friends. Many of my friends prefer to remain completely quiet unless they actually have something to say. I prefer an occasional "yeah, uh huh" just to make sure that the person is still listening or that the call hasn't been dropped." After talking for a few minutes without an audible response, I sometimes say "hey, would you mind grunting on occasion so I know the call hasn't been dropped?" I don't know if it's socially optimal but it seems to work. (I only do this with friends who reasonably "get" me. I probably wouldn't recommend it with people you're not that close with)
-1David_Gerard11yJokes are overrated. Stories in general are overrated. Approximtely no-one cares about my fascinating stories. I keep pointing this out to myself in the hope it will sink in.
5Barry_Cotter11yThis is hideous advice. If you can't make your stories fascinating to other people, you should indeed stop. But signalling is important in many, many contexts, and if you confine yourself to just doing stuff, and never talking about it, you will be at a very large disadvantage to better self-publicists unless you are operating at a very, very high level.
2[anonymous]11y.
2Cayenne11yYou may want to try to write one down as you say it, getting the structure of your speech onto the paper, and then look for annoying patterns. A couple of the patterns that I've found the most annoying are multiple digressions and narcissism. Multiple digressions can be easy to make as you realize that there is a part of your story that depends on information the other person won't have, and so you digress for a moment to fill them in, and then realize that that too requires more information, and so forth. Imagine the other person in the conversation as a stack machine with a very small stack limit and a very low memory size, where too many digressions will overwrite either the point you were trying to make or even what the conversation was about at all. The best thing to do in this case is eliminate unnecessary information in the story to simplify it. An example would be something like: "I had a roommate Steve, that oh wait, did I ever tell you about Steve? Well, (digression of length). Wait, what was I going to say?" The proper way to fix this would be something like: "I had a roommate that used to do , and used to happen every time." Narcissism is harder to deal with. All of your stories are of course ones that you are in, but focusing solely on yourself when telling them can turn people off. My advice is to avoid stories like this unless they are very on-topic, and even then try to emphasize what was happening around you more than your actions.
0Dorikka11yI smell an inferential distance problem here. This advice seems to be non-generalizable enough as-is that you may want to explain a bit more.
-1wedrifid11yFortunately it is a no-lose situation. The people who are going to be annoyed by the repetition are those that heard you the first time and deemed your words valueless. And those people sound like assholes with poor judgement so who cares what they think?
4Cayenne11yYou do, that's who. If that person is your boss or a colleague you must work with, you must overcome that attitude or fail.
2wedrifid11yObviously having a lack of social power in a context changes the optimal signalling strategy. All sorts of self sabotage can become necessary by way of a tithe. This especially applies if you are not able (or willing) to navigate the social world in such a way as to work with bosses who respect you. When it comes to dealing with equals - strangers, potential friends the attitude that must be overcome is that of holding yourself back for fear of annoying someone who doesn't even like you anyway and who you don't need to impress. Optimise your interaction for those that you most care about and err on the side of assuming that they care what you have to say. The default state of most people is to be too hesitant, too willing to walk on eggshells. One of the greatest benefits to trying things that have potential benefit but also potential to be annoying is that it is the best way to find out. Doubts don't help you, experience does. And annoying someone slightly doesn't usually have the dire long term consequences our instincts warn us of.
3Cayenne11yI use the attitude you're talking about, call it forthrightness, as a filter to find people that I might want to be friends with. Anyone that stays in my personal sphere is someone I do not have to worry about offending when I want to relax. It has led me to be rather abrasive, I suspect, but also comfortable. To be clear, I'm talking about opinions and preferences here, not body language or the social norms that regulate groups. I think of someone that pretends to have an opinion/preference that they don't have naturally as wearing a mask of sorts. I don't like masks. This is why I don't like the manipulative tactics of pick-up artistry. There is a distinct difference between someone trying to become more able socially, and someone that tries to mirror your beliefs, preferences, and opinions in order to manipulate you. Learning to express yourself doesn't repel me the way masks and PUA do.
[-][anonymous]11y 8

Do not approach within arm's reach (fingertips ourstretched) without them facing you. This is the approximate 'personal space' boundary. As soon as they back up even slightly, stop; you've gotten too close to them. If you find someone constantly edging away from you, adjust that distance upwards.

