#504: Replying to The Council of Unsolicited Advisors


I have a dog. I estimate the number of strangers who come up to me in public and give me unsolicited advice about my dog at about 25%. Yes, seriously, 1 in 4 strangers. An informal unscientific poll of my friends shows that not even parents of small children get that much advice! I guess people are (slightly) more respectful when humans are involved?

Anyway, I’m really committed to building a positive community, but I also so much want to shut these people up. I’m sick of being told what herbs my dog should eat or whether or not I should let him lean against my legs or if he should be allowed to put his head outside the car window or which training methods I should use. My dog isn’t bugging anybody. People just want to tell me what’s what.

What’s the script for being polite and shutting down the advice at the same time? Actually, that script would be useful for all aspects of my life. People constantly want to tell other people (especially women) what to do. Creating antagonism feels like a non-solution to me. Just a waste of time and effort that only results in arguments and doesn’t make me feel better.

I’d like to be polite, positive, and clear — no snark, no sarcasm, no hostility. But I can’t think of any statement that meets all those criteria. So instead I just end up silently wandering away first chance I get. Then I feel invisible.

Wants advice on unwanted advice

I don’t know that I have a magic way for you to tell intrusive people to step off but everyone feels great afterward. I have some ways that might work to actually end the interactions, where you can feel like you did your best and at least did not increase the rudeness at play. Will that work?

Possibly this is where the Chilly New England Upbringing and tons of time in Eastern Europe & the U.S. Midwest comes in handy.

The word you’re looking for is “Huh.” (“Ayuh,” if you are in a Stephen King novel.)

“You dog shouldn’t be eating that.”


“Don’t let him lean on you like that.”


Rough translation:

“I heard you and am sort of pretending to consider what you said, but feel no need to expand or dig deeper into this conversation.”

You can give it a more questioning tone, like, “You don’t say.” Or you can put a real period on it, like, “Really.” You can repeat it endlessly as a response to anything the person says until you feel like walking away.

Variations of “I’m sure that was kindly meant, but I am not looking for any advice” might be more up your alley and what you were looking for. Polite, positive, and clear, right?

However,  you have correctly identified in your letter that this has nothing to do with your dog, and is more about having an excuse to walk up to a strange woman and tell her what’s what. And someone who will do that already has a bad sense of boundaries and will not enjoy receiving a little home training from you. So prepare for things to be impolite, negative, and unclear as this person vomits their “I WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP WHY WON’T YOU ACCEPT MY HELPING” feelings onto you.

In my personal experience, a polite “Thanks, but I don’t want to talk to you” or “Oh, I’m not actually looking for advice, but thank you” answer to an intrusion gets the worst responses from people (where people = men, fellow white women who are older, richer, or thinner than me). Because now, not only was I Doing A Thing Wrong(!), I now have the temerity to dis their perceived higher status and right to dispense advice to folks they perceive as lower status whenever they please. And the reactions range from scary to hilariously telling.

Thanks, I’ll think about it” has use as a non-confrontational banishment charm. You will think about it for the 5 seconds until they go the fuck away, so it’s not technically a lie, and you aren’t challenging their perceived status to advise you in the first place. But you also aren’t giving them anything to latch onto for a continued conversation. You’re denying them the argument that they were looking for and dismissing them at one go.

You may be tempted to crush these folks with facts. Not a bad instinct, just know that once you do, you are essentially agreeing to have the argument and extend the conversation. You are saying, in effect, “You have a point, here is a counterpoint, there is a way through discussion that one of us could be found to be correct about this.” Unfortunately the possibility of being proved factually wrong does not make someone who really wants your time and attention go away.

So what you say depends on what your goal is and your own perceptions and instincts about the people you’re dealing with, as it will change from person to person. To end the interaction as quickly and “positively” as possible? “Thanks, I’ll think about it.” To let them know that the advice is not welcome? “I’m sure you meant well, but I am not looking for advice, thanks.” An all purpose armor of taciturn inscrutability? “Huh.” You may use them in combination and have to repeat them like a broken record a few times, but they usually work. If they don’t work? Something is seriously off or unsafe about the person you are dealing with.

I’ve mentioned this before, but as a recovering really meek & non-confrontational person, I generally have two polite or noncommittal redirects in me before

animated gif of Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones saying Come At Me, Bro

As a fat person I get a ton of unsolicited advice about eating & health, so a semi-common occurrence is:

Stranger: “Piece of unsolicited diet/should you be eating that advice.”

Me: “Huh.”

Stranger: “keeps going”

Me: “Huh. I’ll think about it” or “I’m not really looking for advice.”

I also make my body language communicate that I am not open to further conversation opening a book, turning physically away, pulling out my phone.

If they keep going at this point, all bets are off.

Stranger:  “blabbity blabbity here is more pseudo science dribbling from my facehole”

Me: (Teacher Voice, Full Eye Contact): OKAY. It is REALLY WEIRD how you feel the need to give me advice about this. This is VERY STRANGE BEHAVIOR and I need you to GO AWAY.”

Stranger: SORRY I was just trying to HELP honestly SOME PEOPLE mumble mumble slink away

I don’t think we’re obligated to give all importunate people 2 polite tries, by the way. If someone is really making you feel unsafe and angry and trampling on your human dignity, you are allowed to go to Defcon Fuck-Right-Off-Or-I-Call-Security whenever you want. That’s just my personal way of navigating this stuff, where I want to give people some benefit of the doubt or some face-saving way to back off before I expend any energy of my own.

Letter Writer, I know that you don’t want to waste your time with resentment or adding to the negativity of the world or starting arguments. I don’t want to tell you how to start arguments, I want to tell you how to win them by not getting dragged into them in the first place. I used to stay silent or just physically move away from people who treated me like this, but I found it didn’t make me feel better or safer or more comfortable. First, because many people took my silence as license to continue, and second, if I didn’t say something back to the person I would stew about it all day trying to come up with what I should have said or done. The way to stop wasting time on resentment, to stop holding onto shitty feelings of frustration and powerlessness, is to actually say something back to the people who are bugging you. Even if it’s just a dismissive “Huh.”

Moderation Note:

Does the Letter Writer seem like she is looking for any advice whatsoever about her dog in the specific situations she outlined in her letter? Does this seem like a thread where we will discuss the merits of ANY dog advice whatsoever in any form?

Daenarys from Game of Thrones with fire behind her.

Good, I thought not.

280 thoughts on “#504: Replying to The Council of Unsolicited Advisors

    1. And just remember, LW – you are so not the problem. I am baffled that anyone would say anything about people’s dogs other than “boy, he seems friendly/adorable/happy today!”

      1. I get this a TON in my area. I own a breed that are livestock guardians (the kind that can take down mountain lions) and she’s a pet, not a working dog. Some people get upset and opinionated when they see me treat her like a pet. I get bugged two, three times a month by people when I walk her, stopping us, telling me she needs to be living in a field or a barn, guarding sheep and that I shouldn’t make her part of the family or be loving with her.

        1. WTF? If she were a sheep guardian, she would be with her sheep. But if you don’t even own sheep, what does it matter? You’re her flock now.

          (I had a Great Pyrenees that was a sheep guardian, and he was so friendly it was hard not to pet him and play with him. He was so friendly, good-natured, and adorable. I’d totally have one as a pet.)

      2. +1. Dogs inexplicably love me and drag their owners toward me sometimes, so I will often take the opportunity to tell the owner how cute their dog is, ask the dog’s name/breed, and pet the dog if the owner seems okay with that, but why would I give random advice? I don’t know this person or their dog.

        1. Yes! I am another person whom dogs inexplicably love. Giant dogs will drag their person and climb over train station benches to give me that doggy “I loooooooooove you pet me pet me scratch me head yes now do that forever” look that is always accompanied by the “I will lick your hand until it falls off”. Their person sometimes seems kind of embarrassed by this, but as a dog person who currently can’t have a dog because of living in a no-pets apartment, I think it’s great.

    2. Greyhound human companion holla!

      LW: I feel you. And having a striking/unusual/large dog just makes more opportunity for advice. I’ve started saying “huh… I’ll ask my rescue organization adoption liaison about that.” Or “huh… I’ll talk to my vet about that.”

      Patent lies, but people back off.

      I also go into defcon bore them mode. “Huh… well, I’ll think about that. Did you know greyhounds are the breed depicted in the oldest images of dogs in art? And are the only dogs mentioned in the Hebrew Testament? And appear in Egyptian tombs? And were first brought to the US… blah blah…”

      People tend to wander off, saving me having to get up from my comfy seat in the park.

  1. Also, relevant info for the above:
    Person: “unsolicited advice”
    You (in as bland a tone as possible): “that’s nice.”

    Or my personal favourite
    Person: “unsolicited advice”
    You: *blank state until other person is creeped out and walks away*

    1. I often use “that’s nice” when I am a bit irritated and want to be really dismissive. Some people don’t react well to being dismissed, though, and can get aggressive to overcompensate in response

    2. I once saw a woman turn the most epic, scorching-with-WTF blank stare on a man who’d just told her to smile. It was brilliant and wherever she is she’s still my hero. He backed off, came back and made a silly face at her, and went away again, but he didn’t say anything else and clearly rightly felt like a prat. I’d never seen the goddamn “smile!” thing from an outside perspective and it’s even weirder than it feels when you’re on the receiving end of it.

      1. I hatehatehate the goddamn smile thing. I used to get that at work a lot… mostly older dudes saying stuff like “you’re too pretty to not smile! ”
        Yeah… about that. I am a human being, not eye candy, and am.probably trying to focus on work.

        1. Ditto. I’m sorry, you have NO IDEA what my life is like, don’t tell me to smile. You don’t know if I have a family member who just passed away, or if my fiance is off fighting a war in the Middle East, or if I’m trying to figure out how to pay for school and not starve. DO NOT TELL ME TO SMILE.


        2. Oddly enough, I don’t really get the “smile” thing much. Next time I do though, I want to just give them the creepiest smile I know how to give: wide, blank eyes, exposed teeth, artfully calculated head tilt, the works. I’m curious as to what will happen.

        3. I hate it so much because I always. fucking. DO. it. I don’t want to. I find it as offensive as anyone else. I’m not in general what anyone would call a meek, compliant person. But it somehow whacks something in brain that’s programmed to be nice at all costs and I obediently smile before my conscious mind can kick in. If they saw what my face looked like four feet past them…! I used to promise myself that one day, it would happen when something TERRIBLE was going on in my life, and oh, wow, then I would let the offender have it. Then that day came, I was out of work, recently bereaved, clinically depressed, soaking wet and still dealing with some lingering symptoms of physical illness. And some bastard told me to smile. Did I go off on him? NO, I FUCKING SMILED. And now I’m evidence in these men’s minds that women like being told to smile and it’s fine.

          But at least this awesome woman is out there somewhere. The man didn’t say “smile” actually, he said “you could be happier!” which … again, underlines what a freaking bizarre thing this is to do to complete strangers.

