2012-06-14 / Lifestyles

Advice for advice givers


Lois A. Corcoran Lois A. Corcoran Recently I overheard a woman griping about her mother-in-law. “She constantly gives me advice about everything,” the young lady fumed. “You name it and she’s got an opinion: What I should buy, how to raise my kids, even sex!”

Ironically, she sought advice on how to deal with the woman.

Her four-person audience offered as many suggestions. One advised her to take the direct approach. “Don’t be a doormat,” she said. “Speak up and tell her to stop playing Dr. Phil.”

I wondered if Dr. Phil ever recommends that.

“With a mother-in-law? No way.” argued another gal present. “That would open up a can of worms. You’d be far better off just ignoring her.”

A third member of the ad hoc council urged her to move. “Geographical distance speaks for itself,” she said.

Maybe so, but those extended visits can be murder.

The funniest counsel came from the fourth woman, who suggested that the daughter-in-law merely play along. “Next time she brings up your love life, you should describe it in nauseating detail. That oughta shut ‘er up.”

Which is the object of the game when people dish out unasked-for advice. Depending on his or her personality, any of the above methods may thwart the chronic buttinsky.

I should have tried some of those ideas myself with an acquaintance of mine. She often referred to herself as “No B.S.” Bertha, except that she spelled it out and her name wasn’t Bertha.

Apparently, she felt that this selfproclaimed nickname gave her a license to tell me how to run my life. If so, it must have been a chauffeur’s license because she drove me crazy.

Lucky for me, she relocated. But there are plenty of other Berthas only too willing to take her place. You find them everywhere – from co-workers telling you how to do your job to total strangers you meet in the mall.

Even well-meaning friends get in on the act at times. It’s hard fighting the urge to “help” someone we feel needs assistance.

Nowhere is that more tempting than with our kids. I realized this the other day when I advised my son on how to style his hair. Though he held his tongue, his expression spoke volumes. And I promptly shut my piehole.

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