Note the exact distance varies greatly with culture. This is true even when comparing only Western nations to each other.

0Cayenne11yThis is true. If the other person moves close enough that you end up wanting to back away, this might be what is at play. Note that it is natural for people to move slightly closer to each other in an active conversation as well.

Always wait for someone else to laugh at your joke before you join in.

This is generally good advice, but can backfire if you show no signs that you are conscious of making a joke. Making people laugh while remaining deadpan yourself is a high-level humour skill. Listeners who are not sure whether or not to laugh will look for cues from other listeners and from you, and if you're not laughing they may just go along with that.

Often it's better to make it obvious that you've amused yourself with your own joke, with a smile or small chuckle, but not react to whether others laugh or not. That displays confidence, and gives others the social room to laugh if they want.

3Vladimir_M11yAll this is extremely context-dependent. On some of the most fun occasions when I told jokes or funny stories, I was barely able to tell them comprehensibly because I was unable to suppress spasms of laughter. Of course, if the audience and the atmosphere is not right, this can make you look like an idiot or extremely annoying.
1Cayenne11yOh, yes. Smile, but do not actually laugh. I'm sorry, I missed that earlier.
0Dorikka11yI think this would be a useful edit for the list.
0Cayenne11yEdited in. I wonder if it might not be worth it to try to make a wiki out of this, like 'writing the unwritten laws of social interaction' or something. It would be a huge project. I don't really consider myself an expert in these things, just someone willing to try to articulate the rules as I see them.
[-][anonymous]11y 7

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2jhuffman11yI may qualify in some respects. I would say my biggest difficulty is that I often cannot make myself even pretend to be interested for a few minutes in what most people have to talk about. It is conceivable that I could carry such a conversation if I tried hard enough, which is why I tentatively answer your question in the affirmative. I am not sure I can do it though. I have a very difficult time paying attention to conversation that does not interest me.
1[anonymous]11y.
1jhuffman11yI hope the worst thing that I do is talk too little. It is possible I show other signs of being bored or even exasperated. I avoid some conversations, hopefully its rarely obvious that I do this. It does not interfere too much with my goals, I do fine career-wise. I do feel uncomfortable in some situations that "should" feel pretty normal, such as while trying to make small-talk with a neighbor while our children play at the playground. There is nothing obvious at stake here, but you never know when your relationship with a neighbor could become important.
0[anonymous]11y.

If you have not showered or bathed with soap in the last 24 hours and used deodorant, people will notice.

Soap is overrated. Deodorant is not.