          She was reading a book. She:
          Veeeeery slowly lifted her face.
          Locked eyes with him
          Let her mouth drop slightly open, in mingled disgust and disbelief, an expression that said “I am fascinated, FASCINATED, that you would think that was acceptable.”

          He quailed. Then, sensing an allly, she turned to me and said “Or.. HE could not bother strange women.”

          I could have applauded.

        4. That ‘smile’ thing bugs me more than, well, more than a lot.

          Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – when I’m feeling a bit imperious and depending on the guy, I will sometimes say:

          GUY: “Smile!”
          NAT: “Did you know that’s grooming behaviour?”
          GUY: “Huh?”
          NAT: “That’s what pedophiles do. To groom victims.”
          GUY: “I’m not a pedophile!”
          NAT: “That’s a relief. Just to be safe, maybe you shouldn’t say that to people any more.”

      2. I was listening to NPR telling a story about a website where old Jewish guys tell jokes, and the interviewer asked why there weren’t any old Jewish women telling jokes, and the guy running the website said he just didn’t know; earlier in the segment had been a joke where the butt of it was a woman, for no reason other than being a woman. I just wanted to rub the website owner’s face in his invisible male privilege. . .

        That’s when some dude in the car sitting next to mine at a stoplight decided to tell me to “smile, it can’t be that bad!”

        All I could do was shake my head.

      3. FFFFFFFFFF…. One of the nice things about not working on a public desk anymore (especially in the South. ESPECIALLY in a place that got more than a few old Cajun men) is not having people tell me to “smile.” It’s always infuriating (especially since I usually *was* smiling on the desk, unless a person was annoying me, or I was just having a bad day, in which case, screw your “smile”).

        I don’t know what it was, but I tended to get a lot more comments like that, and far more accusations of being “unfriendly” than my male coworkers, who were exactly the same kind of friendly I was. At least one coworker commented on it on multiple occasions.

        I’ve got no problems telling a stranger who tells me to smile exactly what goes through my mind these days.

    3. “Or my personal favourite
      Person: “unsolicited advice”
      You: *blank state until other person is creeped out and walks away*” -Monica

      This is actually my default reaction when I’m confronted by a rude person and am not sure how to respond. My face apparently does a blank thing while I weigh potential rejoinders. It actually works out quite well for me, since a blank face is apparently frightening to rude people, and they tend to fuck off before I actually settle upon a response.

    4. A small variation on Monica’s response: “That’s nice dear.” It adds a nice touch of *adults are busy/working* to the interaction. A local ‘gentle’ version of F*ck You.

  2. This is hilarious and spot-on. As a recovering meek person with a child (hello, unwanted advice!), I’ll be using these very useful scripts.

    Good luck, LW, and thanks for the awesome question!

  3. Such great retorts! I like the “that’s interesting” response, too. It can be upgraded as needed.

    “You shouldn’t let your dog lean on you.”
    “That’s interesting” (flat, monotone reply)
    “No, really, I think you should make him stop!”
    “It’s interesting you want to give a stranger unsolicited advice.”

    1. Your comment was edited slightly to avoid exactly the kind of thing I do not want in the thread, namely, discussions of the merits of the specific advice the LW is receiving.

  4. My father’s old standby when he wanted to end a conversation was always, “Well, there you have it.” I use it with great frequency. I use a neutral tone and facial expression, and I don’t make eye contact. I find that a good 90% of the time it shuts the entire thing down right then and there. (Mostly because I think people are trying to puzzle out whether I am being rude or not.) Every once in awhile I have to get my crankypants on and make it clear that I am unwilling to continue to have the conversation, but that takes up way too much of my time and energy, frankly, and I’d rather not.

        1. I say “yup, that is a thing that happens” in similar scenarios, and get a similar response.

    1. I freakin love this response, I am practicing it. My usual is to say “excuse me”, they repeat their advice, I say “sorry, what”, they repeat and I say “excuse me” again. Shuts them down but takes way too long.

    2. Perfect, tucking this away for future use.

      I feel like I should make a Word document filled with such tips I’ve learned from the Awkward Army alone, heh.

      1. I’ve been thinking about doing this as well. I know I’ve forgotten some useful things already. For instance, there was a conversation in a comment thread about people who constantly apologize, and I haven’t been able to find it again.

          1. I’m not sure if that was it – I remember a longer thread – but that is helpful. Thanks.

      2. I feel exactly the same way! And now that you mention it, I am doing exactly that right now. Thank you!

    3. That one is perfection!
      I usually make a concerned face and ask “Do I know you”?
      And there you have it is excellent.

      1. I love this one! It points out how inappropriate they’re being by acting like you must be misinterpreting the situation because there’s no way Person would just brazenly behave so poorly.

      2. That’s my comeback too! I used it a lot when people gave me unsolicited advice about my pregnancy, and now about my baby. A cold stare and, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” will send most people shuffling away.

        1. When a friend of mine was pregnant we were approached by a stranger in Starbucks who criticizes her for drinking coffee. She said, “A. Do I know you? B. It’s decaf. C. Do I know you???” The woman SCURRIED backwards. (The same person also sat down on the train next to a stranger who touched her pregnant belly. She asked the woman, “Now can I grab your breast?” Of course the woman was all like “No you can’t grab my breast, what’s wrong with you?!?” My friend said, “hey, you just touched my body without my consent. At least I’m asking!” Wish I’d been there to see it!)

          1. I have a friend who responded to “Can I touch your belly?” with “If I can honk your boob.” Most people it stopped in their tracks. Once, though, the asker laughed and touched my friend’s belly, and was extremely surprised when my friend grabbed her boob, squeezed, and said “HONK”.

            I didn’t stop laughing for quite some time when I found out. (And I still laugh every time I think about it, which is many years later.)

          2. I had only had one belly-toucher, in an elevator, and I must have been hopped up on hormones that day, because I leaned over and patted her butt.

            She gave me a startled look and got right off at the next floor without saying another word. I spent the rest of the day freaking out that I’d actually done that.

          3. When I was 7 months pregnant, at a work do in a pub (not fun – smoke & nowhere to sit) a total stranger came up, put his hand on my belly and left it there while talking at me. I barely resisted yelling “want a feel of my tits while you’re at it?”

        2. Oh I would love to modify this for my assholish attitude that I usually have on while walking through NYC.
          My version:
          *Genuine confused but hopeful look*.. “Mom? Is that you?! :)”

    4. I love this! Because… there you have what? Was that an acknowledgement? That’s the point. 😀

    5. I like Pete Campbell’s “A thing like that” because it’s stilted and weird and confusing. People wander away puzzled.

    6. I’m gonna have to remember that the next convention I’m at. All of these really–it’s tricky to be polite and professional when you really just want a person to Go. Away.

      “Well there you have it.” It’s perfect.

  5. Unsolicited not exactly advice – just sayin’, it would be super cool if you could train your dog to do a face-paw on cue (a very subtle cue) so the dog can do your speaking for you when this happens. But seriously, I do find that something like “Huh.” or “Oh.” will generally work when people try to give unsolicited advice. On occasion it doesn’t though, and after a couple of “huh”s, I’ll just walk away while they’re still talking, or just go on about my business as though they’re not there.

    1. Or, even better, train it to hold a notecard in its mouth and trot over to the person with it! Inside the notecard it says “No one here likes you.”

      Now I need to watch The Artist again.

      1. I taught my Great Dane (I miss him) to play dead, the signal was to make my hand into a “gun” and say “Bang, Bang”. he would slowly collapse and lay absolutely still until resurrected. It might be fun to do that every time someone gives advice on the dog and give the advice giver a look of horror.

          1. thanks JenniferP, I’d say how I did it but that would be a derail, it was a really easy training thing though.

        1. Can this trick please be followed up with “I guess I don’t need your dog advice anymore”? I can just imagine the horrified faces of the random strangers! It would be so awful, but so hilarious (on your end).

        2. My weaving teacher’s staffie puppy does that! He doesn’t slowly collapse but, he just falls right over and lands with his feet in the air. Not so good at the staying still part though.

        3. I also had a Dane so the general interaction wit random d00dz when walking down the street was not unsolicited advice, nor did they come up to me. It pretty much consisted of two statements. That is a big dog, and that isn’t a dog its a horse.

          1. glad it got a laugh, and yes I’d get that horse comment all the time, gah! that’s when I’d bang, bang at my Dane and say “nope, it’s a dead dog”. It was really easy to teach that trick, you just use the signal you want.

            Cam, your follow up remark is perfect

        4. One of my herding dogs did this too!

          I tend to shut down when strangers talk to me, even if they’re being nice (or attempting to be, anyway) so it’s really hard for me to shut down conversations I don’t want, unless I can say someone is waiting for me honestly (I’m a terrible liar, and hate lying anyway so I’d feel terrible about it) or have some other means of escape. I really need to grow a spine…or at least one that works when I need it to, it seems like I can stand up for others with no problem, even putting myself between a coworker/semi-stranger and someone with a knife held in a threatening position and snarl in the aggressor’s face without fear, but if I’m defending myself, and only myself, from someone being insulting or rude…I can’t. I just can’t.

          1. No reason to beat yourself up about it. It would be easy for you if anyone ever taught you, but a lot of female read people (sorry if I’m wrong) do not get that education. Just start really really small (“no thanks, I don’t need your pen to write” or whatever) and prepare some statements beforehand (you can even rehearse them). E.g think of something that you can probably still blurt out even when you’re shutting down, maybe “Have to go.” and make yourself move away.

          2. “I have to go” is super useful, because it’s not lying! You do have to go – in order to get away from whoever’s bothering you. Likewise, “I’m sorry, I’m in a rush” (to anywhere but here).

          3. Hey, Michelle, I deleted your other comments about the experiences with your dog. While the sentiment was right on (Ok for your dog might not be ok for my dog), they were too specific about dog stuff & situations, when it’s humans who are the problem. It’s ok, you’re not in trouble, just, no lengthy dog care stories please and do not try to re-post those specific comments.

        5. I trained my dog to do that! It’s a fun trick. She’s not the most tractable dog, so sometimes I’m standing there going, “Bang. Bang. BANG BANG BANG DO BANG,” but it’s still great.

  6. “I’ll keep that in mind” is a personal favorite of mine because subconsciously I’m usually extending it to “I’ll keep that in mind as the most inane piece of unsolicited advice I’ve ever received.”

  7. One of my favorite responses – “Thank you for sharing that.” Flat tone. A lot of the time, people look at you a bit funny, but can’t figure out a way around it, ’cause, well… dude, it IS a polite response! They can’t complain!

