You’re at a drinks party and someone hails you warmly by name and asks how you are. You have no idea who they are.
Or someone asks what you think of the new leaks from the Cabinet. You only just stop yourself telling them not to worry, you’ve got a good carpenter and murmur instead that, oh yes, the rot started when spin doctors got ideas above their station. You are now a social bluffer.
Social bluffing is the attempt by people in a social gathering to balance their ignorance or bad memory with their overwhelming need to be polite or to appear better- informed than they actually are. If you can’t remember someone’s name, or don’t know what someone is talking about and you just say so out loud, some might call it admirably direct. But the person opposite could feel hurt and offended that you don’t think them memorable or rate their conversational sorties.
So we err on the side of the social bluffers, the people who go to any lengths to avoid such rudeness, resorting to the sorts of elaborate half-truths and gambits that would normally have us condemning their grasp of honesty. For the name-forgetter, the safest rule of thumb is to assume that no one remembers who you are – “Hello, I’m sure you don’t remember me but I’m…,” thereby prompting them to respond with their own name at the same time as charming them with your humility. Bluffing your way through your own ignorance is easier – simply repackage what they’ve just said as an interesting question, “So what do you think prompts such Cabinet leaks?”.