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Interactions with People

Level 1—Congratulations! You’re no longer an NPC. Gain +5 skill points by mastering the following topics—Personal Space, The Soft No and The Hard No, Personal Safety and Security, Convention Space Etiquette, Photography Etiquette, and Line Etiquette.

Personal Space

There is a nebulous thing frequently referred to as “Personal Space.” This is an area around a person that they claim as theirs, and that they then subtly work to defend at all costs. Some people require large amounts of personal space to feel comfortable, others require a fraction of that. There isn’t (as far as I have been able to tell) a good way to determine what a person’s boundaries are until you have actually interacted with them.

There are a few cues that you can keep an eye out for to determine if you are invading someone’s personal space.

  1. When you talk to them, do they lean away from you, or closer towards you?
    1. If they lean away:
      1. You are invading their personal space—back up slightly.
      2. You have bad breath—try a breath mint! They’re minty!
      3. You haven’t showered recently enough—Didn’t you read Chapter 1?
    2. If they lean towards you:
      1. They are interested in what you have to say—yay!
      2. They can’t hear you—speak up, it’s loud in here!
      3. They are trying to discreetly guide you out of foot traffic so that the two of you can have a conversation where it’s quieter—Go have fun!
    3. If you step close to them, do they immediately step away from you?
      1. Yes! Then you are invading their personal space. Don’t continue trying to get close to them, as the two of you will then perform a strange slow-motion chase around the room that’s frustrating for both of you and hilarious to anyone else who’s paying attention. Note for men: if her friends see this behavior, they may come and rescue her. Someone else from the group will make conversation with you while she discreetly escapes.
        1. Note for women: men get rescued, too.
      2. No! Then you’re doing okay! Proceed.
      3. Are you standing close enough that you are touching the other person?
        1. Yes. You are standing too close. Back up.
        2. No. Congratulations on your good etiquette!

The Soft No

What is it?

Women do this a lot, but it’s not exclusive to the female of the species. So what is it? Why do people use the soft no, why can’t they just say what they mean?

The most basic reason that people use a “soft no” is that they are nice people and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They are trying to find a polite way to tell someone to go away they’re not interested. Because they really don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings, they won’t just come out and say “No.”

“No” can be an abrasive word. It can hurt, and most people don’t want to ruin anyone’s convention. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the person using the soft no don’t want the other person’s company.

How to Recognize the Soft No

Learning to recognize a soft no does take a little bit of practice, but mostly just requires paying attention to a few social cues (detailed below). If someone uses a soft no on you, take the hint and don’t let it ruin your day. There are a lot of other cute, interesting, funny women/men at the convention, and if you don’t know any of them, now’s a great time to change that. If this one doesn’t want to talk to you, move on to the next one.

Clues that they’re giving you a soft no:

  1. They turn their back to you and start talking to the person next to them.
  2. Every time you get close, they move away (see Personal Space).
  3. They say, “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/ husband/wife.” While this may be true, it’s also an easy way to get people to back off.
  4. They say “maybe later” and don’t specify when.
  5. They apologize, give a reason why they have to leave and then walk away.
  6. They make excuses for why they can’t meet you somewhere.
    1. Note: Some people really are just busy, but others use this as tactic to not have to deal with saying No. The difference is, busy people areusuallyhappy to set up a date and time for later, soft no won’t.
  7. They see you coming and walk the other way. (Or run screaming. Running & Screaming is a dead giveaway.)

The tactics for a soft no are many and varied; the ones listed above are some of the most common. Learn to recognize them and respect the no.

How to Use the Soft No

My editor, bless his heart, suggested that I include a section on how to use the soft no. While the soft no is a useful tactic in many situations, I would like to caution convention goers to use the soft no excuse of “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend” sparingly. Here’s why:

Once I learned how to flirt, I admit to taking to the art like a jawa to sand. When I started working at conventions I was married and I used conventions to get my flirt on. My husband and I would return to Dragon Con year after year to work a booth, and we had a cadre of geeks that would flock to the table where we were working to flirt.

I had a great time! They had a great time! We all had fun—and the entire time I used the excuse, “Oh I’d love to, but I can’t, I’m sorry, I’m married” for any suggestion they made that I didn’t want to participate in, be it coffee to illicit liaisons. It was an easy excuse that everyone accepted.