  8. something that might work in the uk (stereotype but true!) is to acknowledge in a non-commital way (as has been said) e.g. ‘huh’ or ‘that’s nice’ or ‘oooh right’, and then say something about the weather to change the topic. often people in the street just want a human interaction; they use something they think they ‘know’ about to get that interaction. mentioning the weather (at least in uk) means you go back to a shared understanding of what strangers accepatably say to each other in the street and is often a small talk conversation which ends v quickly in usual social convention (this might be culturally specific though, but i’m sure there are similar types of conversations in all cultures). for example:

    random person: ‘here’s some advice about your dog!’
    me: ‘ooooh right, thanks for that. anyway… how about the weather lately, boiling ey?/winter’s on it’s way ey (nod head at the clouds)/miserable weather isn’t it?/lovely day isn’t it?’
    random person (*if* they are not a predatory asshole and if they understand the convention): ‘here’s a small talk response to the weather situation e.g. ‘yes lovely! i am going to wales next week, so fingers crossed it stays this way”
    me: ‘great, have a wonderful time, nice talking to you *whistle for/call dog whilst walking away from the human*’

    I wouldn’t advise continuing the conversation at all if your vibes tell you that this person is predatory and/or unsafe, but I think the above would work for most people who just wanted to say words to you and will follow social conventions. if they don’t follow the social convention of weather talk (as an example), then just say

    ‘right, anyway, I am going to get off now then’, and shout the dog and walk away.

    I do the weather thing lots when people want to talk to me in the street because it’s easy, polite and builds community feelings, but doesn’t mean you gotta talk about the unsolicited advice they want to give you.

    1. I like this idea a lot–shut down the presumptuous advice giving and then move on to some more acceptable way to connect. On the other hand–playing devil’s advocate with myself–might not that just reward the presumptuous advice-giving? “Oh look, when I acted like this person’s life choices were ANY of my business, it forged a bond between us! I should do this more often!” I’ll have to think about this more. Perhaps “move on to other thing we can talk about” might be better for people who are already in your life, as opposed to total strangers?

          1. I gave it to me when I really needed the advice. It’s a good mug. It’s good advice.

            (And I really do have that EXACT mug. I know there are a lot of mugs/other things with that poster on it, but I have precisely that mug. Very odd to see it in an icon!)

  9. My (zomg, totes adobz) doglet also attracts attention, though mostly of the litany of “Girl or boy? What’s his name? How old is he? Will he get any bigger? Is he a Chihuahua or a crossbreed?” (Cedric, six months, no, Jackhuahua) that about 30% of the population feel need to ask every time I step outside, though there is sadly a significant “You should…” element being added as he gets older (and bolder).

    Perhaps the best advice I ever got was from an abusive asshole who once yelled “You can’t win an argument just by being right!”

    1. Perhaps the best advice I ever got was from an abusive asshole who once yelled “You can’t win an argument just by being right!”

      Ha! Great reality check. 🙂

      1. [this comment was replaced by high-pitched screeching over costume cuteness, especially the triceratops one]

  10. Hope it’s OK to propose a response to the specific “dog shouldn’t lean on you” comments LW gets. As a former Great Dane owner and rescue person, I can tell ya they all lean on their people! My response was to break into song directed at my dog rather than the person. I’d sing this to my dog “Lean on me when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, someone to lean on”. It would turn irritation to laughter for me and those around me.

    1. I grew up with Great Danes & know whereof you speak, but defending specific dog advice is engaging with dog advice in a way that I specifically asked people not to do (there was a .gif and everything). So, this is not okay. I am leaving your comment here as an example, because I really, really do not want to spend the rest of the day deleting others like it.

      Anyone interested in anything about dogs can go here.

      1. I may be completely confused, but I didn’t see her defending any specific advice, but rather offering a possible response to a certain particular strain of it (funny advice!). Did this get under the wrong comment or something? Or am I just misunderstanding?

        1. I don’t want to have the is this correct/incorrect advice discussion in the thread at all. Datdamwuf knew the comment was borderline, which is why the “is this okay?” qualifier is in her post. I like datdamwuf a lot, and saying “nope, that’s over the line” isn’t a personal condemnation. It will also be over the line when the inevitable person stops by to inevitably give the counter argument, whatever that is, and I don’t want that here, either.

  11. As the owner of two dogs and a tiny human I get this a lot. My grandmother is particularly bad about giving really terrible advice she received in the 50s/60s. I find “huh” and “I’ll keep that in mind” + subject change works well. Though I did get a bitchy once and said “I’ll take that under advisement” regarding what church I should be taking my daughter to. Subject change to small talk as Red_shoes86 sugested works well for me too here in the midwest, at least with strangers. I think most people are coming from a place of wanting to interact and are just accidentally being giant assholes as a way to do so.

    Semi related, after reading this blog I’ve been able to really curtail my inclination to FIX ALL THE PROBLEMS WITH MY HELPFUL ADVICE, which is good, but have become hyper aware of when other people do it which is less good.
    I see it most with things like facebook posts on health/relationships. When someone posts something like “Man, having X problem the doctor can’t figure out is frustrating” is always replied to with “have you tried this work out/raw food diet/crystal/prayer/human sacrifice.” Every time I see it I want to hulk out and beat manners into the helpful public. Instead I usually try to just post sometime nice like “That sounds awful. Can I bring you some baked goods?”
    Anybody have ideas on how to respond when you witness this crap in person? Just ignore it? Say something? I don’t know.

    1. Pamela, I like to refer to people like that as being “helpy” rather than “helpful”.

      1. Because we follow Making Light’s Dysfunctional Families Day threads, my friends and I call it being “hlepy”.

        Sometimes in a social situation, I’ll follow up someone’s advice with, “[Complainer], did you want advice or just sympathy? I don’t want to imply that I think you can’t handle this on your own.” Mostly the hleper just fades into silence, or jumps in with an apology for their behaviour. Mostly it takes things like a pre-existing family feud with a close relative for the hleper to get upset with me for insinuating that they insinuated that, yadda yadda.

    2. I’ve been struggling with this problem as someone with a Mysterious Illness who’s been struggling to get a diagnosis and keeping pretty quiet about it. Which means that when my family (mostly my own Mother) ignore my repeated attempts to gently explain “Asking me if I considered gluten/what ever other random thing pops into your head is really patronizing and Not Helpful and stresses me out. Please stop” I’m sort of lost. These people are (often) more concerned with looking/feeling helpful than ACTUALLY helping.

      I wrote a whole article about How Not to be an Asshole to Someone Who Is Sick, but I have yet to have the balls to just print it off and keep it in my wallet to hand out when people are being bad at it. I’ve been sorely tempted. As far as social media goes, if I know the person I’d take them aside later and be all “Hey I know you mean well but…” if it’s a stranger..? Depends how dickish I’m feeling. If the answer is very, I would just link to the previously mentioned article, if the answer is not at all I ask the sick person if they want to just vent/need a distraction.

    3. My mom tends to do the obvious, unwanted, annoying advice thing to anyone in her path, so now, when my sibling or cousins witness this, we usually cut in with, “THANK YOU, Helpy Helperson!”

      I’ve also used Helpy Helperson on strangers who were giving me unsolicited advice about my kids.

      1. Where was this response when I had to deal with the tutor who responded to the request for an extension on an assignment on medical grounds with a suggestion that I try St John’s Wort? I said something like “You know, my team of GP, psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurse and therapist generally tell me to avoid adding psychoactive drugs to the ones I already have prescribed as interactions can be very dangerous. But thanks.” But to be honest, that was sharing more than I wanted to.

        Helpy Helperson will definitely be used though. Every asshole in the world is an expert in treating mental illness apparently.

  12. I feel your pain, LW. My family owns a pretty excitable and badly behaved spaniel-collie cross and though I don’t get too much unsolicited advice (other than telling me she should come when called more reliably which I KNOW THAT’S WHY I’M TRAINING HER) I do get annoyed when she jumps up to greet people, I tell her to get down and they assure me it’s fine and pet her. This is basically making it impossible to teach her not to greet by jumping up. Because my dad works with disabled people she spends a lot of her time around people with limited mobility/ability to tell us about dog phobias in advance and so it’s not just irritating but dangerous.

    Does anyone have any good scripts for getting people to stop rewarding her for bad behaviour? I need people advice, not dog advice, to specify.

    1. When your dog jumps, you correct her, and they say it’s okay, say: “Actually, it’s NOT okay” – curb the dog, and remove her and yourself from interacting with those people entirely. No dog pets for them!

      1. Training dogs can be really hard for this reason, especially when the people who give a pass on behaviors are family or frequent visitors. We have issues with our dog and begging almost entirely because of his grandmother.

        My dog has sight issues and can just get really confused, so we have to handle interactions with kids really carefully. Everyone has to stay calm and my dog has to be sitting or laying down before anyone gets to pet or sniff or anything. Free range children and free range dog are just a bad situation for us. So I’m just really clear and up front and tell the kids what is up. (And their parents are usually super helpful, but it helps that my dog has like 30lbs on all these kids so they take it seriously.)

        They way I handle this is with two things, I set a rule for the dog that I ask the humans to follow, and then I emphasize that it is a safety issue.

        I say “He can’t say hi if he’s not sitting.” and then I explain that it is because he gets too excited and might hurt someone.

        I also LOVE when dogs jump up on me, so it might not be a bad idea to train a specific jump up behavior that you can show crazy people like me. Then you can be like “She’s only allowed to jump up when you ask her to, so please don’t pet her otherwise.” (My friend has a huge dog that jumps up on command and it is my favorite. I just pat my chest and I get kisses, best ever.)

        1. I’m in the process of teaching her to jump up, but because of the safety thing my priority is the down command. I do love dog hugs though! In fact, she hugs on command (you sit on your heels and she puts her head over your shoulder and snuggles you)

      2. I will be deploying these techniques. Our dog Cedric is teething and so is super chewy at the moment, but the number of people I’ve told “Please don’t let him bite you. If he bites, tell him no.” who’ve responded with “It’s fine! He’s not hurting me!” is eyerollingly enormous.

        I’m glad he’s not hurting you, but I still need him not to bite. Apart from anything else, any dog who bites can be put down by the police – even if they don’t draw blood, even if they’re a tiny, stupid Jackhuahua who has lost a number of arguments with the frog who lives in the garden.

        1. May I just say Rachel – Cedric is a FANTABULOUS dog name!

          (Not to derail – I just finished reading Miranda Hart’s “Is it Just Me?” and her chapter about her dog Peggy, just made me appreciate a good doggy moniker all the more!)

      3. It is difficult. I decided when I got my puppy 2 months ago that I would not teach him ‘paw’ as my last dog, and others I know, will paw incessantly when they want treats or attention and it gets tiresome.

        The other day a stranger stopped in the street to pet my dog. He asked for a paw and took it. I said that actually I dont want my dog to learn paw, so please dont do that, and the guy said that all his friends’ dogs could do it, and carried on trying.

        My dog is bright and picks things up 2nd or 3rd go so this is now A Risk. I told him that seriously, please dont do that, but he didnt get it so I took my puppy away, feeling Id pissed off a friendly stranger.

        But honestly? It’s your dog. Your rules. If you want advice youll ask for it. Otherwise, people should butt out.

        On a happy note, the other day a neighbour (who is generally disliked and felt to be a troublemaker) saw me with my dog, getting him to sit, and asked from some distance away whether it was ok to say hi as she loves dogs but could see I was working with him and didnt want to interrupt that. Wow. I wish everyone was that considerate! (I said it was fine, of course 🙂

        OP, I really sympathise, and I think youve had some great advice here, some of which I will adopt too.

