DEAR AMY: My wife and I socialize often with my wife’s brother, “Brad,” and his girlfriend, “Shelley.”
Shelley tends to hijack conversations, steering them toward herself and/ or her kids. Lately, I’ve noticed that Brad does the same thing.
In one instance, my wife began to talk about a news event, and he jumped in after a couple of sentences.
I told him to please let my wife finish her thought and tell it her way, and then we could hear his thoughts. He took exception to this.
Last night we were with Shelley and at one point Shelley mentioned that I don’t like for her “to talk.”
She said she was intentionally quiet for the first couple of hours of the visit because of this.
I explained calmly that I never asked anyone not to talk, only that I want her to be respectful of boundaries when others talk. She got upset and left.
I don’t want any friction, and I need to talk to her about this. How do you suggest I approach this? – Interrupted Husband
DEAR INTERRUPTED: Ideally, you would have offered this correction using “I” statements that reflect your personal reaction to her behavior, rather than tell her directly what you “want” her to do differently. Telling someone how to behave is bound to make them defensive. And when they’re busy being defensive, they don’t listen to the point you’re trying to make, because they are planning their mental, emotional, or physical escape.
Here’s an example of how you might express your frustration: “Shelley, I don’t mean to silence you. That’s a terrible feeling. But I get very frustrated when I’m engaged in listening to someone and then that person is interrupted. Then that person is being silenced, and I feel this throws conversations off track. I hope you can understand my reaction. I’m trying hard to enjoy what everyone has to say.”
DEAR AMY: A reader recently chastised you regarding an issue with an aggressive dog. The reader notified you that putting a yellow scarf on an aggressive dog’s collar indicates that the dog is aggressive. Um, not necessarily. The only surefire and appropriate way to approach any dog is to ask the dog’s human if the dog is safe.