Then I got divorced and returned to Dragon Con. All of the geeks that I had flirted with over the years cheered! It was then that I realized why the “I’m married” excuse in these kinds of situations, where I encountered the same people year after year, was a bad idea. Each of the geeks in question then thought that I would be available to them for whatever crazy thing we had discussed, but “oh I couldn’t because I was married,” and I had to find ways to politely and directly decline the offers. It led to some very uncomfortable situations that I could have avoided had I been more direct in my initial dealings.

If you are at a convention where you plan to return year after year, it might behoove you to use something other than “I have a boyfriend/girlfriend” as your go-to soft no answer, or find more direct, polite ways to make your wishes clear.

That being said, how do you use a soft no? When is it appropriate? Generally you would use a soft no in any situation where you don’t want to make a scene, or hurt someone’s feelings, but you also don’t want to do whatever is being suggested. Basically you make an excuse as to why you can’t or won’t do whatever it is.

The formula for a soft no is:

Apology + reason to leave + no (include a thank you for the time spent.)

A few examples:

  1. “I’m sorry, I’m meeting my friends. I can’t come with you for dinner, but thanks for asking.”
  2. “I apologize, I’m really busy. I can’t talk right now, but thanks for stopping by.”
  3. “I’m sorry, I have to go. It was nice chatting with you.”

You don’t actually have to explain yourself, where you’re going, or what you’re planning on doing, and in fact it may better if you don’t, but that’s up to you.

A good portion of this book is intended to be lighthearted and humorous in its approach to educating and offering suggestions for social interactions. The next few sections however are serious topics and you may notice a distinct lack of humor. Because of the nature of the topics I felt that they deserved a more serious treatment.

The Hard No
“No” means “No.”

  1. It does not mean “maybe later”
  2. It does not mean “I’m just teasing, please continue”
  3. It does not mean “I’m playing hard to get”

“No” means that you need to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Right now. Period. Back off and give the person the space they need. Harassment, when reported, can get you thrown out of a convention, or arrested depending on the severity of the infraction.

Other forms of “No” include:

  1. Stop it.
  2. Don’t touch me.
  3. Leave me alone.
  4. Go away.
  5. Back off.

A lot of the media stories focus on men and how they don’t respect the “No.” It can go both ways at conventions, and it needs to be said: Ladies, “No” applies to you just as much as it does to men. If a guy (or a girl, or anyone) tells you “No” then leave them alone. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Instead of focusing on the people who tell you no, look instead for the enthusiastic Yes! People who give an enthusiastic yes are fun to be around, and there’s no question that they want to be around you.

A Note on Harassment: If you feel you are being harassed please tell the convention organizers, or security. They can only help you if you tell them. They want everyone to have a good time and will usually do their best to deal with the offender.

If you feel trapped and do not see convention security around, walk over to the nearest large group of con goers, apologize for intruding, and ask for a quiet escort out of the area. If they ask who is bothering you, don’t tell them—you are not trying to create an altercation; you are trying to remove yourself from the situation. Find security and let them deal with it.

A Second Note on Harassment: If convention security or staff is harassing you, find a different staff member and report it. The sooner you report it, the sooner something can be done about it. It helps if you can get their name and give a clear description of the person.

Personal Safety and Security

Your safety and security are, at all times, your personal responsibility. It is not your boyfriend’s responsibility, or your girlfriend’s, or your roommate’s, it is yours. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, remove yourself. Trust your gut feeling, that tingling at the back of your neck, or that instinct that makes you look over your shoulder, even if you don’t know why.

Many conventions have started offering self-defense workshops. They’re usually interesting, and intended for beginners. They can give you some tips and practice on how to get away if someone grabs you, and are practical and easy to use. Checking them out is a worthwhile use of your time if this is something you are concerned about. If your local convention doesn’t have a workshop like this, suggest it to them. Usually a local martial arts studio, dojo, or the police are happy to put on such workshops.

If you find yourself in a dangerous situation only you can decide what you are willing to do to stay alive. And make no mistake that is what we’re talking about. General wisdom says that you should fight at all costs. Only you can decide if that is the route you will take. At the end of the day, the method that keeps you alive is the correct one. If you decide that trying to get away is the best option, here are a few tips that may help you. I hope you never need to use them.

