Being Literal

I value the people whose words I can take at face value. But many situations require you to interpret words that are not meant literally. When people tease you or joke around, they often mean the opposite of what they say. When they don’t want to hurt your feelings, they use white lies or outright lies. When they tell stories, the quality of the story generally trumps its veracity. So whether you want to avoid accusations of gullibility, know what people really think, or not be misled, it is important to know how to decipher what others say.

When you add a little skepticism to your world view, social interaction begins to make sense. You start to understand what people really mean. I can picture myself way back in high school, a little too earnest. If I asked a girl on a date and she responded with “oh, well I’m actually kind of busy this month,” I might have marked my calendar and called her thirty days later. I took things way too literally. Many variants on this like “I don’t think I know you well enough” or “I’m not interested in dating anyone right now” ought to be translated as “I am not attracted to you.” People will say things they don’t mean so as to avoid hurting your feelings. Read the rest of this entry »


On Creepiness

“I was just walking to class and he kept trying to talk to me. We exchanged numbers and now he texts me all the time. It’s so creepy.” Guys and girls alike have probably heard these refrains from their female friends. I can think of several explanations. Perhaps she’s upset and wants your consolation. Perhaps she’s frightened and wants your advice. Or maybe she just wants to let everyone know how much attention she receives from guys, and what better or more modest way than to phrase her boast in the form of a complaint?

For guys who haven’t caught on to this, think about it from the girl’s perspective. When she tells you “I went over to his place at 2 am just to watch a movie and hang out, and he tried to kiss me. Isn’t that creepy?”, the answer is probably no, which is why she still goes over to his place every Friday night. There is a line between being creepy and being forward. Real creepiness implies physical danger. OJ Simpson is creepy. Calling every day for a month is creepy. Persisting after being flatly rejected is creepy. But when a guy awkwardly tells you that he likes you? Or his body language reveals his interest? That doesn’t count. Read the rest of this entry »