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State the Obvious

It’s easy to get in trouble when we assume that the other person will understand (or be able to deduce) what we feel. Most people love hearing things explicitly and clearly.


If you think someone has a lot of good points but you have a specific nitpick, start and end by saying what you agree with. I’ve staved off so many arguments since I realized that.

Them: Rolling at least one six on two dice is 1/3 chance.
Me: No, you’re wrong! It’s actually 11/36!


Them: Rolling at least one six on two dice is 1/3 chance.
Me: Yup! To be specific, it’s 11/36 or around 31%.

I still sometimes forget myself with this, especially when I kid myself into thinking that I’m “punching up”, whatever that means.

If I don’t start with a “yes, great post!” or similar, they’ll misread my agreements as disagreements and they’ll read my disagreements as fighting words. If I do, they’ll read my agreements as reinforcing them and my disagreements as nuanced clarifications. Which is great. This is important when the thing I want to add nuanced clarifications to is their main point but even more important when I’m replying to an aside or incidental statement they made when my reply isn’t intended to disagree with their position as a whole.

It’s common that people have the right idea but for bad reasons or with bad arguments.


To “validate” someone is to make them feel like their feelings are legit, allowed, and real. The opposite of gaslighting, sorta. This often isn’t taught well. I was like: “How the heck am I ever gonna learn this?”

Luckily, I quickly stumbled over a shortcut: state the obvious.

People—I know I do—feel invalidated AF when you skip over acknowledging that their feelings are real and jump straight into telling them that their problem is easy to solve.

Maybe this sounds weird and dumb (“Of course having a nail in your head hurts, that should go without saying, duh, I don’t need to say that, that’s obvious. Just pull it out!”) but it’s primal. Humans are social animals and getting our feelings explicitly acknowledged and legitimized often feels pretty great.

This goes for self-validating, too. It sounds even more dumb that you’d need to tell yourself the obvious, but, sometimes you do. Sometimes I can stop procrastinating on something by going “OK, I really don’t want to do it” and letting the feeling of how much I don’t want to do it wash over me (and then go do it). Humans are crazy complex multi-threaded things and what’s “obvious” to part of your brain can be a source of doubt & anxiety to another.

(As an aside, this multi-threading is also how addiction can sneak up. We trick ourselves “I’m not really addicted to birthday cakes anymore, I got over that long ago. I’ll just have one more today because today is special, because I’m sad/​happy/​excited/​bored/​Tuesday/​awake.”)


Stating the obvious is also a great way to get good at giving compliments. You don’t need to make something up when you get good at seeing the good in people, and stating it clearly and straight-forwardly.

And, obviously

I’m not kidding myself into thinking I’m this great debater, this validating, attentive, caring, complimenting, kind soul. I make mistakes all the time. I know all this stuff is tough and I’m sad and lonely and messed up, too. These are just my thoughts on how to make it a little better.