Perfect manners in difficult social situations

It can be hard to know what to do in certain situations. This page will help you deal with some awkward or difficult social situations.

For deeper advice on what to do when things go wrong with friends or family, turn to our relationships pages.

For advice on what to do if you feel threatened or scared, see our personal safety section.

If someone is rude to you

  • Be very polite back
  • Then walk away

If two of your friends fall out

  • Try to be friends with them both
  • Don’t talk (or don’t talk too much) about the other friend when you see them

If a friend suffers bereavement

  • Most people feel better if their bereavement is acknowledged rather than ignored
  • Try to say something brief but direct in person : ‘I was very sorry to hear about…”. Be guided by them on whether they want to talk about it further or not
  • A message on social media can also be very helpful. Something sincere but brief is best.

If it looks like a person with an obvious disability (eg wheelchair or blind person’s stick) might need your assistance

  • Offer assistance politely
  • Give assistance if they accept your offer; listen to any specific instructions they give
  • Don’t force your assistance if they don’t want it
  • Don’t be offended if they’re not overcome with gratitude (whether or not they accept your offer of help). They might not want to be seen as an object of charity, they might be suffering particularly that day, or they might just be as undemonstrative/rude/distracted as anyone else going about their daily business

If someone gives you a compliment that makes you feel uncomfortable

  • Generally, assume that they’re trying to be nice. Say “thank you” in the normal way, and change the subject. If you continue to feel uncomfortable, move away
  • If it’s clear that the “compliment” is designed to make you feel uncomfortable (comments shouted at you in the street, for example, or very personal remarks), ignore it and move away if you can.

You might also be interested in our pages on:

Behaving well every day