There is a constellation of words to which I have developed an allergy, though they still exercise a gravitational pull. What they have in common is that they are a way of wrong-footing someone, by presupposing a view of matters they have not accepted. For example, there is the whole family of ‘-phobics’; there is considerable psychological plausibility in the interpretation they imply, but the word is a bludgeon. Equally, we have no right to tell someone they are being ‘neurotic’ or ‘defensive’. Human relations are indubitably riven with insincerity, but still, we have an obligation to take people at their word, as a matter of politeness and respect. That does not require us to be credulous. Insincerity is rarely a matter of cold calculation. As with method acting, the performance is more likely to carry conviction if you work yourself up into a state over whatever it may be. What then are we to do with the intuition that the other person is being disingenuous, if it is mixed up with a palpable feeling on their part that they are entitled to get their way? That, I think, is common to all such cases; and we are entitled to want things, and fight our corner. The distinction between being straight with one another, and its opposite, does not lie in conscious deceit — cold manipulation is the province of the psychopath. What matters is whether there is an underlying rational foundation for the feeling, and that is amenable to talk. Rather than being sucked in to foul play, we should rise above it. Anyone who has brought up a child knows this. Sometimes — even mostly — it is better to let things go. We need room to breathe.