Is it Rude To Shrug Your Shoulders?

Shoulder shrugging is something many of us do, much of the time without consciously thinking about it. But, is it actually rude to do so? Read on below and find out for yourself! 

Is it Rude to Shrug Your Shoulders?

Shrugging of the shoulders is often interpreted as rude behavior as it is a way of saying “I don’t care” or “I’m not interested”. 

In other words, when you shrug your shoulders at someone, they are perceiving it the same way they would if you had actually told them you don’t care.

Sometimes shoulder shrugging is also representative of the notion “I don’t know”, in which case it isn’t seen as rude at all.

How Rude Is it?


Shrugging your shoulders rates 5 out of 10 on the rude meter. That said if you are shrugging your shoulders at your spouse, or a close family member or friend, the rudeness level increases a few points (more like 8 or 9 out of 10).

In general, shoulder shrugging is directly in the center of our rude meter because it is seen as either very rude or not rude at all. The determining factor is typically the tone of the conversation, and what words may or may not accompany your shoulder-shrugging motion.

Why is it Rude?

It is rude to shrug your shoulders in response to someone telling you something important to them, or in the middle of their sentence. Shoulder shrugging is particularly rude when you don’t say anything, and just shrug instead.

Why is it Not Rude?

Shrugging your shoulders is not always seen as rude. For example, if your partner asks you what you want to eat today, and you shrug. So long as you follow up with some sort of an answer, even an “I don’t really know, what about you?” type sentence, the shrug won’t be interpreted as rude.

Other Options to Do Instead

The best thing you can do instead of shrugging your shoulders is to speak your mind about the matter. If you aren’t sure about something or aren’t interested in what someone is talking about, simply let them know that… with your words, not your shoulders.

Common Questions

What does shoulder shrugging mean?

Shoulder shrugging is most often associated with not caring about something or a complete and utter lack of interest in something. However, at times, to shrug your shoulders is no different than saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not really sure”. 

Is it mean to shrug your shoulders?

It is normally only considered mean to shrug your shoulders at someone when it is done in a disingenuous sort of way. Think of it this way… how would you feel if someone told you that they don’t care about what you’re saying? That is what you are telling them with your shrugging.

Should you be offended by someone’s shrug?

Whether or not you should be offended by someone’s shrug is dependant on several factors, including how you interpret it, the timing of the shrug, the conversation, and more. The “thickness” of your skin also comes into play.