  1. Do NOT get into a vehicle with your attacker if you can at all avoid it.
  2. Scream. Loudly. I don’t mean a little whimper because you’re scared. I mean a full on banshee scream like you mean it. Because you do. Yell your head off. Yell for help. Yell for someone to call 911. Do not go quietly into the night. Yell loud enough to startle your attacker into letting go.
  3. If your attacker has hold of you, and you decide to fight, you will most likely come away from the encounter damaged in some fashion. If you are willing to accept that, use everything you have. Aim for the groin, the neck, the eyes, or the side of the knees. Your knees and elbows are excellent weapons.
  4. Run. When you get away, or if they don’t have hold of you, RUN! Don’t stop to look behind you; don’t slow down until you find a place with people. If you are at a convention, find a member of security, a staff member, hotel staff or the main hotel floor. If it’s a large convention, there will be police around as well. There’s almost always someone at the lobby desk, at the very least there’s a phone and you can call 911.
  5. As soon as you are in a safe place, and you have called the authorities, start writing down what happened with as much detail as you can recall. If you have been raped, do not shower or wash until you have talked to the police. DO report it.

Note: It takes a lot of courage to report an attack. Please remember, when you choose to report rape, harassment and physical assault you are not only reporting on your behalf, but also helping to prevent future occurrences and making the convention safer for everyone.


Stalkers are not harmless. They are not merely an annoyance, they are a danger. Having a stalker is an extremely difficult situation to deal with. It can be scary, demoralizing, highly annoying, detrimental to your work and personal life, and dangerous. Stalkers don’t just affect the life of the person they are stalking; they also affect the lives of the people around the person being stalked. Depending on the level of harassment there are a number of things you can do about it.

  1. Keep a log of every interaction you have with the person in question.
  2. Do NOT respond. Do not talk to them, do not engage with them online, do not respond to their emails, tweets, or anything else when it becomes apparent that they are stalking you. This is a really hard thing to do, particularly if the person stalking you is a former friend or lover, but ultimately will be helpful in proving harassment. If they constantly contact you and you never respond to them, it’s difficult for anyone to say you are encouraging them.
  3. Block them from your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts. Take screen captures of any harassing or threatening messages they leave for you on those sites.
  4. Change all of your passwords.
  5. Report them to the police and seek a restraining order. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
  6. If someone is harassing you at the convention, report him or her to convention security and the hotel.

Now that we’ve covered the serious topics of personal safety and security, we can move back into the important realms of fun and merrymaking. Who among you dear readers enjoys attending a good room party at a convention? Or perhaps you prefer to be the one organizing the party. Either way, here are a few suggestions to ensure that things go smoothly.

Convention Space Etiquette

Antaan K’mpok is planning to attend the Klingon Bash in room 425 and hopefully hook up with a fierce Klingon male while she’s there. She wants to party somewhere where she isn’t responsible for cleaning up and paying for damages afterwards. Everyone knows the Klingon Bash gets wild and at a hotel, cleanup is the hotel staff’s job after all, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Hotels that are willing to host conventions are usually knowledgeable enough to set aside certain floors or blocks of rooms and designate them the “party block.” Just because the hotel sets aside a series of rooms for the purpose doesn’t mean Antaan can destroy them with her partying. When property damage on a large scale happens, groups of people, and entire conventions can be banned from the hotel. Be respectful of the hotel’s property, or we may not be allowed back. If you plan on hosting a party:

  1. Lay and tape down plastic in the party room to protect the carpets. (Blue painter’s tape and disposable painter’s tarp work well.)
  2. Provide large trash cans near the door for people to dispose of used cups, cans etc.
  3. Move the beds and furniture out of the way. (Hotel staff may be able to help with this.)
  4. Make sure everyone at the party is older than 21 if alcohol is being served, or over 18 if nudity is happening. Have someone check ID at the door. (Seriously, don’t do things that can get you arrested.)
  5. If anyone at the party is becoming too rowdy, ask them to leave and escort them out.
  6. When the party winds down, do a quick run through to pick up trash and put the place to rights. Don’t leave the room in such a state that the hotel staff will cry the next morning.
  7. Leave a decent sized tip for the cleaning staff the next day.

In addition to not trashing hotel rooms with wild parties, help the hotel staff keep the rest of the hotel in decent shape. Pick up trash as you see it. Don’t stick bumper stickers and temporary tattoos on the walls, or otherwise graffiti the property. We want the hotel to like the convention so that we can all come back and do this again next year.

Reminder: Laws, responsible behavior, and common courtesy do not end when you get to the convention.