9Raemon11yMy experience: If you are using deodorant but not showering, body odor is noticeable at a radius of approximately 1 foot per day. The first day, as long as you don't get within a foot of people (you usually shouldn't in most day to day activities), people won't notice. But by day 3, it'll be noticeable. (Note: this is for winter/air-conditioned days. Moderate exercise or hanging out in hot computer labs can accelerate this process. Hot summer days you absolutely should be taking a shower every day). This is based off of approximate research with a limited number of friends (with a very small sample size so I could easily be wrong. And I probably came up with the 1' rule in particular because it seemed nice and elegant as oppose to was directly suggested by the data, but it seemed fairly close).
3wedrifid11yWhen hiking it can be fun to make guesses about the hikers that you pass walking the other way along a multiple day track... Deodorant without washing... No deodorant, no washing... Washing and deodorant... Washing, deodorant and actually changing clothes!
2Prismattic11yNo soap != no showering. I use deodorant, and typically shower daily in summer and every other day in winter, but I only use soap when showering after strenuous exercise or long periods outside in the heat, and then generally only on the armpits/nether regions.
0jsalvatier11yTrue. I only use shampoo and that not even most days. I don't have a problem with smell.
2wedrifid11yYou found volunteers to not shower for you? Ick. Double ick if they did unprompted.
1Raemon11yYes... that's exactly what happened.
0jhuffman11yThis is really useful research. I am not being facetious. Is there a journal that would publish such a thing?
3Raemon11yMy "research" would not stand up to peer review, but I concur that more serious research would be genuinely useful. In case it was unclear, the last statement was a joke. Periodically when I haven't had time to shower in a few days I ask friends "hey, I haven't showed in a few days. Tell me when you can start to smell me" and then step slowly towards them. I'm reasonably certain that they answered honestly.
1Cayenne11ySoap is more necessary than you may think, as it can remove layers of oil and allow the deodorant to function more effectively. Also, body oils go rancid after a while, and some people are much more sensitive to that than others.
5knb11ySoap strips away the horny layer, leaving the skin far more susceptible to infections (like zits), as well as general dryness and flakiness. If you feel you must shower every day, you should take short cool or lukewarm showers without soap. Ideally, you should take a couple of sans douche days per week to let the skin heal. If you are taking a short, cool shower every day, you shouldn't need soap to avoid body odor.
2NancyLebovitz11yThat's got to be one of those mileage varies things. I take a bath or shower almost every day, and I like hot water. It doesn't seem to have any bad effects on my skin. If I do skip a day, nothing seems to get any better.
0knb11yIt definitely is a mileage varies thing, though getting rid of or weakening the horny layer (the layer of dead skin cells that protects the living skin beneath) can have non-obvious consequences. For example, you may experience more sun damage than you otherwise would and thus accumulate wrinkles more quickly. Going one day without showering isn't enough to see improvement, but if you consistently take a sans douche and avoid soap, hard scrubbing, and hot water, you might see long-term improvements. On the other hand, some people like hot showers a lot. It may not be worth it to you.
2wedrifid11yThis was once my passionate belief. I had an awful lot of pride to swallow when I changed my mind [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i9/the_importance_of_saying_oops/]. Especially given all those bad jokes I had been making at my friend's expense. Until then it had served as the universally applicable comeback whenever she was being obnoxious - a personalised alternative to mom jokes. Given a couple of weeks to recover from the ongoing chemical abuse I would expect someone who cleaned themselves daily (or twice daily) without soap to have less body odour than the soap junkie. Particularly at the end of a long hot day. Extensive exfoliation is far more effective than a pH attack when it comes to allowing deodorant to function effectively and if there is excess oil that will be removed with the dead skin. Since you do not also dry out the skin that does remain your body will not feel the need to reproduce excessive amounts of oil to recover from the lack. Robin Hanson touched on the subject [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/04/news-you-can-use.html] recently on OvercomingBias. The article he cites perhaps goes even further than I have, being a little wary of excessive exfoliation too. But I enjoy efoliating so I'm keeping it up. :P The exception I have for soap-like substances is the face. I use all sorts of fun stuff on the face so as to prevent any blackheads or other blemishes. My favourite is tretinoin, which is also brilliant for preventing (or reducing) wrinkles and generally slowing (skin) ageing.
5khafra11yI sense a new post coming up: "The Rationalist's Guide to Baby-Soft, Age-Defying Skin."
3Cayenne11yI didn't say that it was the person that had rancid oils that was sensitive. Using the words 'soap junkie' seems like a deliberate attempt to reframe this issue. We do have hundreds of millions of people that do shower and use soap daily, and have for years, without their skin peeling off. I would rather see people err on the side of stinking less, and this is easier to do with soap.
2[anonymous]11yI suspect there are actually good reasons for the disagreement here. I believe a large proportion (relative to the population) of people on LW have Asperger's Syndrome. Skin conditions and sensitivity are often comorbid symptoms of AS, so it would seem likely that the negative effects that soap can have would be more likely to show up in $RandomLessWronger than $RandomPerson. In my own case, most soaps and deodorants irritate my skin enormously, but I've found particular ones that don't, and I use very little of them to be on the safe side, while still using enough to keep myself clean and non-stinking.
-1wedrifid11yI didn't claim you did, nor did anything I say rely on that assumption. Or that one. I explicitly reject the way you are trying to frame the issue. In particular trying to frame it as 'advocating stinking more vs stinking less" as you do below is misleading in the extreme: You are mistaken about the most effective way to prevent unseemly body odour. There is not the slightest hint of disagreement about whether or not stinking is a good thing. Edit: Ahh, I see. The second irrelevant part makes sense as a reply to knb in the sibling.
2Cayenne11yI'm not arguing effectiveness, simply ease of use. A simple daily routine is much more resilient to schedule interruptions, and it's important to have this be as easy as possible.
-1wedrifid11yI do not believe I am advocating a complicated routine either. A rough face washer (or more specialized substitute) vs soap. Time difference and complication should be minimal. Soap isn't that bad. It's not going to make that much difference either way if people prefer it. But that's just the point - it isn't important. (Deodorant is, for most people.)
3Cayenne11yAh, I seem to have conflated your argument with the one that you linked to, referenced on Overcoming Bias, that suggests 'sans douche' days. For someone trying to internalize the practice of being clean, skipping days seems detrimental. I didn't write this for the people that already know these things, but rather for the people that find them a mystery.
0wedrifid11yI definitely don't recommend that. That's crazy. I can't see any benefit for occasional not bathing. Daily (or twice daily) is so much simpler.
0wilkox11yWhy do you say this?

