Instant Response

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Yesterday, I went to get my second shot of Moderna vaccine at the local Walmart. The pharmacist is very young, probably just out of the pharmacy school. He is very cute and also an immigrant, probably from Middle East somewhere. He explained to me that after getting the shot I need to drink more water and I may feel like having a flu. He also apologized to make me wait since he had to thaw the vaccine for 15 minutes before the administration. I didn’t say anything, except asking him what he himself felt after getting the shot. He replied that he felt his upper arm swollen and he slept a little bit more than usual. Again I didn’t say anything during or after he made his speeches. Since he’s also a non-native speaker, we both felt comfortable that I didn’t respond to what he said–he assumed that I understood him and I assumed that I didn’t have to indicate my understanding by uttering a verbal sound. As you know, many of us come from a culture that admires silence or at least won’t judge silence.

However I know that if he’s a native speaker, he would have felt that my not responding to what he said a little awkward. English speaking people loves verbal responses and don’t feel comfortable when they don’t hear something in return after their speech. So here I am compiling a list of responses the native speakers always give even if they don’t feel they have much to say on the topic.

Responding To Something Positive

“Lucky for you”: This phrase should be used when I heard the pharmacist saying that he didn’t suffer much after getting the vaccine shot. I should have said, “Lucky for you” or “Good for you.”

“Good for you”: Same as above.

“I think that says it”: People use this phrase to show that they agree, but they don’t have much to add.

“Who doesn’t”: This phrase is uttered when you agree with the statement like “I love chocolate”, or “I hate driving.”

Being Surprised

“No joke”: If the pharmacist had told me an anecdote of somebody who lost ten pounds after getting the vaccine, it would be appropriate for me to say “no joke” to indicate my surprise.

“No kidding”: same as above.

Responding To Something Negative

“I hate when that happens”: This phrase is used when you agree with the speaker that something this bad should not have happened. Actually I never really hear people say, “I sympathize with you” although it is a most legitimate phrase to use. People always say things to indicate their sympathy but people rarely say, “I sympathize” explicitly. And I don’t know why.

“That’s a bit harsh” and “That’s uncalled for” and “I am hurt”: If you think you are unfairly criticized, you can use these phrases. I’ve never used these phrases myself since growing up under critical and authoritarian parents, I am used to unfair criticism. Communication with such parents are impossible and I never bother myself with a response. However the native speakers can raise the little flag of protest whenever they feel hurt. I think among all the responses, I like this one the best, although I’ve never used it myself.

46 thoughts on “Instant Response

  1. I use “That’s a bit harsh” and “That’s uncalled for” a lot lol. I’ve only gotten my first one so far but the pharmacist was very talkative even though we both S. Asian- I guess she’s been here longer than I have because I’m very okay with silence lol.

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    1. Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve never used “That’s a bit harsh” and “That’s uncalled for” even though I know I should use them on many occasions. That’s so true that some are very talkative (in a good and open way). I often want to find my own balancing point on talking and not talking so that I can express my authentic self. LOL.

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      1. I usually use those sarcastically though lol. Yeah I like having a balance too but to be honest I’m a pretty quiet person so I generally pick silence.

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  2. This is completely true but I’ve never even realised it before. I think it’s because native speakers sometimes feel insecure about how their responses will be interpreted if they aren’t verbal. It must feel nice though to be comfortable in the silences, it feels less insincere and less stressful [sometimes I worry if people can’t hear me or if what I said was too harsh].

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    1. Yes, English speakers have a higher demand for verbal reciprocation than other cultures. I’ve witnessed it again and again. I always wonder why this is the case but have never figured it out. I wonder if people from Germany or Netherlands are the same as English speakers. LOL.

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  3. What an original topic! Loved this. Yes as a person who cannot handle too much chatter for the sake of it, I too far prefer being clipped in my responses, without sounding rude and keeping it short and snappy. Good to hear you are feeling better now after the vaccine shot. It does make one feel confident! Take care and stay safe..

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    1. Hahaha. Thank you for the praise. Yes, same here. I tend to be more silent when I really don’t have much to talk about. Yes, thank you for the message and I have felt much better now after the initial discomfort after the vaccine shot. Yes, let’s all stay safe and healthy and wish the pandemic can blow over soon.

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  4. This is such a wonderful read!
    You always come up with delightful topics.
    So different and interesting. I think having a command over a language entitles a person to speak and react even when not really necessary.
    But sometimes silence is the best response. 🙂

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    1. LOL. I guess you will not have the problem I have since you come up with the most interesting lines always in your stories. Also you are not afraid of breaking the transition rules and talk about what you want to talk about. I on the other hand am an introvert and I’m habitually unable to think in a non-linear fashion when necessary. When I have nothing to say, I just become silent. LOL.

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        1. Yes, that’s true. I am very comfortable to be silent. I’ve learned to exert myself my when with other people, but it is a game of how to be natural and authentic in my own style without being considered odd by others. It is a balancing act. LOL.

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  5. Interesting! Here in India, it’s very common to not get a reply when you say something. Most of the times, people nod or try to avoid speaking every chance they get (works best for awkward people like me 😂). This isn’t something I’ve noticed, but now after reading your post, I realise that the sacred silence is an Asian practice lol. You made an interesting point with “Lucky for you”, “that’s a shame”, etc.. I guess that’s more characteristic of Americans than native English speakers in general. (Just an observation). This was fun to read. Also, how did you feel after your vaccine?