    2. She sounds adorable! Some friends of mine put a scarf or something similar on the dog saying “Please don’t pet me” or “Dog in training”. Similar to what service dogs wear while on the job. Trying to tell friendly people that you’re training the dog before they do anything can work. Although some people just want to get their own petting strange dogs-needs met and enjoy winding them up and walking away and doesn’t care about the fallout for the owner. I’ve skipped to just saying “No, you can’t pet him” in a flat tone. Or walking away with the dog if the person petting it isn’t listening to you. Can’t listen? No cute dog for you! (Also a quick dog advice: hand target. Works wonders.)

      1. I’m amazed at people who do that. Do they not remember the dog-safety lecture from kindergarten? I still remember being told by the local policeman VERY sternly that we must always ask for permission from the owner before we touch a dog (the unspoken threat being “Otherwise, it will bite your face off”).

        1. I didn’t actually get that lesson in kindergarten! I wasn’t around dogs very much, and was kind of scared of them. I didn’t learn about proper dog etiquette until adulthood, from reading ranty pages on blogs from dog owners.

          My grandparents each had dogs, but one of them I could do anything to and the other I had to be careful with, and I just never learned anything about any other dog except that they were scary. When I decided to Get Over My Dog Fear I did it wrong for a little while.

        2. My experience, as someone with a dog who is sometimes a little shy, is that people usually will ask–but expect the answer to be an automatic “yes” and get offended if it is ANYTHING else. It’s really frustrating sometimes when it becomes clear that people think this is a social pleasantry along the lines of “how are you?” and not a genuine question.

        3. I once had a woman give me assent to pet her adorable sleepy puppy, and then deadpan, “…but be careful, last week, he took some guy’s face right off. He’s vicious.” She was trying to funny, I believe, but it was just discombobulating. And then awkward, because we were on a crowded subway and I was planning to sit there a while.

    3. I’ve used, “I’m glad you don’t mind, but I don’t want him/her to do that,” and removing the animal (or child) so they don’t get the bad behavior reinforced. This gets across that a) I know they’re usually just trying to reassure me that they were not hurt or offended, but b) I still don’t want the animal/child to do that thing.

      1. Yeah, I think that this is important. A lot of people just honestly don’t put the pieces together.

        1. Yeah, I have to say, as a non-dog owner I’ve always assumed that dog-owners expect their dog to jump on people, believe that everyone loves jumpy dogs, and are just mechanically telling the dog off and that my required polite response in that situation is to tell them that it’s OK and pet their dog even if I don’t want to! I’m now wondering whether any of the owners of jumpy dogs that I’ve encountered were actually genuinely trying to get them to stop.

          1. The best thing to do when a dog jumps up unsolicited is to turn away and ignore them till they jump down, then give pets. Even a small dog could knock over and injure or really scare a child, so most owners are pretty keen to discourage the behaviour

          2. I would guess most of them, actually. I’ve had dogs my whole life, and I can count on my hands the number of dog owners I’ve known who thought it was OK when their dogs jumped on people*. These people were universally assholes with unpleasant, poorly trained dogs.

            * Other than dogs trained to jump up on command, which one of mine is trained to do — but these dogs jump ONLY on command if you do it properly, not up on random people.

          3. Related to that, I’m really not a dog person. I’m also a germaphobe and don’t really pet cats (which I love) unless I can instantly wash my hands and remove myself from them. When dogs decide that they really want to jump up for pets and cuddles, and I try to get away from them, I just get told “He won’t hurt you!”. Like that’s the problem. No, but he’ll slobber on me and make me feel uncomfortable and like I need a shower for the rest of the day. I’ve never once had them reprimand the dog.

    4. Thank you guys! I am definitely taking note of your advice, thank you. I probably won’t be using a Dog In Training vest simply because I worry about people maybe taking them less seriously when they see me fussing and playing with my dog instead of teaching it correct service dog behavior! Thanks!

    5. I have this problem too! I used to be one of those people, back when I was a dog lover but not dog owner. My response is usually, “I’m glad my dog’s not annoying you, but I’d appreciate it if you’d turn away when she jumps because if she does this to an elderly person or small child they could be badly hurt and I’d be liable.” People have always been happy to help when I put it that way. I know they are just trying to be nice and not make me feel bad that my dog behaves horribly when she meets new playmates.

    6. Yeah, I’m a reforming “oh, it’s ok” type with people’s dogs (often with toddlers as well, now that I think of it). I don’t have any pets or kids, so it’s easy for me to say “oh, that dog/baby is adorable, I don’t mind them doing that, it’s cool” without realizing that it’s not actually for me that the parent/owner is telling me to stop, but for the dog/child, and for themselves, and for all of the future people the dog/child will interact with.

      I’m working on it. I don’t know of any strategies to make unreformed “oh, it’s ok” types to stop, though– aside from explaining how it doesn’t really matter whether they are cool with it, it’s for the training, etc., but sometimes you don’t want to go into that much detail.

  13. Or try my 100% certain conversation stopper: Look intently down the block and say, :”You know, I used to live down that street.” Works every time.

    1. I really really like the total non-sequitur reply. A baffling derail with just a hint of creepy.

  14. I’ve seen Miss Manners advise saying, in as cold and unfriendly a tone as you can manage, “How kind of you to (do whatever out-of-line thing it is that you’re doing).” For the LW, it might be, “How kind of you to worry about the well-being of my dog.” The words are polite; the tone of voice is ARCTIC and gets the message across. I’ve done this a few times, and it usually works like a CHARM because your words are grateful so what can they say?

    The tone of voice is key. So is the period at the end of the sentence. You don’t want to invite further discussion in your delivery. A couple of times someone has continued to talk anyway, at which time saying, “I’m sorry, but I can’t chat with you,” and walking away has shut them down.

    1. I have deployed the frosty “How kind of you to worry about me/my dog/my health/my computer/whatever” to great effect. The best part is, it usually confuses the hell out of them, which is funny to watch and usually stops the conversation cold.

    2. Tones are key! I’ve used “How INTERESTING!” or “WOW! You actually said that out loud didn’t you!” or “Bless. Aren’t you EVER so helpful.” The actual words are rather nice, but my voice goes up about 2 octaves and suddenly it sounds like I’m talking to a 2 year old.

      Its really amusing to watch the confusion as they slink and mumble off.

  15. So this week I got the most advice about being fat without actually getting any advice. It’s in a work context, and this woman I really like a lot. She’s about 20 years my senior, and I respect her skill as a sales person and she’s a lot of fun to be around. But she obviously hates that I”m a Fat Fat Fattie. Whenever we talk she brings up how much she exercises and how she doesn’t eat such and so and so and such. It’s like in her head she’s thinking “Do you not know how fat you are? Here are the things you should do to be less fat, let me model them for you.” but trying to be super nice about it.

    Fortunately she doesn’t realize that I come from a background of having unsolicited advice directed at me along with dire warnings of my premature demise, so I just kept acting like it was normal for her to keep talking about working out with significant looks in my direction.

    I almost wish it had been a more direct “have you tried diet and exercise.” So I could have just said “huh” and shut it down.

    1. I wonder if you could still use “huh” in this situation. Like, if you don’t show any interest in a conversation about how perfect and wonderful her diet and exercise habits are etc. it might become a less fun/productive topic for her to harp on? You know the woman and the situation better than I do, but I’ve used similar tactics with some success depending on how observant the person is.

    2. At my former workplace a fellow diabetic and I would often eat together, as we split our hour lunch break into three 20 minute breaks to accommodate eating 6-8 small meals instead of 3 large ones. We had company approval to do so, and would bring our food and eat in the break room.

      One of our ever-so-helpful co-workers (she was praying for God to lift the penance for our gluttony) would come in 2-3 times a day, wait for someone to come get coffee, and marvel to that person at how we could possibly be eating AGAIN! I mean there was no way she could have eaten ALL THAT FOOD! My goodness! We just ate ALL THE TIME! She wished she could get a doctor’s note that let her eat WHENEVER SHE WANTED!

      So one day when she came in to stalk us I started a conversation with my co-worker about how pathetic it was when people who starved themselves into thinness obsessed about food all the time. Like how instead of doing their work, they watched other people eat. And how much happier they’d be if they’d just have a bacon cheeseburger. Or an apple.
      My co-worker said she though it was because those people were defective, and couldn’t taste food properly. They watched people eat to try to figure out how to enjoy it. And that we should pray to God to lift their affliction.

      She never bothered us again.

        1. It was completely impulsive, and not at all nice, but I just couldn’t take anymore. I think my friend sealed it, she has this soft sweet voice. I sounded angry, she sounded genuinely concerned.

          With some people you just can’t be subtle.

      1. As a not-diabetic person whose blood sugars take her for a ride if she doesn’t watch when she eats, I salute both of you. You amazing people you.

      2. A supervisor at work once tried to say to me more or less “you can’t do this necessary diabetic food thing at work because RULES.” I had never before and have not since said… but I said then with relish… “not according to the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

        I had a couple of run ins with her, and repeating “according to the ADA” eventually stuck. After a while.

    3. “Fortunately she doesn’t realize that I come from a background of having unsolicited advice directed at me along with dire warnings of my premature demise…”

      So, confession: since reading this blog I have become SO MUCH MORE aware of the unsolicited advice and judgment that gets directed toward fat people, which is something I’m really, really grateful for. It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with…so it’s not something I’ve ever noticed. As a result I’ve become much more careful about my own contributions to the policing-other-women’s-bodies problem (I don’t think I was a big offender, but now I’m an active non-offender, if that makes sense). So, a) thanks, Awkwardeers, for helping me be less of an asshole! and b) do you think there’s room, in situations like this, if you feel like it, to deal with her hints directly?

      1. Thanks for knocking that shit off!

        I sometimes bring the subtext into text and express how I would prefer not to have the conversations about food constraints and dieting. It often works to get people off my back, although it doesn’t always work to get people off their own backs around me, if you catch my drift. Occasionally I slip and get ranty about thin privilege and shit and that tends to keep the conversations away for a while.

        Unfortunately, taking the subtext into text doesn’t work for people who have ill-will or who are deeply in denial. It’s not worth it for one-off jerks, either. But for the constant woman-self-deprecation-fest at the office, for instance, it works pretty well.

        The challenge is to respect others’ choices for themselves as not being judgments of me, while also enjoying talking about food because I loooooooove fooooooood and love talking about it. I mean, I can get away from it by simply not talking about food ever, but then I wouldn’t get to talk about food. So now I avoid talking about food when my boundaries are porous.

      2. As a thin person, I find that I can jump in on that in a way the fat person can’t, because I’m assumed to be an impartial observer. (Bullshit I am–I’m very partial to not hearing other people being shamed.) So if a fat person responds with “I don’t want to talk about it” or “let me defend myself,” it’s just seen as a further sign of them being a bad fatty who won’t admit they’re bad. But if I jump in with, “Sorry, diets are my least favourite thing to talk about, should I leave so you can finish this?” or “Isn’t it amazing how different bodies do different things–I look like this but I hardly ever exercise, but a friend of mine runs marathons and weighs 200 pounds”, the hleper will back off.

