Here is a question about etiquette, and it has this answer

How about simply asking them?

If you're unsure if your behaviour will bother someone, a small question such as:

Do you mind if I fill my drink?

Afterwards, just wait a second and if they seem uncomfortable answering, just step back, excuse yourself and wait for them to finish.

Otherwise they'll probably answer on the spot that it's not a problem and will make some room for you.


This was deleted because it didn't have backup.

Some answers are just so bleeding obvious I couldn't provide backup as I have no idea if I have ever done this, could you quote a time you asked a friend to use the toilet in their house?

I was taught this concept by my mum as a child, so I can't give any time it worked because it works every bleeding day in every situation in life.

So really other than making stuff up how do you fulfil this requirement for the proper sensible answer?

  • 2
    Check this answer and its comments. There is no such thing as common sense.
    – CaldeiraG
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 14:31
  • 2
    @CaldeiraGI work in IT, i know common sense isn't always common :) And the fact that asking wasn't on the OP's radar is double proof
    – WendyG
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 14:46
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    @WendyG OP here. Can confirm :p
    – scohe001
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 15:03

4 Answers 4


This is an excellent question.

To answer how you'd add backup for something "obvious," I'd like to walk you through my writing process when answering a question on IPS. It usually looks like:

  1. Read the question.
  2. Be struck with inspiration to give certain advice.
  3. Write the advice: "Do this!"
  4. Ask myself, why am I suggesting this advice? Why do I think that this will work?
  5. Explain both of those why's, giving the logic behind the advice.
  6. Ask myself, where did I get that logic? How do I know this?
  7. Either explain the/a situation(s) that taught me this or google around for an article explaining the basic concept.

For that answer, the advice may start as:

Simply ask them! Try: "Do you mind if I fill my drink?"

The "why" may be (taking a total stab in the dark on this, but let's assume this could be a valid choice of logic behind the answer):

When in a situation where some people may be comfortable with you taking an action and other people may react poorly, a simple solution is to ask! The worst thing that can happen is that you receive a "no." Specifically with strangers, it's always better to err on the side of caution and ask permission rather than assume.

And now it comes down to why did you think of that as your logic? For you, you could cite that you were taught to always be kind to strangers and ask permission before doing things that may upset them from your mother--and that would be perfectly valid backup.

If you wanted to be a superstar, or didn't have your mother's advice on this, you could also talk about a situation or two where you used that advice and it worked well for you. Or maybe you could google around for articles concerning asking permission and strangers to see if you could find an external source.1

Note that even if your advice feels "obvious" to you, it may not be to everyone! Pulling apart your logic and self-reflecting on your own answer is hard. But by giving us this insight into your thought process, you build stronger answers and help us all improve our interpersonal skills by giving us a set of logic we can apply to other situations as well :)

1. After googling that myself, I've found pages and pages of articles about asking strangers if you can pet their dog. If I were writing this answer and didn't have any personal experience backup, I'd take those dog articles and run with them! I'd relate wanting to use the drink dispenser at the same time with petting a stranger's dog (in both cases they may be extremely offended or they may be happy to share). And then I'd quote some advice from those articles. Just because you can't find an article directly related to the situation, doesn't mean you can't get creative!


First off, let's start with this: there is no such thing as a universally obvious answer

Some answers are just so bleeding obvious

To you, yes the answers seem obvious, but they may not seem obvious to others. You have to remember the diversity of the people who come to IPS. We have people here from different cultures all over the world, where social norms will differ. We also have a lot of users on the autism spectrum (myself included) for whom "obvious" interpersonal skills can be quite challenging.

The fact that someone is asking a question about it on IPS is a pretty good indicator that the answer is not obvious to them. Anyone who is struggling with this same issue and finds the question via Google will not find the answer obvious, because if they did, then they wouldn't need to search for it.

How to provide backup for an "obvious" answer

You provide backup for an obvious answer the exact same way that you do for a non-obvious one as detailed in this meta:

  1. Personal experience using the skills in question
  2. External references

One key thing to keep in mind is that personal experience does not require that you had been in the exact same situation. All you need to have is experience using the interpersonal skills that you are discussing to solve a problem, not necessarily the same problem.


Some answers are just so bleeding obvious I couldn't provide backup as I have no idea if I have ever done this, could you quote a time you asked a friend to use the toilet in their house?

Sure - the "personal experience" does not need to be identical! Saying "this worked for my situation [insert short description of what happened], so I think it would work for your situation too" is really what we're looking for. It's then up to the reader to decide whether they think those situations are similar enough that it's a fair comparison (and they may request more details in comments to decide this).

The point of the citation expectations here is just to make sure that advice given is in fact grounded in reality - you might be surprised how many answers have been posted where, upon questioning, the answerer said "well, no, I've never actually tried this" or "actually this didn't work for me"!

I was taught this concept by my mum as a child, so I can't give any time it worked because it works every bleeding day in every situation in life.

For this answer, I think that adding this info would be appropriate backup. Something like: "I was taught this as a child, and in situations from A-Z, have never/rarely gotten a negative reaction." Also, it would be great to mention your cultural background since this is an etiquette question (and I just saw another answer on that question saying that asking would be very rude in the UK).

  • That answer was me, it is very hard as asking is polite, and everyone would accept, but many would still be uncomfortable. But as you asked everything would be surface level fine, but if you hadn't asked you may have got a mouthful, or dirty looks like the OP.
    – WendyG
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 14:53
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    @WendyG oh whoops, I didn't check the usernames there and thought you were asking about your own answer. Swap "you" with "the user who wrote the other answer" then :)
    – Em C
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 14:58
  • I have just had / seen this so many times, people asked for proof of something basic (to them), the writer gives up and either deletes the answer or just leaves it to the whim of moderators
    – WendyG
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 15:17

I those cases where you use the technic fairly often, I believe it would be okay to just say:

I do that often in my other people' house and they always reacted well to it, even the ones that I don't really know.

However, you still need to provide enough details about the interaction (what exactly do you say, in what manner, etc..)

PS: Also, please, don't make stuff up

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