I've taken the liberty of formatting this as a list. I hope you don't mind.

3Cayenne11yNot at all. I don't like the article editor much, and I was mostly concentrating on getting out the ideas.
2Vladimir_Nesov11y(I don't like the editor either, the only convenient way of dealing with most formatting glitches is processing raw HTML.)

I have great difficulty maintaining eye contact, which unfortunately conveys false impressions of either shiftiness or submissiveness. I found it extremely useful when someone pointed out to me that a)even for people like me, it is not particularly difficult to keep one's eyes on another person's forehead, and b)at the typical conversational distance (at least in anglophone countries), it is not possible to reliably distinguish when someone is looking at your forehead from when they are looking you in the eyes.

Corollary: Because looking at the forehead is... (read more)

3Alicorn11yI find that I can easily look at one of a person's eyes without discomfort.
0Cayenne11yA good technique is to not concentrate on any one feature, but keep looking at their face. I don't mean defocus, but instead focus alternately on different features.

Do not approach within arm's reach (fingertips ourstretched) without them facing you. This is the approximate 'personal space' boundary.

I think that this is culturally dependent and not universal.

As soon as they back up even slightly, stop; you've gotten too close to them. If you find someone constantly edging away from you, adjust that distance upwards.

This seems to me to be a good heuristic.

Try to emphathize with people -- most of the time people do things which make sense given their goals and beliefs, and knowing those can make sure that you stay on the same page, and avoid miscommunication.

In general: learn body language! Most of what you are communicating is being communicated by your body. Take some responsibility for what you are telling others with your body, and how you are making them feel.

Example: When a guy walks up to a girl and says, "Hey, I think you're cute," she's either going to think he's creepy or she's going to blush and smile. The difference will be made by the guy's body language. Either he has communicated that he is awkward and uneasy around women and not fun to be around, or he has communicated that he is conf... (read more)

Everybody has heard this. Not everybody has heard a clear explanation of how you learn body language. It's not a trivial thing, and most exhortations to learn body language come across as "Because you fail to operate your meat-puppet according to a long list of rules which I will not explain, many of which you don't know that you don't know, you are socially and morally deficient." I know that's not your intent.

What I really liked about this article is that it breaks down some of the basics into pieces small enough for someone to learn and follow. That's valuable.

Not everybody has heard a clear explanation of how you learn body language. It's not a trivial thing, and most exhortations to learn body language come across as "Because you fail to operate your meat-puppet according to a long list of rules which I will not explain, many of which you don't know that you don't know, you are socially and morally deficient."

The strange thing is that when a nerd is disrespected via reference to an engineering or physics principle that they are not in the loop about they are probably going to head to google and learn their missing knowledge. But not all of those same nerds will head to google to learn the social knowledge. It'll take a lot of study and practice to master it but there are more than enough resources available to get started.

For example.