        1. …Except I actually say “300 pounds” because in spoken language my finger does not accidentally hit the “2” key.

    4. shinobi42, I’m wondering what would happen if you said to her in a very serious and concerned way “I am really getting a bit worried about your obsession with working out and starving yourself, you talk about it constantly and you don’t look well”

      1. I’m not a big fan of this idea because while it’d most likely be effective, what if she actually had an eating disorder? That would be pretty awful…

        1. Yes, I thought the same thing. It might feel like a really good snark, but it’s still using a serious mental illness as a punchline, and that can backfire in lots and lots of nasty ways.

      2. When I was anorexic I got a secret dirty thrill out of others’ concern, which my glucose-deprived brain interpreted as jealousy. So please don’t actually say this! Plus it just reinforces the coworker’s assumption that it’s ok to be all up in other people’s metabolic business.

        1. Good point. We want to encourage MYOB, rather than revenge concern-trolling that escalates into a bitchfest.

          *sigh* I guess I’ll go be an adult now. 🙂

      3. My experience with the food police is that you can’t get someone who’s obsessed with food/dieting/exercise to not be, and you can’t get someone who judges based on weight to not do so in their minds. There’s no insightful thing you can say to make them think differently, but you may be able to get them to shut up about it around you.

    5. I dunno, man. Not to play devil’s advocate, but whenever I start hardcore dieting and exercising again, I broadcast it to the entire world because I am !!excited!! about it. I talk about it just as obnoxiously to everyone I know, and it’s never meant to be a pointed comment.
      You know your situation better than I do, but like, man, sometimes I think people just don’t think about how or who they are sayin’ things to when they are passionate about stuff.

      1. Talking about diet & exercise habits endlessly with people who are not your fellow workout buddies or who haven’t expressly invited it is AT BEST the conversational equivalent of watching paint dry. Among friends who you know are also into this stuff? Great. People you don’t know that well, especially people trapped next to you in a cubicle? Well, “obnoxiously” was your word.

        Seriously rethink this. You don’t know what kind of eating disorder issues people have, or how much this is done as a way to bully people in a socially acceptable way.

      2. The best thing I ever did was to make a personal rule that if someone started talking about their diet or exercise in normal conversation, I would immediately turn and walk away without a word.

        Yes, it’s rude. And yes, it’s wonderful. Wonderful!

        1. I am stealing that rule too. Why does anyone think that a rundown of what they are eating or doing for exercise is interesting? And god there are people who will detail every stinking thing they put in their pieholes.

    6. I’ve had that conversation before, but about how closely some stranger thought I needed to be watching my kids. It worked for me to just agree with everything the person was saying, in effect daring her to make the issue specifically about me and not just a general conversation we happened to be having for NO APPARENT REASON.

      “Your kids just seem so wonderful!”
      “Yes, they are.”
      “Well, I saw them over by the bathroom and I got to meet them, and I just wanted to tell you how delightful they are.”
      “Thanks, I appreciate hearing that.”
      [with more insistence] “It just seemed to me that they shouldn’t be over there by themselves.”
      “Hmm, interesting.”
      “So, you must love them VERY MUCH.”
      “Yes, I do. Thank you.”

    7. Since she is ostensibly talking about just herself, I wonder if you could use something like “I’m so glad you’ve found something that works for you!” With perhaps added emphasis on the “for you” if she seems to be getting heavy-handed with the significant looks.

  16. “Thanks, but no thanks” or “Thanks, but we’re doing fine” are handy go-tos. And then disengaging if they don’t get the hint and switch the subject to something else.

    1. I’ve had people (especially strangers) get FURIOUS at me for using “Thanks, but I’m doing fine.” Not that there’s a response that will guarantee a good outcome, but I’ve deployed it thinking it was neutral and had it explode in my face a few times.

      1. Honestly, I don’t think you can control whether a meddling stranger is going to explode at you for not immediately following their advice. There is no such thing as a response that is SO NEUTRAL or even SO FRIENDLY that no one will use it as an excuse to lose their shit, so I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot of energy agonizing over if this or that response is friendly or neutral “enough”. There is no enough for some people.

        1. I agree. Sometimes the purpose of the interaction is a set up and there is no response that will not provide them an opportunity to vent their spleen.

    2. I have an reactive asshole dog and mine go to is a variation on this. I’ll also say something like “Oh yeah, it’s a thing we’re working on with our trainer. This is actually a big improvement” then remove ourselves from the situation. Invoking a professional, real or imaginary, seems to help. And, in the case of a neighbor who’s training methods do not agree with mine, “I’ve had this dog for three years now. I think I know what works best for us.”

      1. Haha yep, I’ve used “thanks, I’ll bring that up with the wedding planner/my boss/my doctor/etc.” to great effect 🙂

  17. I can’t even express how happy this post made me. I also have a dog, and I’m always getting “helpful” advice on what I should be feeding him and when I should be walking him and what behavior he should or should not be doing. I will definitely be using some of these.

    One thing I do wonder about, though, is how to deal with people who are afraid of dogs and try to make me feel like I shouldn’t bring mine in public. On several occasions, I’ve been walking my dog and someone has made a point of telling me that he looks scary or that they don’t like dogs. I don’t want to be mean about someone’s phobia (because it’s not like I don’t have my own irrational fears), but at the same time, if my dog is on a leash, far enough away that he can’t reach you AND is completely ignoring you and not acting threatening, what more do you want from me?

    1. Yeah, I have this problem. My 75-pound shiny black shepherd lab has big white teeth. He’s beautiful and I will never stop talking about how wonderful he is, but if I didn’t know him, I’d give him space. I swear when I’m out with him, street harassment has been entirely supplanted by strangers giving me advice or telling me my dog is dangerous. Depending on the situation, I have a few responses to scared strangers.

      1. Tell my dog to sit and give a high five. This is a great trick: it makes him seem smaller and takes the perceived threat away. With kids I use it as a teaching moment about how to approach a dog. This is hard because he has hip issues, he sometimes can’t sit on cue. But it’s made him really popular with the kids around here.
      2. Cover my dog’s ears because he’s a good boy and I don’t want him to hear some random stranger calling him dangerous. This is funny and diffuses the situation.
      3. Shrug, walk away.
      4. Rudeness. I don’t recommend it…but I’ve got this big, dangerous dog with me, which is the equivalent of being a muscular man in terms of people wanting to pick a fight.

      My dog’s actually been attacked twice this summer by out of control small dogs, so I’m kind of irritable about this.

      1. I have a large black dog that is friendly and well trained. My neighbor has an untrained, aggressive small dog that has already bitten several times.

        Guess which one people are afraid of, and which one they try to pet?

        I’m going to start covering her ears when people say nasty things, that’s awesome!

        1. My dog is terrified of this little Yorkie that lives in our building. He’ll hide behind me when the dog and its owner walk down the street! But I had one guy with a Yorkie pick up his dog and tell me that my dog was licking his chops! Yeah, okay, my dog probably could eat yours. But he’s pretty well-fed, so you’re okay.

          The funny thing is that kids will usually come right up to my dog. It’s adults who are afraid of him. I try to teach kids that not all dogs are as friendly as Ludo, you really shouldn’t stick your hands in a strange dog’s face…and then he rolls over for belly rubs. Jerkface dog makes me look bad.

    2. Just say, “I’m sorry to hear that,” make sure the dog stays away from them, and keep going? If your dog isn’t bothering them, then randomly telling you that they don’t like dogs is their weirdness, not yours.

      My partner has the opposite problem – she really doesn’t like dogs, someone’s dog will come over to sniff her or whatever, she’ll jump back or flinch, and the owner will immediately start reassuring her that their dog’s not dangerous and just wants to say hello and so on. So she’s standing there going, great, not only is there a dog, but now I am trapped with the dog owner telling me what a great dog it is and how do I politely get out of this and aaargh!

      I think that a lot of people like having dogs *because* it’s a way of starting conversations and meeting people, but it sounds like there’s a mismatch on both sides of how those people approach each other!

      1. Just a thought – would “I’m sorry, I’m very allergic to dogs” or something similar do the trick for your partner? It would be great if people would just get the message so the lie isn’t required, but sometimes people will respect an allergy when they won’t respect a phobia.

        1. I dunno – I’m generally opposed to claiming an allergy where one doesn’t exist in case it makes things harder for the truly-allergic people. Plus, I suspect the people who think they can convert a 38-year-old woman from fear of dogs just by explaining how nice their dog is (cos they’re the FIRST TO TRY THAT!) probably aren’t much more respectful of allergies!

      2. I have the same problem as your partner, I don’t like dogs and am also afraid of them.
        My way of dealing with dogs that come up to me and owners who go out of their way to reassure me how nice and lovely their dog is is saying “No! No, no, no!” real loudly and just walk away in a great big circle around them both. The Nos don’t make sense and thus keep the owners puzzled until I’m gone.

        1. This also has the added bonus of the vast majority of dogs having been trained to know that ‘no’ means ‘bad dog, back off and stop doing that’ so they’ll most likely leave you alone. If only we could train the OWNERS we’d be onto a winner

    3. I would probably go with, “I’m sorry to hear that,” coupled with an obvious re-grip of the leash. That is, (deliberately mis-)interpret them as talking about their own shit rather than trying to dictate your choices, and underline the fact that they are, in fact, safe around your dog.

      If they’re rude/entitled enough to say explicitly that you shouldn’t have your dog in public, I have no idea.

      I’m in a sort of weird place with this right now. I grew up with a German Shepherd and love dogs, especially big dogs. I work as a nanny for two small children who are afraid of dogs, even dogs on leashes. We encounter dogs on a regular basis at one of the playgrounds we go to and in their neighborhood. I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with these encounters. I really don’t want to make the kids feel ashamed of being afraid. I also don’t want them to get locked into this fear (the oldest is 5). And I don’t want to be rude to the people who are just walking their (usually leashed and well-behaved) dogs.

      Right now I usually say something like, “I think it’s okay, but stick by me if you’re nervous” to the kids and an apologetic “Sorry, they’re a little shy around dogs” to the dog’s owner. I try to talk about the dog’s body language with the kids–say, “that dog looks like it’s really excited to go run around,” or “that dog looks like it wants to say hi to us, but we’re just going to keep walking” or (most often) “That dog looks like it’s just walking with its person and isn’t interested in us.”

  18. My go-to script for this kind of situation when I’m in the mood to fucke with the asshole intermeddler is as follows:

    “Oh! Hahahahah! Thanks, but I’ve already given this a lot of thought and have determined how best to handle it.”

  19. For dogs/kids I tend to go with the “Huh,” “how nice,” or “How interesting.” When it’s my weight /clothing/makeup/diet/exercise routine I no not believe politeness is called for and I bust out my favorite – “Awww, that’s so CUTE how you think your opinion is important!” But you start out with the tone of voice as if you we’re going to genuinely say “That’s so sweet of you!” I save this one for catty coworkers and church nosy people mostly.

    My other favorite is to look directly at them, give them a glance that says “Really?” Then deliberately do something that screams “I’m ignoring you.” Like put my earbuds in and turn away from them.

