If you don’t fully hear something that somebody asked you, what’s a good catch-all reply that will basically answer any question?

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It’s difficult to pay attention all the time. In fact, giving our undivided even half the time might be pushing it, yet we all crave attention from others and it looks pretty rude when we completely ignore what someone’s saying.

So when we’re listening to others, we may occasionally need to cover up the fact that we weren’t hanging on their every word and were instead wondering if bats could swim if they had ping pong balls strapped to their arms (they can, though their backstroke is frankly rubbish). Here’s a list of suggested ways to cover up the fact that you have no idea what the other person just said, no matter what it was:


The classic non-committal response. I try also nodding slightly and pursing my lips. This should give one a general vibe of interest, or agreement, or possibly anger. Who knows? Probably someone that’s been paying attention, but that’s not me.


For a slightly more intellectual fob-off, try the ‘Indeed’ technique. Bonus points for doing this this while raising a single eyebrow. When done properly, this should show that not only do you have a deep and complete interest in the subject, whatever it is, but that you fully understand it. And, incidentally, are a most intelligent person. Now where’s the wine?

“Yes but… what does that really mean?”

The next step on the pretension scale, which means that you’ve just got to commit to the italics, as well as order another side of hummus. I mean, obviously there’s the clear and plain meaning of what’s just been said, but what about the subtext, the nuance, the true and actual real meaning that only you and the person you’re talking to truly understand. You just wish you could remember their name, that would be helpful.

“I have no idea”

It’s honest, at the very least. Hell, it might have been honest even had you been paying attention. Luckily, professing ignorance will likely lead to a quick summation of what went before. Of course, if ignorance is still about after the new explanation, there may be further questions. It may be time to bring out the big gun.


For there are only two types of people in the world – those that fear The Goat, and those that feed it. Either way, it’s a sure way out of this faux pas.