9lukeprog11yNo, not everybody knows the importance of body language. I run into people all the time who don't know this. But yes, of course a clear explanation of how to develop good body language is important. I just don't have time to write that book right now. But I am developing a curriculum on it for the rationality boot camp and mini-camp.
4Cayenne11yThanks! A way to learn body language is simply watching others in social situations, trying to imagine yourself in the same positions, and seeing what they do differently than you would have. The obverse is that you have to practice it yourself as well. Go to a crowded but impersonal place, like a mall. Watch people in general. Spend time looking at the distance between them, how their voices sound, and anything that stands out.
2XFrequentist11yCould you please resolve your approval of the (IMHO excellent) material wedrifid provided with this comment [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/5i0/mitigating_social_awkwardness/42d1]: To be clear, I think you've prematurely written off a good source of useful information that could help you get what you want, and I don't think there's any need for it. I am not advocating trying to trick people into acting against their interests.
3Cayenne11yLearning to interpret body language and avoiding transmitting unintentional signals are very good skills to have. Attempting to then manipulate someone else into trusting you with any of the more common PUA techniques like anchoring or mirroring I view as dark arts. I have read about PUA, though it was to be able to identify any techniques being used on me and not to practice them myself. tl;dr: Studying the techniques seems useful. Actually using them to manipulate is Dark Arts.
7Alicorn11yI have trouble with this one. In general, what I'm doing with my body is largely determined by my efforts to maintain physical comfort and has little (albeit not quite zero) relationship with the interactions I'm having/emotions I'm experiencing. My face also makes expressions without my permission that often have no obvious relationship with what I'm thinking or feeling, and I can't tell without looking in a mirror. (I can make deliberate expressions, too, but this is effortful. Also some of them seem to be wrong: I have been told that my attempt at "attentive" is more "terrified".) My tone of voice is not quite as unruly, but sometimes misbehaves. And I'm not good at tracking when it's doing that if I'm using my own words in real time and therefore have to compose them while I speak. On top of all this I have an undiagnosed breathing disorder that makes me yawn, sigh, and gasp a lot when the semantic content of these sounds is inappropriate. Is there anything I can do to make people pay less attention to these cues, short of demanding that people only interact with me via text? I tell people these things but, except for the breathing thing, they often outright don't believe me, and even the ones who claim to believe me seem to forget.
8Vladimir_M11yHave you reached this conclusion by systematic study of your behavior, or is it just a vague impression that you have? If the latter, you may be extremely wrong about it. People usually have a horribly inaccurate view of what their behavior really looks like from the outside. Besides, many crucial elements of body language are determined by movements that don't affect physical comfort much.
1Alicorn11yI don't know if I would call it "systematic". However, people often make outright wrong assumptions about my attitudes and feelings and then explain that these inaccuracies were based on my body language. How many mistakes of this kind someone makes varies from person to person. At any rate, when I read lists of body language signals, anything on the list that I ever do, I at least sometimes do for comfort reasons. My physical comfort is affected by a lot of things that other people don't seem to be discomforted by.
4David_Gerard11yReading lists and then comparing them to what you think your behaviour is strikes me a a really bad way to get accurate results. Video yourself. Just set the laptop down with the webcam taking in the room and record a video for yourself. Once you relax and stop worrying about the camera, observe the results. You will see things you had no idea about. Try to correct, videoing the result. Repeat.
4Alicorn11yI appreciate where you're coming from, but I'm actually often intrusively aware of my position and what factors are going into it. I adjust it frequently, and this is almost always a conscious matter; the habits that I have which sometimes fall into the background (adjusting my glasses, straightening up so I can accommodate my weird breathing needs) are all comfort-based and just common enough that I can take care of them subconsciously.
2David_Gerard11yYeah, it's a big YMMV. I used to interview people a lot and was frequently appalled to hear what my voice actually sounded like. Then people would tell me what a good phone voice I had. But I do think that in the general case, objectively recording what you're actually doing will be much more informative than not.
0handoflixue11yI've found Skype conversations rather good for this - it has my video as well as the other person's, and thus increases my awareness of a lot of my body language habits. It also means I'm engaged in a conversation, which seems to bring out significantly different body language.
0handoflixue11yInteresting. I'd never thought to deliberately seek out a list of body language signals before. :)
