The other day at work, one of my female coworker from another team and I were working on a common task on my computer (we were discussing about our respective understanding of the problem we had to solve).

At one point (I was searching silently something in my computer), she decided to tell me (she looked enthousiast/joking/happy): "Then, muscle man?" I answered: "I'm not muscled, Peter (my desktop is in front of his) is".

I feel that her sentence was at best awkward because among my team of 6 men, I'm the smallest, the youngest, and the less sporty (Peter does 1 hour of body building 4 times a week for example).


What to answer to a compliment when you don't understand the intention? Because, if I simply say "thanks", it will mean that I take it at face value.

  • 1
    The specific context of the conversation isn't particularly clear. A nickname, apt or not, is not necessarily manipulative. – Flater Feb 23 '18 at 14:40
  • A good test to see if something is manipulative is to see if they're trying to influence your behavior for their benefit. How do you feel that this remark was intended to influence your behavior for their benefit? – sphennings Feb 23 '18 at 14:52
  • 2
    What makes you think your reply was insufficient? What makes the comment 'manipulative'? Was it a compliment or a joke? – Tinkeringbell Feb 23 '18 at 15:17
  • Well, she asked me to show her something, I think she was trying to make me more 'happy' to show her. The awkward following silence was the sign that my answer wasn't good. I'm still not sure what it was. – GlinesMome Feb 23 '18 at 17:46

I think you need to lighten up. Her comment could have simply been friendly banter. Or it could have been a sarcastic comment at your lack of fitness. Or it could have simply been an awkward attempt to flirt.

We simply don't know, and jumping to the conclusion that she's trying to manipulate you is a akin to making a mountain out of a molehill. In fact, it is far more likely that she was simply being friendly. Manipulation is usually a lot more involved than simply throwing out an empty, and clearly untrue "compliment".

However, your response to it was, in a nutshell, socially awkward, or at least decidedly taciturn.

You could have chosen to ignore the jibe, and simply addressed the technical query. Or, you could have replied humorously:

Hold on, all the blood going to my biceps is making it difficult to think.


Oh yea, I'd give Schwarzenegger a run for his money.

There's (probably) no need to feel insulted, or provoked.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.