  20. Thank you for your input – that’s the phrase my dad taught me. I usually say it like Quinto-Spock says LLAP in the 1st reboot movie

  21. I love all these responses! I don’t have a dog, but I have a visible disability, and so I get lots of unsolicited advice about that. What’s unnerving is that I’m usually in a different headspace, in public just minding my business, and BLAM! I’ll get drive by advice. And it often kind of messes up my day.
    My latest experience wasn’t even about my disability. I was rushing through the mall to get to the bank, because I only had a short time left on my parking time. I have very fair skin, and when I rush, my cheeks get red. I go by this woman at a skin cream kiosk, she offers me a sample and I decline. Then she asks me, as I’m moving on “What do you use for your rosacea?”
    I have many things wrong with me, but not that. Urggh. I frown at her, and go off. And on my way back, I take a different route.

    1. It’s always really disconcerting when salespeople assume you’ve got some flaw that you either don’t have or never really noticed yourself. I don’t know why they would even bring it up; what’s helpful in going to someone and saying something like “Wow, you must be looking for something to hide all those hideous pimples!” or whatever? Either they did guess correctly what it was the person was shopping for, and the customer feels super-self-conscious about all those pimples that they are trying to hide, or they guessed wrong and they’ve made a potential customer get annoyed and shop somewhere else because they were actually just looking for eyeshadow thank you very much and they’d rather buy it at a store where the employees don’t go around insulting people and making their perfectly normal-looking faces sound like disgusting blobthings. It’s a lose-lose situation, if you think about it.

      1. Yeah, I can’t imagine this woman is very successful if that’s her primary sales technique. What annoyed me even more is that she was about 10 feet from me at the time. Usually, dermatologists look at your skin up close before diagnosis. Not that she necessarily was a dermatologist.

        1. Eew, that’s so creepy! Most dermatologists don’t use their jillion-dollar medical expertise to catcall random strangers either. I hate those mall kiosks, it’s like running through a gauntlet.

      2. Hell, I’ve even got that from a pharmacist. I was buying something completely unrelated, and he started blabbing on about some concoction he could whip up that’s really great for acne. So lovely to know that all some people see when they look at me is my acne.

      3. I think the “calling out inconspicuous/nonexistent flaws” thing is a standard sales technique. You put people off balance and make them think there’s something wrong with them so that they then need whatever it is you’re selling to fix it. Same principle as fashion magazines and skeezy pick-up “artists”. (My current favorite illustration of this is from the pilot of “Louie,” where Louis is on the horrible first date, loses his shit and starts basically insulting the woman–‘why aren’t YOU nervous to be going out with ME?’–and then moves in for the kiss. PERFECT/horrible.)

    2. Oh, blargh. I do have rosacea, and I’m painfully self-conscious about it, and I would be entirely pissed off if that happened to me.

  22. I’m quite quick and mean, so I usually go for “I would _not_ wear that jacket with that hat” (or my mum’s favourite, “You shouldn’t have a head that size for your shoudlers!”) and then move away as fast as possible.

    1. Ha, I like your mum’s advice. It’s something so completely absurd that it points out the absurdity of the original unsolicited comment.

  23. As a first time mom and lifelong nonconfrontational person, I will definitely be using this. People seem to take personal offense at me raising my child differently than they raised theirs. I have researched (and soul-searched) every aspect of my parenting style and feel confident in my decisions but I don’t really want to explain myself, get walked all over or get in a fight, especially with my baby there. Having ways to shut people down who make my life harder by “helping” is, well, legitimately helpful.

  24. I use a quizzical look and ask “Do I know you?” If they reply, “I’ve seen you around”, I say, “But do I *know* you?” When they reply (and they always do) “No, I just [blah blah irrelevance]”, I plaster on my cheeriest smile and say “Oh, then. Have a nice day!” and go on my way. I throw in a wave as well. Befuddles them, amuses me.

  25. I don’t have a dog, but I get unsolicited advice in Home Depot All.The.Time. Usually it’s someone telling me I shouldn’t buy that thing, I should buy this other thing. I break out my flattest monotone and say, “But that won’t match.”

    Also, I love “hlepy.”

  26. “That’s certainly a point of view.”


    “Some people do think that.”

  27. I’m also a recovering meek person xD I find “That’s interesting, thanks!” + leaving/going back to what I was doing works well for me as my personal “Thanks, I’ll think about it”. I usually say it in a cheery tone with a smile and then act like it’s totally normal that I’m going to proceed to ignore them afterwards. If they continue, I’ll say “Sorry, I gotta go/finish this work”. If they don’t take THAT for an answer? It’s time to be rude.

    Also, I’m from an urban place, and I get talked to a lot on the street. It’s pretty normal for me to not even stop when someone talks to me until I find out what they want and then make a decision about stopping. A lot of people that talk to me get a “sorry!” even before they finish their sentence. This may be impossible when you’re with a dog, but remember you don’t have to hear out random people if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes this earns me a fuck you from people, but I just tell them to fuck off right back and then text a friend about it to help me get over it.

  28. This reminds me of my time in public transportation. Since I’m a young white woman, I am CONSTANTLY given advice on random stuff. It gets to a point where you just CAN’T let it happen to you anymore. My go to response is a simple “thanks” or “ok.” Depending on who is being “helpy,” I might vary the tone from polite to ice queen. Case in point: a shady old man once tried to sit right next to me and give me makeup advice. (Wtf??) The “thanks” I said in response (before moving away) contained about six layers of “go fuck yourself” underneath a tone that could freeze lava.

    Always remember that simple words can be your complete response to any interaction.

  29. Oh poppet I feel you so much on this; when I heard friends of mine with dogs make this same complaint it seemed really odd to me but it really is something people feel a need to do. These people have a baby now and they get so much unsolicited advice – as someone with no dogs or babies I feel overwhelmed FOR them.

    As a sidenote I have a visible piercing that gets comments every time it’s on show and I’ve actually come to think it has the same effect as reading in public; to me it’s plainly My Business, but to some people anything you present in the world is an invitation to their comment. I’ll definitely be saving ‘huh’ as my response!

  30. My favorite response is so sign, “I’m sorry, I don’t read lips.” This usually prompts the person to shout, “I”M SO-R-RY!” and walk away in a hurry. When they get about 10-15 feet I wave and yell, “Have a nice day!” and then turn around and walk off with my dog.

  31. Being a diabetic fat woman means that I cannot be trusted with my own body, because I would eat nothing but cake and never get off of the couch unless I was constantly reminded that is bad for me.
    It is of course completely unpossible that I work with my doctor to keep myself healthy, and that she is very happy with all my numbers, I mean, if I cared about my health I wouldn’t be fat and diabetic, obviously.
    So the amount of unsolicited medical and dietary advice I get is insane.

    One woman was using a lot of jargon, and so I sincerely asked her where she went to school. She huffed off and now “Oh, thanks. Where did you get your degree?” is my go to response for strangers giving unwanted medical/dietary/exercise advice.

    1. I like “where did you get your degree?”.

      I have a friend who has the annoying habit of diagnosing people’s health issues (badly and unsolicited). She tried to tell me that the pain I was feeling was in the wrong place for kidney stones (I get them regularly, I think I know) and suggested my shoulder was dislocated instead of sprained (my doctor would probably have caught that) and so on. I don’t want to snark at her (she is a friend), but the next time she starts up, I will have to point out that she isn’t a doctor, and even if she were, she isn’t MY doctor.

      1. Yeah, for that I go to the sarcastic, “How amazing! You can tell that just by looking at me? Normally my doctor has to do an examination and lab tests and shit!”

      2. My boss is wonderful, I adore her. She cares about people and is confident that she knows everything ever.
        Those qualities make her good at her job, but she wants very badly to fix me, and it’s really irritating sometimes.

        She was insistent that I needed to go on a certain medication because it had worked for a relative.
        I let her know that my doctor had already decided against that because of potential kidney issues. Which was more than I should have told her, and just made her want to argue with me about why my doctor was wrong.
        But I like her and she has authority over me, so I can’t just tell her to bug off.

        1. Oh, that’s a tricky situation to be in. But I think you can tell her to bug off, even if you have to be more careful about it. If she really does care about people then she should accept that the best way to care about you in this instance is to stop going on at you about it.

          Also, okay, she is your boss. But she is also someone who owes you a duty of care, and you are a person who does things to make her life easier/help her to succeed. You are more than allowed, in this relationship, to draw boundaries like “I am not your project to be fixed, and I am not going to expend effort to soothe your feelings of wanted to be the Helpfulest Person With All The Answers.” I find it helpful to remind myself of that.

          Being the Person Who Is To Be Fixed is exhausting, particularly when you know there is not actually an easy fix and have to constantly be like, “Nope, it’s still not the best news for me actually, but thanks for bringing it up again”.You have my sympathies.

        2. I understand not wanting to give a smart answer to your boss. Could you take the approach of polite smile and “I’ll think about that, thanks. Would you like to see the numbers of the latest widget shipment?”

          You don’t actually have to think about it. But saying you will can shut down the advice and then you can go back to work talk.

        3. How about, “Denise, I know you mean well, but I’d really prefer not to discuss my medical care with you.”

          I actually had to practice in my head, “Denise, that’s private,” because my boss’s wife (family business) is an inveterate busybody and went so far as asking me if I’m on birthcontrol, and what kind, and I was too accustomed to giving straight answers.

    2. I love it! Because people who actually HAVE the qualifications to dispense this advise sure as hell don’t give it away for free!

      1. Nope, they most certainly do not!

        The kindest way I’ve found to deal with well-meaning people I don’t want to piss off is “Thank you, I’m very happy with my doctors care”

        I use almost the exact same wording for religious proselytizing. “Thank you, I’m very happy in my choice of faith”
        They don’t need to know that my faith is trying to be less of an asshole and contributing what I can, when I can, just that I’m happy and have made a choice.

        1. ” my faith is trying to be less of an asshole and contributing what I can, when I can,”

          I LIKE your choice of faith.

      2. And since this is a snark-friendly zone:

        I know what Google is! Do you?

        Seriously, I know you mean well.
        Before you send me an article about a miracle herb Big Pharma doesn’t want me to know about, that has half of the words in a giant red font, maybe you could google it to be sure it isn’t a known scam with a support group of people who fell for it as the second result?
        That way we don’t have to feel embarrassed when I tell you it’s a scam.

    1. I think I do something along those lines automatically. An asshole says something inappropriate, I just look at them (did you really just take a dump and ask me to smell it?), and the bystanders usually burst out laughing at the expression on my face. That usually ends the “conversation.”

      I’ve been lucky to avoid being the recipient for drive-by advice/commentary from strangers most of the time. My problem is mostly my mom (and always has been). To the point that I reflexively shoot down any suggestions anyone makes, not just her. I am working hard to retrain myself to listen to friends and find a way to deal with my mom without getting aggressive or defensive.

      I’m one of those people who has sometimes reinforced bad behavior like jumping up on people. I’m working on that too.