8lukeprog11yPeople generally can't not react to your body language, because nearly all of their reaction comes from their subconscious. The girl approached by the guy with poor body language does not think "If he walks like that then he must not have much confidence or success with women, and that must be because he doesn't know how to show a woman a good time." Rather, she just looks at him and thinks "Ewwww." So yeah, you gotta train your body language and your facial expressions. I am still in the process of training my facial expressions - which means that yes, I spend a lot of time in the mirror being surprised by the difference between what my face is doing and what I thought it was doing. (Built-in laptop webcams are great for this, too!) These are skills that can be explicitly learned and practiced, just as with guitar-playing or salesmanship. And that's good news.
3Alicorn11yThe facial expressions could probably benefit from some combination of practice and coaching. The body language one is harder because, as I said: comfort. If I need to be sitting a certain way to not be cramped or trapping sweat or sliding out of my chair or whatever, that is going to take precedence over doing something somebody told me would indicate interest. Otherwise I will be uncomfortable and then my body language will eventually slide towards indicating (insofar as it indicates any true thing) "I am uncomfortable", which isn't right either.
2KrisC11yWhy do you believe this? Why do you believe that social skills equate to fun? Children lack social skills (right?) and are known for their playfulness.
6Nornagest11yFirst off, you shouldn't be asking about lukeprog's opinion but about the opinion of the anonymous woman in his example, or about the distribution of that attitude more generally. Making friends and having fun with people is a statistical game, and the numbers are not on your side if you filter out all but a handful of social saints and atypical psychologies. Second, improved social skills translate directly into avenues for social fun. If you're looking for non-social fun, you don't need more than rudimentary social skills, but it's rare for people to be completely without a need for social interaction. As to childhood, I don't know about you, but my childhood would have been much more pleasant if I'd known to avoid avoidable rudeness and absorb unintended slights aimed at me. I'd also hazard a guess that younger children are wired in some way to have more social plasticity than adults (though note that that doesn't mean tolerance); late childhood, where social roles become less fluid and more important but social skills are still poorly developed, can be pretty hellish especially for the nerdier folks among us.
-1KrisC11yOh, I mistook to be an assertion on lukeprog's part that "a good time" was dependent on competent social skills. I now see the intention was that the man was communicating confidence, success, and charm. Still, haven't we all been raised to be accepting of other people. I still don't understand why it takes a saint to allow others to be themselves. There are plenty of criteria to judge people on besides eye contact, voice modulation, posture, and the ability to feign interest. Your mind is only going to register minor transgressions for a few fleeting seconds. Those who are attempting to deceive should be mistrusted, that seems more axiomatic than guesses as to statistical distributions of personality types. The fear is that social skills include the dark arts. When successful people utilize social skills well enough to fool some but not others, some observers who are not convinced feel revulsion. When a peer is revealed to be feigning interest for personal gain, what should be the consequence? When it is revealed that a statistically significant portion of the population is dishonest, why should a person seek out peers? Only because it is necessary, no matter how distasteful, to bite one's tongue and smile. Please realize, I do understand that social skills are important and a tool to success. I practice, I sometimes act poorly, and I try again. While eminently practical, social skills are still arbitrary social convention and an inconvenience for those who are least interested.
4[anonymous]11y"Still, haven't we all been raised to be accepting of other people" No. As someone with Asperger's, I can say 'we' really, really haven't. There really are only three options - learn to control your body language, tone of voice etc so that you are playing by the rules most people in your society are playing by, accept that most people will dislike you if you're slightly different and concentrate on being friends with only other 'different' people, or be desperately unhappy.
1Cayenne11yI remember there being a communication rule of thumb: 'accept sloppy input, but transmit strict output'. It would be nice if all people were more permissive, but in any case having to conform to the output protocol/social norms is desirable. ...I know that in a lot of cases the rules seem unnecessarily complex when you can get people to articulate them at all, and having to learn this isn't easy. I wish there was an easy way to fix this. I was rather socially awkward as a child, and really only started learning how to handle myself socially after I reached majority. It involved a lot of trial and error, and frustration.
3arundelo11yPostel's Law: "Be conservative in what you send; be liberal in what you accept." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle]
