[thechat] Pet Hate

Sean German ethanol at mathlab.sunysb.edu
Tue May 24 09:40:44 CDT 2005

> Someone calls to visit. You naturally offer them a cup of 
> tea. The danger is that instead of a straight Yes or No, they may say:
> "If you're having one..."

You've made a very good point.  This seemingly minor annoyance is actually a
symptom of a wide-spread social issue.  People don't know (because they
haven't been taught) how to be polite.

It seems to me, in the absence of better training most people think to be
polite is to defer to the other party.  Hence the offer of a cup of tea
results in a non-answer, "if you're having one..." (which is actually a
question (will you be having a cup of tea as well?) in reply to a question.)
rather than a yes or no.  A "thank you" is acknowledged with "not at all" or
"no problem" rather than "you're welcome."

Manners and politeness are meant to remove ambiguities from most social
situations.  When asked a question, a direct honest answer is most likely
the polite response.  "Would you like a cup of tea?"  "Yes, I'd love one.
Thank you."  "Can you come over and fix my computer?"  "No, I work with
computers all day and like to think of you as a friend and not a client."
"Do these pants make my arse look fat?"  [run away.]

In this situation your best response is to take the reply at face.  Perhaps
the person would feel uncomfortable sipping in the company of someone
without their own cup.  If you are so inclined, put on the kettle for both
of you, but certainly you have no obligation to fiddle with an empty cup
just to put the other person at ease.


Sean G.

I blame the hippies.

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