I’m looking for a word that is synonymous with diplomatic, but in an environment that is more casual.

You will use this word to describe a person who returns phatic responses in inane conversations, so as to avoid being subjected to direct questions, but otherwise have no interest in participating in it.

I’m not looking for the word “polite” but do let me know if I’m wrong. (I’m not looking for the word “rude” either.)

  • 1
    It would help to know why polite doesn't convey the idea you have in mind.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 5:07
  • mmm polite suggests the person is being respectful, but the person is not actually that altrustic
    – yuenhy
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 5:18
  • It really is not clear what kind of word is wanted here. Diplomatic does not seem to be the word, so I am unsure why you have used that. You seem to want to describe someone who is not really interested in interacting socially - you could try bland or neutral, but cold could also fit.
    – Lee Leon
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 7:53
  • Just missing a bit of the tact I wanted to highlight
    – yuenhy
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 9:25
  • What did a thesaurus suggest?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


Personally, I'm a bit confused by the question because a person who is being "phatic" is emphatically not being "diplomatic."

I would suggest that a person giving phatic responses to avoid engaging in genuine conversation is being "cagey" or "curt" or "dismissive" or "deigning" (depending heavily on the context).

On the other hand, if you want to retain the sense of "diplomatic," "polite" is actually a good alternative. "Tactful" could also work well.

  • wait, doesn't phatic communication indicate to the speaker that you are listening?
    – yuenhy
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 9:27
  • @yuenhy According to Wikipedia, phatic language is largely vacuous. It is primarily used to lubricate social interactions but not to convey significant meaning. I read the situation you described as being for instance the type of thing where someone is working, another person tries to talk to them, and the first person (trying to to be rude) acknowledges them but does not contribute to the conversation because they are focused on work. Basically, the empty pleasantries one says when he doesn't want to talk but also doesn't want to seem rude.
    – Geoffrey
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:19
  • ah yes that's what i had in mind. can i say "good at phatic communication"?
    – yuenhy
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 5:46
  • @yuenhy I suppose you could, but you definitely shouldn't. First of all, pretty much no one knows what "phatic" means, so it is not colloquial. Additionally, that sounds like the type of phrase that someone would say as a joke to a third party. For example: "Wow, that guy's kind of an asshole." "No, no, he's just skilled in the art of phatic communication." Off the top of my head, I can't think of a short sentence that would express the idea that someone is a master of pleasantries. Well, I guess you could call them "the master of pleasantries."
    – Geoffrey
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 5:57

How about savvy? Since being diplomatic has the connotation of being mindful not to be like Trump. Lol.

  • 1
    To improve answer quality, it is recommended to add references in support.
    – MikeRoger
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 9:05
  • 1
    Your answer is "savvy", but you then explain what diplomatic means, not savvy. Please explain your answer. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 11:45

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