0KrisC11yHow much of your communication do you want to be about navigating social protocols? How confident are you that you are not stuck in a locally optimized set of social interactions? Upon reflection, I would say that is an ability to switch fluidly amongst a variety of different interaction protocols, matching your behavior to your audience. It is not immediately clear that an adaptive strategy is worth the computational costs. Unfortunately, the number of interaction patterns is vast. If one has a novel idea, in order to be effective individually one must be fluent in direct social interaction, online and print display, e-mail and online discussion, narrative and technical writing, and preferably additional talents of personal interest. This is in addition to being fluent in the subject you are expounding. Further complicate this continuously updating probabilities that you are wasting your time on your audience. The temptation to avoid social interaction often outweighs the perceived benefit. The price of interaction is often very high in terms of lost productivity for failed attempts.
1Cayenne11yYou don't have to achieve the most optimal fluency. I think that learning basic social interaction is much like learning typing, in that it reduces the amount of time you will spend performing tasks and correcting mistakes related to it by many times the time spent learning over your lifetime. Becoming locally-optimized may very well be good enough for most people. Avoidance works well some of the time, but when it fails it's nice to have at least a small amount of ability to fall back on.
2endoself11yIt's not always correct, it's just the heuristic that brains use.
0[anonymous]11y.
2lukeprog11yConcerning facial expressions? I'm training myself to express with my face what I intend to express with my face. What I intend to express will depend on the effect I'm trying to create in the social situation.
3[anonymous]11y.
5Kaj_Sotala11yI'm not entirely sure of how your question relates to this discussion, but to answer it in the general case... Assuming the elephant is well-trained, then it's usually better for it to be in control. For instance, you'll want to let your elephant handle moving your feet back and forth when walking, instead of needing to consciously think about each step. You want to let your elephant automatically interpret others' facial expressions, instead of having to figure out their meaning yourself, and so forth. Of course, if the elephant is badly trained and e.g. misreads others' expressions, then you should re-train it. But once you've done so, you'll want it to take over again. The rider is conscious, directed attention which tires quickly. The elephant is automatic processes which run constantly and tire much more slowly. You should train your elephant to take care of as many things as possible, and conserve the rider's energy to only the cases where it's really needed. Of course, the "should" is kinda redundant here, since you can't avoid doing this. Whenever you repeat some behavior long enough for it to become automatic, you're training the elephant to act in a certain way and then transferring control to it.
1[anonymous]11y.
1mutterc11yWould it be better to try to make yourself really deadpan / inscrutable?
1Alicorn11yDeadpan is doable, and easier than deliberate expressions, but unless I'm making specific types of jokes, it's at odds with the cheery cute persona I prefer to project.
1Cayenne11yYou can try to practice in front of a mirror. I don't know how much that will help, but it may. Voice control is hard for some people. Singing with pop music, and just using your voice more in general perhaps will help. In either case, you're running into some serious difficulties. I wish I could offer better advice or help.
6playtherapist11yI'm atypical of people on this board, as some of you might know. I found it through my son, who fits the demographics much more. I'm a clinical social worker/ child therapist- thus my name "play therapist". What I didn't see mentioned, which I think is probably a more common problem than people not using the right body language to convey what they mean to, is not picking up on the body language, tone of facial expressions and tone of voice of people you are speaking to. I don't have any easy answers about how to learn to read them, it's something that is intuitive for most people. If you can learn to read people that way, though, it will be a huge help in social interactions. For example, when you say something and there is no response, there will usually be non-verbal cues as to whether you were heard.
1Cayenne11yPerhaps watching people taking acting lessons might help? Those people are trying to learn body language, vocalization, and effective communication, so seeing what they do when they get it right may help with learning how to read others.
-1playtherapist11yI think watching people taking acting lessons must be a very good way to learn how to read others. Unfortunately, it's not something that's very convenient for most people to do. I think focusing in on the facial expressions and body language of good actresses and actors while watching movies, t.v., etc. would help, too.
0katydee11yUnfortunately I think it will be extremely difficult to make people pay less attention to these cues, especially because there is a large body of research indicating that they are quite meaningful indeed-- see Ekman for more information. Now, it's possible that in your case they are not, or convey meanings that you are not attempting to convey, but this would be quite unusual and I think many would have trouble with it.
1Alicorn11yI am non-thrilled with the presentation of your example.
0Cayenne11yThis is true. Learning to respect other people's personal space is an important component of this.