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    1. LOL. That’s exactly the custom–it’s very common to not get a reply when you say something–for me growing up too. I guess this is common for most of the cultures, but unfortunately this is not the case for English speakers. They want response. LOL. This is why I try to compile a list to help people to come up with responses even if they don’t have anything to say in return.
      My vaccine response is awful. Now more than 40 hours later, I finally regain my old self. I have been feverish, arm aching, sleepy, devoid of appetite for almost two days. This vaccine (Moderna) is doing something to the immune system and your body will react to it. Thank you for your comment and I hope everybody gets vaccine shot and the pandemic can go away.

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  6. I fill silence with words. Once my youngest son told me his older brother liked driving with him because silence was not awkward between them. I guess my boys all hated all the extra talking I did. At least they did not inherit that habit from me.

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    1. That’s so interesting. I can imagine you use your words to fill the silence. LOL. You have a lot of things to say. I mean a lot of good things to say.

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  7. There is so much truth in what you are saying. Much of it is often mindless chatter. I would rather people say a truth or something they really want to know. I think there is a lot we can learn from you and your culture. Sending you well wishes and hope you aren’t feeling to bad after your second shot. Hugs 🤗 Joni

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    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Yes, English is very interesting and very insistent on certain things–like pertinence, transition, reciprocating etc–that other cultures or languages don’t have.
      Yes, that’s so true. We want to be polite and we also want the substance. LOL.

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      1. My pleasure. By the way you have the most beautiful name. If I have a problem it is that I am way too honest for most. I am not hurtful as I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I will be honest if you do. Have an amazing day. Americans are all from other parts of the world. If you ask me it is us that should embrace and learn from other cultures. The first thing would be to treat our elders with great respect. Hugs and love ❤️ Joni

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        1. Oh, thank you very much. That’s so true. Elders are supposed to live with all the family members, but in modern society that’s not the case. That’s very sad. As the modern industrial society becomes the norm, most Asian societies have evolved too. Nowadays many elders live a lonely life away from their own relatives. Sigh.

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        2. Oh I am sorry to hear that. I was not aware that this was starting to begin as a cultural change. I have always admired how children grew up with an extended family which is such a blessing for the children and those growing older. I guess the pace of everyone’s culture becomes so fast that often children don’t even bring grandchildren around as much. Bless you my friend. Love to you and your loved ones. ❤️❤️Joni

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        3. That’s so true. Extended families are the best thing for kids who can get care from many sources and find playmates. Yes, for elderly too who will not be left feeling lonely. Nowadays, it is all changed. Many relatives are not even living in the same city. A lot of love and hugs for you and your family too. ❤️❤️

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  8. Some very, very good advice here, Haoyan. We should all use these tips. Personally, I love the silence, my wife makes up for both of us 😂 When something is said that is perhaps off kilter, not quite right or I see it another way, I will say “that’s interesting.” Most people during my training courses twig straight away this means perhaps they should reevaluate what they have just said and then ask for my views.

    For native English speakers like myself, it does depend where and how you were raised. My family was very much don’t speak until you are spoken to and children were seen, not heard. Although there were times I blew that one. However, on the upside, I was always allowed independent thought.

    My mum was telling me the story the other day of how, at the age of 3, I corrected my grandfather (he was a teacher, high school principal and mathematician of some renown). He said “look at that bird Sean, it has just gathered some honey.” Apparently I responded, “no, it’s nectar.” At that point he understood that perhaps I was ahead of the game a little bit. From then on he listened to whatever I had to say, and regaled the nectar story with his friends and colleagues for a very long time. From then on too, they were always interested in what I was up to. Of course that put me at odds with my cousins, but you get that in families.

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    1. Yes, I should add “That’s interesting” into the list since it is often said. I googled kilter and the word really exists. It is such a nice word. LOL. And that’s such an adorable story of a three-year-old talking about “nectar, not honey”. That’s just too cute. If a three year old says this today, it will be uploaded onto social media by his parents. LOL.

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    1. Thank you for agreeing with me. It is the polite etiquette I guess. I’ve tried to keep up, but I know it is difficult for me to come up with the instant response naturally. LOL. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

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  9. Thank you for teaching me English! Seriously, your observations are always so keen and I learn better ways to speak the language that I’ve spoken since youth. 😉

    Congratulations on your second shot, as well! I hope that you didn’t have any bad feelings, and that the eventual relief will be very rewarding for you. Hope you stay safe and healthy, and wish you the best for the holiday weekend! Take care. 🙂

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  10. To be honest, a lot of the time “lucky for you” and “good for you” are said sarcastically and/or without meaning it. I personally prefer to say, “That’s great!” instead. I feel it shows that I am sincerely happy for them. That’s a nice story about getting your shot

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        1. That’s so true. It is so nice of you to think of empathy. You are wonderful. Another thing about native speakers is that they can be so subtle and mixing everything together, while in many other cultures, people tend to make the line between sarcasm, flattery, seriousness very clear.

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        2. Thank you. Actually, it’s not just language, but also cultural norms. I definitely effed up a lot when living in England even though English is one of my native languages. There was far more in adjusting to English culture as an American than meets the eye

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        3. Really? That’s very interesting. You pique my interest. I know a person who went to graduate school in the U.K., and came back with a taste for marmite. LOL.

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