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The usual flow of conversation (that I am used to) when a person says something surprising is as follows:

Person A: (says something surprising)
Person B: Wow! Really?
Person A: Yes, (elaborates)
(conversation goes on..)

However, I have been in situations when Person B reacts with "get out of here!" or even "shut up!!" instead of a simple "really?". This is apparently how some people express incredulity. It is not said angrily and I know it's not literally meant, but I am not sure how to proceed in such situations.

The conversation gets very very awkward as my initial reaction is indeed to "shut up".

What is the correct response to these (less polite) means of expressing incredulity? How can I keep the conversation going?

I am a non-Dutch person living in the Netherlands and I encountered this situation a few times with other international expats.

  • Could you add a country tag to this question, and edit this question and add some information about the cultural context? The answer to this question will depend on your cultural context. – user288 Aug 4 '17 at 14:13
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    @marcellothearcane <comment removed> If you have an answer, please post it below. Comments do not have the features needed to properly vet whatever you say here, so answering in comments starts to defeat the purpose of having this site in the first place. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Aug 4 '17 at 14:19
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    @Dhara - just continue your conversation as if the person said "wow" No difference. – Mayo Aug 4 '17 at 14:25
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    @Hamlet Op here. Someone suggest unit-states as tag, but I think it's a widely applicable question. I am a non-dutch person living in the Netherlands and I encountered this situation a few times with other international expats. – user2159 Aug 4 '17 at 14:27
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    @Dhara When speaking Dutch or when speaking English? – AllTheKingsHorses Aug 4 '17 at 21:45
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Well I think the best thing you can do is to support that incredulity, so if someone was to say Shut the front door! you could respond like Yea it's insane or something like I know right!?!, and then continue to elaborate or just change the subject smoothly, for example I will show you a conversation


You > "Did you know that ice is lighter than water?"

Friend > "Shut up!"

You > "I know right! it's insane, also did you know water is a liquid!"

Friend > "Stop lying!"

You > "Yea I can't believe it either" (conversation continues forever...)


But the worse thing you could do is to just be silent, because it get's really awkward and the person may (in my experience) say something like, "I didn't mean that", but also sometimes when someone says "shut up" in not a incredulity way, it's sometimes hard to tell but just check facial expressions.

This is all a assumption in a informal way, to formally reply you can just say "Yes, it's incredible", or something like "Yes it's wonderful".

But if you did somehow reach the silence area, than some responses could be. "Well anyways back to the topic, (elaborate) or "Well this is awkward, anyways (elaborate)". Personally the best thing you could is to crack a joke to make you and the other person feel well, un-awkward.

to reinforce this, no answer is not the best answer.

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    I'd point out that you can also respond in the negative. If someone suggests you are lying, an acceptable response is to assert that you are not, rather than agreeing that you don't sound trustworthy. But in this as in many cases, whether you start with 'yes' or 'no' doesn't actually matter. – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 4 '17 at 17:25
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There's a rule in standup comedy about what to do when the audience is disruptively laughing, stay in the bit, if someone's acting incredulous at part of the story, they're engaged, push on, and maybe repeat the last part just to confirm you're going from the same place. Watch a good comedian do it, after people calm down from laughing, they just keep going with the bit, it works.

"Yeah, we went to this hipster restaurant, and the food was served inside an upside down glass."

"Shut up"

"An upside down glass, when you took the glass off, it all fell outwards over the plate into the sauce"

It feels like a weird way of speaking if you haven't done it before, but it works.

  • "There's a rule in standup comedy about what to do when the audience is disruptively laughing" sounds interesting, do you have a link or an example? – user288 Sep 1 '17 at 4:35
  • @Hamlet, I don't have any specific references, I learnt it directly from an improv/standup teacher when I was in school, the best mention of it I can think of is the HBO show Talking Funny, a 40 minute special where Louis CK, Chris Rock, Seinfeld, and Ricky Gervais sit in a room and talk about comedy. I think Louis mentions having learnt it from Seinfeld and then they discuss unofficial rules and advice that affected their own comedy. Chris Rock's advice about making certain the audience understand the premise was also interesting. HBO put the show on Youtube, search "Talking Funny". – Faceplanted Sep 1 '17 at 10:01
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You seem to know what they mean, so I'm a bit confused. I'm wondering if the expression itself annoys you, and whether or not that is part of the issue. Perhaps you're looking for a response that says "Don't use that expression with me, please." Personally, I get a little annoyed with overly-used or recent-slang type expressions. Since it annoys me, I usually throw something annoying back to indicate my annoyance. If the conversation is in English, you could respond with something like "We're not in the Valley, girl!" or perhaps you could pretend that you interpreted the comment literally, responding with "Fine! If you don't want to hear my story, just tell me next time." That one won't win you any friends, but it might discourage using annoying expressions and slang with you.

If the conversation is in Dutch (I didn't know this obnoxious expression had crossed over), I suppose you could say something like "Dat is de olifantastiche lekker smaak, ja?" to invoke confusion, or just something simple like "Ik ben uitspraaken."

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