How to Act Around Short People

The common-sense, how-to act around short people is:

Treat short people the same as average and above-average height people.


18-year-old me

But apparently this sense is not common enough.

As a fully grown woman who doesn’t quite break the 5-foot mark, I regularly get patted on the head like a puppy, people “zoom” their hands at my head to indicate how short I am and a goodbye hug at family Christmas resulted in me having to tell the relative to put me down. I’ve been used as an arm rest and been told that I should leave the tall guys for the tall girls.

It’s clear that people lose their manners and their minds around those of us who are not “normal” height. So, here are a few pointers on how not to be a jerk about someone’s naturally short stature:

  • Don’t pat them on the head or use them as arm rests
  • Don’t ask dumb questions (i.e. How’s the weather down there? Do you qualify as a midget?)
  • Don’t ask them height-related question (i.e. How short are you?!? Why don’t you wear high heels?)
  • Don’t attempt to pick them up
  • Give them the same personal space you want given to you (possibly more if you find that people tend to take a step away from you)
  • Be cognizant of your elbows, purses, etc as they are head height for short adults and some kids
  • Don’t state the obvious, “You’re really short!” (as if I have been going through life unaware of my height)
  • Don’t assume that height should guide life choices (I didn’t marry Brad so he can reach high things for me or to take him away from the tall women of the world)

My height doesn’t define me as a person and it shouldn’t hold me back, but it’s become obvious to me over the years that many only see me through the “short girl” lens. Everyone should be treated with respect and consideration regardless of their physical attributes.

Have you ever been picked on for your height? 

What recommendations would you add to my list?


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11 thoughts on “How to Act Around Short People

    • I think physical characteristics like height are conversational life jackets. I’d rather ask someone a question and get to know them than to tell them something they already know.

    • In general I find that most hurtful things are said or done due to a lack of thought and not usually intent to hurt. Other times, people think the recipient is having as much fun with their “jokes” as they are, but it just gets old.

  1. I am 4 ft. 11 in. and have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with every one of these points. I am 54 years old and still sometimes have a person pat me on the head. Ridiculous! Have experienced it since high school, and I remember at that time in the late 70’s there was a stupid song that came out, “Short People”, that was really demeaning to us that are “vertically challenged”. It appeared to be malicious on the songwriter’s part, but it’s true that most people out there aren’t trying to be ugly, they just don’t have a clue!

    • Thanks Donna, I feel better knowing I’m not alone, but I also wish it weren’t such a widespread issue. I know that song and I hate it! But yes, I agree that most people aren’t trying to be rude, they just don’t think.

  2. Yes! I have mentioned to some of those rude people of the value of deodorant! My husband has told me that I was a miniature version of what he expected when he met me. He has come to appreciate my vertically challenged stature!

    • I had a client say when they met me in person after months of working together virtually, “I didn’t expect someone so… small” as if my physical size had something to do with the quality of my work.

  3. Yes! I get patted on the head by tall people all the time and I’m 5″3! Such a weird thing but I’m glad I’m not alone I suppose? I also hate when people ask me why I don’t wear heels. Yes, I have a few pairs but I love my flats and TOMS. It’s not a crime to care more about comfort, is it?

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