      1. Did you really just take a dump and ask me to smell it?

        Thanks for the good laugh, even though I was at work at the time. I may have to use these exact words if someone says something truly asstabulous to me.

    2. Oh. Oh dear. Oh my. I laughed so hard I choked a little. I’ve never seen her before, but good gracious, that is perfect.

  32. I’ve used a chilly, “Sooo kind of you to take an interest,” and then turned away. That tends to shut them down. Or alternately, a total non-sequiteur like, “The term for the little plastic sheath on the end of a shoelace is aglet.” That usually confuses them long enough to escape. 🙂

  33. I have the Death Glare, combined with a Vorpal Eyebrow that cuts people dead mid-sentence (sometimes mid-word). it’s actually pretty rare that I get somebody trying to offer me advice or whatever in the first place, because (as I have been told multiple times by multiple people) I come across as “frighteningly intimidating.” IDEK what that’s about, but anyway. for the rare soul that is brave or clueless enough to climb the mountain, a good solid “I’m actually picturing ripping your throat out with my teeth right now” look, combined with the slowly climbing Spock eyebrow of “I fail to see the significance of anything you are saying or of your entire existence,” tend to make them shut up and go away quickly. now if only I could perfect that online…

  34. In a moment of total irony, as I was reading this thread my roommate’s boyfriend gloated with pride about how he had told his neighbor that she should feed her cat less because it was too fat and she had said, “Hm, I’ll think about that.”

  35. This is totally a random point, but you’re analogy of “Ayuh” to “Huh” isn’t correct. The term is used as a form of agreement, like saying “yes”, such as “It’s a wicked nice day.” “Ayuh.” (Though it can be used in the non-committal, I’m just acknowledging you said something way, like saying “yup”.) Also, unless the LW is in Maine, most people will just be confused (which I guess might work to her advantage in this situation).

    In response to the LW, what I usually do when people try to give me advice I am not looking for is to give some form on acknowledgement (so as not to be completely rude), like, “Ok”, “Interesting”, or “I’ll keep that in mind”, followed by, “Thanks, gotta go.” By thanking them you let them feel as though their comment was validated, but you also give yourself an out. The important part is creating the out. The trick is to be polite but show that the conversation is over, “Sorry, have to go.” “Nice talking to you.” Some of the other commenters have good lines like “Have a nice day.” Another thing you can do if you are out walking your dog (or out in general) is to try not to stop when people engage you. You can just say you are in a hurry “Sorry, can’t talk now.” or you can just pretend you didn’t hear them and keep walking.

    If you are out in public and are trapped (like public transportation), hopefully after you say “I’ll keep that in mind, thanks” and then go back to whatever you were doing they will take the hint. If they keep being a pest then either ignore them or say something blunt to shut them down (they are no longer being polite at this point and do not necessarily warrant your kindness in return). I have had to sometimes to cut people off as a last resort and point blank say, “Don’t care” and/or “Stop” (usually followed by another “Don’t care” when they still keep trying to explain their point).

    Something to watch out for, avoid the slight nod of the head or an “Mhmm” because now you’re showing interest in what they said and have made an open invitation for them to continue. I also try to not dismiss or counteract their point such as by saying things like “The [insert dog behavior here] doesn’t bother me,” because unless you bail right after it is said it may cause them to keep talking so as to justify their point and show why they are right.

  36. At the place I used to work, my manager would use any excuse to launch into what I called “Unwanted Advice Hour”. She would start by yelling at me for some mistake and then segue into why I was studying the wrong things, making bad life choices, I would thank her someday, etc., etc. My only defense was to go to a happy place in my mind, and when it was all over I would say. “Ok.” It didn’t stop her, but it make her mad. 🙂

    On another note, my dog doesn’t like going into public so she spends the entire time glaring at everyone. (She kind of looks like Snoopy doing a vulture impression.) Instead of advice, I get people going, “Is your dog okay?” in hushed tones.

  37. Oof, I needed to read this. I work at an animal shelter and sometimes have a hard time keeping my mouth well shut around other people’s pets. It sometimes feels like I have canine/ feline/ leporid (rabbit)-related knowledge dripping out my ears. While it is literally my business, it is also clearly none of my business. Short of stopping cruel or illegal behavior, I should keep it to myself. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

  38. I have a friend with an amazing poker face ability and I stole hers: “good to know.” (with anywhere from just a dash of sarcasm to downright dripping with it… whatever works)

  39. I love this thread.

    The thing I get unsolicited advice about is my boyfriend, who has major health problems. Some of the advice is about treatment/supplement/routine XYZ that could help him. It’s hard to deflect such advice without sounding like I secretly want him to stay sick. The other kind of advice is about how my life shouldn’t revolve around taking care of my boyfriend. Sure, sounds good to me. How ’bout YOU cook dinner for him while I catch an early movie. Oh, that’s not what you meant? You thought I should just let him starve to death? Okay then.

    There’s a particular relative who can’t seem to talk to me for ten minutes without getting into #2. I’d ask for a script to deal with her, except I already know various ways to shut down that line of discussion. I used a variation of “I don’t feel the need to convince you of this” the last time I talked to her—thanks, Awkward Army! My problem is that it’s so hard to resist arguing with her, and when I argue, I implicitly concede her right to meddle.

    1. My first thought was, “I agree! I’ll take contributions towards my weekend at the spa by cheque, cash, or money order.”

      Okay, actually my first thought was, “Do you want to pay for his home health aide?” but I know how complicated getting someone else to do second-shift work is.

      1. “No no no, we meant you should break up with him and make him move out. He’d die? Okay, but that’s not YOUR problem.”

        (Seriously. In their defense, these are people who know the relationship isn’t sunshine and roses a lot of the time, but I wonder, if they were in the same situation, how many of their exes they’d have actually thrown out on the street.)

        1. Yiiikes. That sounds like a really tough situation! If he literally has no option but to rely on an unpaid significant other for his basic needs, that’s a sign that society’s just fucked up. I’m wishing the best for you.

          1. Thanks. Coincidentally, someone recently informed me that he could totally get a subsidized full-time nurse. I highly doubt it, but I’ll look into it. 🙂

            Bringing this back to the LW and related gripes, at least I don’t have to worry about strangers on the street accosting me with their advice about my boyfriend. What a pain. Sympathies.

  40. I have, a couple of times, employed a bright, cheery, and obviously fake “Your feedback is very important to me!” response in similar situations and it tends to baffle the person enough for me to move on without further interaction.

    That said, I don’t use it all the time because I have to judge whether this aggressive person is likely to become more aggressive in the face of a reply clearly lacking the expected gratitude and admiration.

    I wish people would mind their own business. I really do.

    1. I’m picturing a Customer Service/Phone Robot voice with fixed eyes and grinning teeth for this. “YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US. PLEASE STAY ON THE LINE FOR FURTHER RESPONSE.”

      And I kind of like it. In a deeply-weird, “Welcome to Nightvale” sort of way.


      1. Hah! Awesome. I am now going to aim for a Cecil-esque voice whenever I need to respond to unwanted advice.


        Or, as a derail when offered unsolicited advice: “You’ve been talking to Steve Carlsberg, haven’t you?”

        1. …If Night Vale wants to raise money, I know people who would pay a lot for a Cecil Baldwin voicemail greeting.

          1. A friend who works at NPR said to me: “People would pay A LOT of money. And never stop asking. They’d never be able to make it so prohibitively expensive that they wouldn’t be deluged with requests they couldn’t possibly fill. And if only one person could record them? It would ruin his voice.”

            I take solace in having too good of a fundraising idea.

  41. I shut down unsolicited dog tips with “It’s alright; I got it.” Just total breezy brush-off, same as if someone offered to help me carry something. With a strong hint of Boston townie accent to convey my total indifference to their counsel. And just keep walking.

    Or sometimes I will turn my focus to my dog, the one whose opinion actually matters to me, and fuss over her with much exuberance! e.g. “That’s right, Sylvie! You love to eat your kibbles, don’t you? Yeah!! We tried that training method and we didn’t like it!!” or some such nonsense. My dog doesn’t understand the nuances of her praise so who really cares. I tell the helpy person we’re off to the park, have a good one, and exeunt. It helps that my dog would rather move along and has no patience for strangers unless they are eating.

  42. This thread is awesome. I *so* could’ve used it when my kids were babies, and I was getting accosted by strangers in grocery stores on a daily basis. It was hard finding the snappy comebacks on zero sleep.

    And also, thank you for the Khal Drogo and Daenerys first thing in the morning. Made my day!

  43. “Possibly this is where the Chilly New England Upbringing and tons of time in Eastern Europe & the U.S. Midwest comes in handy.”

    I think I get the Chilly New England one, but what are the arche/stereotypes for Eastern Europe and the U.S. Midwest? Or is it that Eastern European and U.S. Midwesterners tend to give tons of unsolicited advice and you are using your Chilly New England skillz to shut them down?

    1. US Midwest: polite cheery deflection!

      I mean, polite cheery nosiness is also a stereotype there, and fending that off with a Chilly New England Upbringing may be what the Captain meant. But there is absolutely a certain background one gets in using a veneer of friendly manners for all kinds of purposes and to cover all kinds of sentiments.

      (Midwestern and New Englander upbringing both here. I’m still working on my comfort level with confrontation, but I can do polite small talk aikido like a champion.)

  44. My favourite shutdown is “Good for you!”

    “I wouldn’t let my dog do (thing).” Good for you!
    “I really love the gym! I go several times a week!” Good for you!
    “Oh, I’m really careful about what I eat now. I’ve seen the TV programs.” Good for you!

    It also works for really annoying colleagues who like to boast. Smile, be cheerful, and confuse the fuck out of them as they try to figure out if you’re being sarcastic or not.

    1. I entertain myself by using this on preschoolers. It doesn’t shut them down, but it does make me relax a bit.

    2. A group of friends and I used this, along with deadpan “That’s a great fucking story, thanks” to great effect once. Newperson in the group had a tendency to talk over everyone, and dominate the conversation for ten or fifteen minutes at a time with stories about his SUPER GREAT AWESOMENESS. He didn’t pick up on the more subtle cues that we weren’t interested, so we went here. Worked like a charm.

      1. There’s a guy on the edges of the social circle who is the Kanye of everything. “That story you told is pretty good, and I’ma let you finish, but my thing is the greatest story of all time. OF ALL TIME.” He’s a super-foodie, so any food you make or are eating, he’s eaten it somewhere better and wants to tell you all about it. I’ve never had sex with him, or come close, and the thought makes me frankly queasy, but I imagine his sex partners getting some kind of “That orgasm was awesome, y’all, but…..OF ALL TIME” treatment.

        I will be stealing this.

  45. The people who are the most annoying with this for me are doctors.

    If I come in with a sore throat I don’t want to spend 30 seconds on the sore throat and 15 minutes on my weight. If you’re a specialist I’m seeing for the first time about my knee then you shouldn’t be telling me to go get my stomach stapled. The next doctor that tries to pull that isn’t getting paid.

  46. I usually go with, “Okay, thanks, gotta go.” Or blank stares. The blank stares work especially well for people commenting on my body.

