Recently I ran into an acquintence in a coffee shop. Our usual routine is to crack a few light-toned jokes or share some stories (Usually that person is quite a conversationalist and we talk about 5-15 minutes.)

That day the person had a slight facial tic and it seemed to stress them out, and during our conversation it considerably intensified. Seeing that the person was uncomfortable, I cut our conversation a bit shorter than usual.

It seems that for some strange reason people think that a tic makes the situation awkward. I see no reason to treat it differently than a common cold - an inconvenient condition that will probably pass with rest, and if not, then perhaps with medical treatment if needed.

What I am interested is, what is the polite way to communicate in this case with people with whom are on friendly terms but not that close? Acknowledge it and ask if everything is ok? Ignore it? Look somewhere else while talking? Say something like 'relax, comrade, everyone has bad days'?


I would invite him to step outside and go for a stroll around the block. You can say that you've been sitting down all morning and you really need to stretch your legs, and does he feel like going for a little walk with you?

When a person with a tic feels embarrassed ticcing in public, it can be helpful to step away from the embarrassing environment. He may have felt, in the coffee shop, as though he were in an aquarium, acutely self-conscious.

If you want to start a conversation sometime about tics, you could bring up someone you've known, or a famous person, who has tics, for example, Tim Howard, the soccer goalie.

It might be helpful to read up a bit about Tourette Syndrome and other tic disorders before you bring this up. There are many, many people with a tic disorder who have never been diagnosed, and don't know exactly what makes them tic (pardon the pun!). So, it's okay to broach the subject, but then wait and see how your acquaintance responds.

My son has Tourette Syndrome.

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    As someone with a random tic that disappears/resurfaces every now and then (i suspect it's from stress, never did got it checked), I support the third paragraph - emphasizing that you should reassure the person that it's ok. Talking about the tic will remind me that my tic is noticeable to other people, which is quite damaging to my confidence especially since ive had people comment that it's weird.
    – votbear
    Mar 5 '18 at 4:06
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    Conversely, my best experiences were ones where the other party reassured me, making comments that are either neutral ("it's not that distracting, dw") or even positive ("That's pretty cool/interesting/adorable"). If you start out that way, i personally would be much more willing to open up and discuss about it.
    – votbear
    Mar 5 '18 at 4:08
  • @Votbear - I suppose the key is to open the lines of communication so the person with the tic can comfortably share what would be most helpful for him. Mar 5 '18 at 4:39

If you're on good enough terms, there is nothing in the world wrong with asking if someone's okay. If they don't want to talk about it, at that point, I wouldn't press it any further and try to minimize attention to it.

They may have had something huge on their mind that day and it was just bubbling up as a facial tic.

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