Hotel Staff Are People, Too

Those people running around in uniforms behind the front desk, or pushing food carts, or cleaning carts, or luggage carts; those are the hotel staff. They are not servants. They can be very helpful; it’s their job. They may also wonder why on earth you choose to dress up as a half-naked Orc barbarian, but nine times out of ten they will smile and answer your questions. They may also ask a few of their own. Some hotel staff, though you may not realize it, would also love to be dressed up as a half-naked Orc barbarian, but they have to work and it’s against dress code.

  1. Be polite and respectful—this is what they do for a living.
  2. Do not make their job harder than it already is.
  3. Give appropriate tips.
  4. Valet Parking—$2-$5 tip
    1. Transporting bags—$1-$2 per bag
    2. Maid—$3-$5 per day. The easiest way to leave this is in an envelope marked Tips for Maid Service on a desk or taped to a mirror.
    3. Hotel Bartender—$1 per drink

Photography Etiquette

Conventions are wonderful places to people watch, check out amazing costumes, and take epic photos. For some people, it’s a chance to see and be seen and they LOVE having their picture taken. For others, they’re here to have a good time but are less enthusiastic about having people play paparazzi. Here are a couple of rules to follow to keep the avid photographer in everyone’s good graces.

  1. If there’s a sign saying no photography—don’t take photographs. The signs are there for a reason, usually traffic control in public spaces.
  2. Ask permission before photographing children. Some parents are very touchy about their wee ones, and better to ask than get screamed at.
  3. In general—ask permission. Most folks in costume are happy to stop for pictures, pose, etc. but sometimes they’re in a hurry. Don’t get in a snit if they can’t stop right now.
  4. It is entirely uncool to go for the cleavage shot, the ass shot, or the up the kilt shot. Also, it’s creepy and gross, will get the offender labeled as such, and may get them thrown out of the convention.
  5. Don’t photograph artwork in the art show or dealer’s room.
  6. If you plan on sharing all your photos on the Internet, let people know where they can find them. It’s really cool to see pictures that other people have taken. Business cards with your web address are great for this.
  7. If you see a cosplayer, half out of costume slumped against a wall and exhausted, they are likely taking a break. Some of those costumes are really hot and heavy. Don’t take a picture of them in this state, it’s rude and no one wants to see Captain America passed out from heat exhaustion. Same thing if they are having a costume malfunction.
  8. Try to avoid walking through someone else’s shot. It’s difficult, there’s a lot going on, but keep an eye out and wait to get through an area until people have finished their pictures, or go around. If you accidentally do; stop after you’re through the frame and apologize.
  9. Be aware of what is going on around you and try not to stop in the middle of foot traffic to get a shot. Moving through crowds is already difficult, and people bunching up to take a photo can cause serious traffic flow and safety problems.
  10. Taking photos of people while they are standing around in a group talking and not posing is risky business. Some people don’t mind, and some people do. Proceed with caution.

These basic rules should get the photographer by and keep them out of trouble with their camera at a convention. I hope you find some spectacular shots!

Line Etiquette

This is in the same chapter as personal space for the very good reason that standing in line frequently involves being in close contact with other convention goers. Small or large, conventions involve standing in line. You will stand in line for badges, for coffee, for autographs, for panels, for restrooms, etc. A few tips to keep everyone comfortable:

  1. Do not stand closer than six inches to the person in front of you. If you are breathing down their neck you are too close.
  2. Do not crowd the line. It will move when it moves. Be patient.
  3. Pay attention and move when the line moves.
  4. Do not talk loudly on your cell phone, or engage in loud conversations.
  5. If you are in line to buy something, have your order and form of payment ready.
  6. Do not cut line.
  7. Some lines form up hours before an event. Use the restroom before you line up.
  8. Talk to the people in line around you; make friends! You are all going to the same event. It is likely you have common interests.
    1. Bringing donuts or cookies to share is a great way to become very popular very quickly. It’s also a great way to start a conversation! Note: Some people are leery of taking cookies and candy from strangers—early training runs deep. Don’t be offended if a few people politely decline, there are plenty of others that will accept.
  9. Keep the line out of the way of moving foot traffic.
  10. Do not hassle the people guarding the door. They will let everyone in when it’s time. They are volunteers, if you piss them off, they may not let you in at all. Conversely, if you are polite to them, sometimes they will let you in when they’re not supposed to.
  11. Do not have one person save space in line for ten others that show up at the last minute. It’s great to sit with your friends, and it’s okay to have someone save your spot, but the ratio should be 1:1 not 1:10.


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