I once had a job that required a lot of walking in hot weather, and everyone, coworkers and customers smelled bad. For some reason, an anonymous coworker complained to the boss about my smell in particular (I was already showering daily, wearing fresh clothes, and shaving body hair to reduce smell). So I bought some pocket-sized Axe deodorant spray and used it frequently. After that, everyone noticed the way I smelled. It was a little like the commercials, but much less extreme.

And that's the story of how I started wearing deodorant. You should too if you don't, and don't worry about people making fun of the smell or certain brands. Market research reflects people's preferences better than social memes.

2Cayenne11yI highly recommend deodorants but I think that scents should be much more subtle. I'm fairly sensitive to perfumes and fragrances, and getting a nose-full of Axe is like being hit with a club. If I can smell someone's perfume/deodorant/aftershave/cologne from more than a meter away then I'll usually try to avoid getting any closer than that. I have met others with the same sensitivity. This advice is totally personal opinion, not a rule of any kind. I think that it reflects people's exploitable biases more than preferences in a lot of cases. The marketer's job is to convince you that you need his produce more than you need your money, and when it's true it's good... but a lot of times it isn't.
0jhuffman11yThis sounds like it could be very insightful. Certainly there is going to be serious research where money is involved, and poor research will be eroded by selection pressures. I am not sure of the social meme that we may suppose to reflect people's preferences though - do you mean the mildly derogatory comments that people make in light of the heavy-handed advertising cliches?

This post could do with a link to this post.

From the linked article:

5. When given a compliment, "Oh, you're so well-read!", we look blankly in the eyes of the complimenter, and respond "Yes, I know."

That one's just fun sometimes. Maybe not quite blank. Let a hint through that the blankness is part of the jest. Do make sure there is some sort of signal that you don't take yourself seriously. Which roughly translates to conveying that you don't claim higher social rank by virtue of being well read.

3NihilCredo11yIt can be funny if the compliment was sincere. If the compliment was at least in part out of politeness, however, you will come off as insufferable, not witty.
4wedrifid11yIf you are getting "Oh, you're so well-read!" out of politeness you've already gone to far. :)
2[anonymous]11y.
1Manfred11yThat would be a good time to mangle an Oscar Wilde quote - namely "If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-eduacated." If they don't get it it's a joke, and if they do get it it's a double joke.
[-][anonymous]11y 1

If you have not showered or bathed with soap in the last 24 hours and used deodorant, people will notice.

I am sadly unsurprised to see in this article's comments that this is the one that gets people arguing.

[-][anonymous]11y -3

I just use what I call the Ultimate Golden Rule: avoid social interaction.

6Cayenne11yThis really doesn't sound feasible. At a minimum you want to be able to not offend others in social situations.
8Dorikka11yTo the grandparent poster: Please do not delete your comments. Even if you've changed your mind about everything that you said, just add a bolded edit tag at the bottom and say so. Deleting your comments makes the children comments less useful.
2sketerpot11yIt might be nice if there were some completely neutral social interaction method. Imagine a species of aliens whose emotions and body language are radically different from ours. How would they signal to people that they don't like you or dislike you, they don't fit into your primate dominance hierarchies, and they mean only what they say? I think the closest thing to completely neutral tone and body language is to put a wicker basket over your head [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komuso] and speak in a monotone chant. This is probably infeasible, though it would be pretty entertaining for everyone involved. A milder version would be to watch Star Trek until you can imitate Spock. Is it any wonder that so many people prefer to communicate via text?
3David_Gerard11yThis just sets your average lower. How much could Spock say with an eyebrow twitch?
2Cayenne11yText is nice, but missing subtext can leave people with very different impressions of what you meant than you think. The amount that tone, volume, emphasis, gestures, posture, speed of speech and body language matter is hard to understate. If you can't provide those cues, then other environmental cues may overwrite the feel of your text.
0[anonymous]11yRules such as that lead "you" (of course I really mean "me") into terminal failure and despair from which suicide is the only escape.
0[anonymous]11yI've been following rules like this for years, but they're inexorably leading me to the Superultimate Golden Rule: kill yourself.