  47. I get a LOT of advice from a LOT of different quarters, about a LOT of different topics.

    I like to plaster a big friendly smile on my face and say, with utmost sincerity, “I absolutely LOVE to get free unsolicited advice from experts. Are you an expert?”

    So far, no-one has admitted to being an expert.

  48. My favourite nonreplying reply is ‘that’s a point of view.’ Also said in the oft-recommended blank neutral tone. ‘Ah, yes, that’s a point of view’ makes people think at first that you’re agreeing with them; keep repeating it and they get rather disconcerted. Then they go away with a ‘what just happened?’ look on their face.

    I love the sound of ‘well, there you have it’ too. I’m going to adopt that. Also, Defcon Fuck Right Off: brilliant. Captain, you really have a way with the swears.

  49. I foster pit bulls, which have a large stigma attached to them where I live. The dogs I foster also usually require a lot of socialization and training, so I’ve encountered a lot of unsolicited dog advice (and sometimes pure hostility). As an extremely non-confrontational person, I have found the following responses effective:

    *Smile, say “Nice meeting you!”, and walk away.

    *Laugh cheerfully, not rudely, in the exact same way I’d offer a polite laugh if someone started baby-talking my dog (“Oogy woogy you’re a cute poochy woochy!”). The tone here is really important if you don’t want to sound like you’re laughing sarcastically or AT the person. I use this one when someone suggests my dog is dangerous, and I neither want to discuss it nor imply that I remotely agree — “Haha!” Then keep walking with a happy smile on your face, as if you’ve just heard a mildly amusing joke, or are in a really great mood.

    *”I don’t think so!” — said in a cheerful, polite tone as if you’re responding to something really banal like, “Nice weather today, don’t you think?” I usually pair it with a shrug and a smile, then walk away.

    *When I’m in a bad mood and don’t feel like acting cheerful or polite I stick to, “Huh. Well, we’d better be going.” …and walk away.

    My common denominator is immediately leaving the scene, mostly because I’d rather not give the other person a chance to prolong the conversation, and also as a safety precaution. Having a pit bull attached to me by a relatively short leash is probably to my advantage, but so far no one has ever followed me to continue the advice-attack.

  50. I find a very effective way to depress all this delightful, unsolicited advice when someone says:
    Is that a staffie?
    I reply:
    No, it’s my ferret in disguise.

    Then walk off while their brain shortcircuits.

    1. I’m not sure that friendly genuine interest in what breed your dog is would justify such a snarky response. It all depends on tone of voice, but I’d read that as a hostile response to a what I saw as being a benign question, but I’m not the owner of a misunderstood breed, either. I’m that person who approaches dogs with the intent of loving on them, and will try and reform my oh-it’s-okay-if-they-jump-on-me ways.

  51. As a reformed “unsolicited advisor” myself (seriously had no idea that this was obnoxious when i was younger) i enjoyed this post and the suggestions. For me, all the little awkward moments added up and finally caused a self-awareness lightbulb to go off!
    Honestly though, I still have to keep it in check sometimes.

  52. I can’t believe I forgot the old southern standby “well, bless your heart” said with a big smile. I can’t usually pull this one off but my aunt could do this so well.

  53. So, this sounds a lot like what I go through when I mention my house rabbits in conversation. I try to now avoid it since I tend to get the following, unsolicited stories from people:

    1. Oh, I used to have a rabbit when I was a kid, but it died [in some horrible, clearly non-responsible way that is also usually gruesome]. Isn’t that funny?
    2. Oh! I bet they are delicious! When are you cooking them?/Do you know its really popular to eat rabbit right now in the foodie circles/I had rabbit at this [famous restaurant] and it was delicious!
    3. IF I’M LUCKY: Oh those are a lot of work right? Or other actual rabbit questions, such as my kid wants one! Then I get to pop in about how rabbits are actually NOT GOOD pets for children.

    After expressing this frustration to my roommate who has guinea pigs, and gets a lot of the same shit, she related a story about a guy at a party one time and their conversation. He just HAD to tell her some terrible tragic story about their pet guinea pig dieing in a terrible way, and as she was a little tipsy at the time she decided to stop playing nice. She said, loudly, something along the lines of “Why would you tell me that terrible story? Did you think I wanted to hear something that gross/irresponsible? You are a terrible person!” They then had a long argument, which I would have loved to skip, but her point was made.

    Since then, if any strangers or people I don’t know decide to launch into Terrible Tales of Tragedy, my immediate response is usually to say very loudly “That’s a terrible story! I love my rabbits, why do you think I would want to hear something like that?” It usually shuts them up pretty quick.

    1. Indeed, why would anyone want to hear and to tell that? I had three rabbits, the last of which died 2011, and since I still remember the feeling of loss I felt for days afterwards (or, you know, since I’m not actually a terrible person) I would never ever come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to tell anyone about it (unless they specifically asked about it for whatever bizarre reason). I can’t even understand that – doesn’t it hurt them to talk about their pet’s death? Because it sure hurts me to talk about my pet’s death.
      Also, I’m quite appalled you have to deal with something like this on a regular basis – fortunately I haven’t met with a reaction like this even once or I would probably have reacted the way your roommate did (I’m an angry person). So horrible!

    2. Eugh, people are so obnoxious about pets, but so much worse with smallies. I particularly love the comments about eating them. Oh yes, you’re so edgy? -_- Congratulations on your lack of empathy?

      And it is amazing how often people will regale you with saaaaaaad stories of their irresponsibility, with absolutely no apparent clue that their pet’s neglect and death was avoidable. To the point where if you gently probe you’ll often get an exclamation about how they wouldn’t pay to take their small animal to the vet! Pfft! 😡

    3. I actually cut off contact with my dad over this (well, it was more than his tales of animal cruelty, but the stories were an early warning of his abusive nature that I should have paid attention to sooner). We were never really close to begin with, but it was that kind of fuckery that sealed the deal.

      I had no idea that other people did this, though. 😦

    4. There’s an old post about telling pregnant women traumatic birthing stories. A few people said they were guilty of word-barfing like that; they’d never really been able to process their own stories, so when something inadvertently reminded them of this horrible experience, BLARF it went all over the other person’s lap. I think that actually happens a lot.

      When someone’s word-vomiting on me and I don’t want them to keep at it, I tend to say in a concerned voice, “That sounds pretty awful. Have you thought about talking it over with a therapist?” Which is kind of the frantic windmill of THIS IS NOT MY WORKING HOURS YOU ARE NOT MY CLIENT BUT I FEEL THE NEED TO PRACTICE GOOD CONTAINMENT HERE.

    5. Oh my God, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I used to have pet rats.

      “You have rats? How disgusting! I hate them, they’re so scary and creepy and stinky and slimy.” [Do you normally go around asking people they have pets, and when they say they do, saying that about their pets? Also, they don’t smell unless they’re kept in inappropriate enclosures with inappropriate bedding that isn’t changed often enough. Also, slimy?]
      “Don’t they carry bubonic plague?” [Yes. Get away from me or I’ll give you the plague.]
      “My cat would love to meet/eat them!” [Do I make jokes about horribly killing your pets? No. Because I love animals, and that’s not funny.]

      1. Pet rats rule!
        Intelligent, affectionate, easy to care for.
        Mine would hang out on my neck gently chewing my jewelry while I read.

  54. LW here. The Captain’s advice is great, and many of the comments are very helpful (I especially like “It’s all right, I got it”).

    Actually, all of the comments are witty and funny and great…


    I find it interesting, as a phenomenon, how hard it is for all of us to think of responses that aren’t snarky or passive-aggressive. It speaks to how unacceptable our society *still* finds direct communication. In fact, lots of people suggested I say the exact opposite of what I mean! Or simply use an insincere tone. Or intentionally try to confuse. I’m totally not putting those people down — I have the same struggle to create communication that is both honest and polite. It’s not easy.

    I guess, well, here’s the thing: I don’t want to demonize the helpy. Quite a few people wrote in to say that they used to be helpy before they read this column. Me too! I once read that people who’ve overcome childhood traumas sometimes later have Rescuer Complex symptoms. That was true for me, so I sympathize with those who suffer from irrepressible helpy urges.

    With that in mind, I think it could be challenging and fun for the Awkward Army to band together to brainstorm *only* honest, polite communications (for safe social situations, that is — not for any situation that your spidey sense even whispers might not be safe).

    It could be like a game. As for the person you want to communicate to, you don’t know if they mean well, if you’ll ever see them again, if in the future they’ll save your life or give you a million dollars or need your help to escape a zombie attack. The idea is that you’re starting with no information about the other person, so all those things *might* be true. Or might not. At this point, you’re neutral.

    Then the object of the game is to say what you mean, in such a way that you’ve done your part to create or maintain a positive connection (so that later, you can conquer the zombies together if needed). What they do with that communication is up to them — and if they get hostile, then you defend and/or escape and leave them to the zombies.

    I know we already brainstormed a hundred responses to unwanted advice, but we could either figure out ways to revise our responses to really say, for example, “no when we mean no” and “yes when we mean yes” or we could apply this challenge to future letters. What do you all think?

    1. Mmm, I think it was Miss Manners who mentioned that when strangers start doing things like offering unsolicited advice, or being pushy with it when they’re declined once, they’ve already broken the social contract. I feel like I have a pretty good radar when someone thinks they’re actually being helpful with their advice and when they’re being a mansplaining dickwad, so I’m nice but dismissive to the former and snarly with the latter. After all, I wasn’t the one who started it.

    2. I like this idea! Sometimes you don’t want to be abrupt with someone whose intentions are obviously good. It’s hard to strike that balance, though.

  55. Chiming in very late, but my two personal favourites are “Thank you for your concern” (Thank you, Miss Manners), which can be delivered in a wide variety of tones from abstracted to warm to glacial, and “That’s as may be”.

    Both have the advantage of being perfectly polite, even sounding vaguely pleasant while committing you to nothing and leaving no handles for further discussion.

    The second one has, IME, the advantage of being slightly befuddling, which has often allowed me to get a good twenty feet further down the sidewalk and thus out of range while the Helpy person tries to sort out if I just agreed with them or told them to go to Hell by the next express.

    Also, your dog sounds like an awesome dog.

  56. I’ve been known to utter a terse “noted” (a la Captain Picard) when unwanted or useless advice is offered. When feeling more chipper, “cheers!” seems to do the trick (a la Ricky Gervais). Both are delightfully brief and don’t really say anything.

  57. I love this post so much! I’ve had the unsolicited advice thing online – it got to the point that I’d post about my struggles with depression and/or insomnia and I’d end my post with a “no advice please” notice, because really, I was blogging in order to vent and to let others who struggle know that it’s not just them, not as an invitation for people to start throwing all this stuff at me, as though I’m stupid and haven’t tried everything already, thanks…

    And when I’ve tried variations on “I’m sure you mean well but I’m not looking for advice, thanks” it has not worked, because as you say, those who do this to you are people who don’t respect your boundaries, and they’re not going to suddenly act respectful just because you said this.

    So I think I’m going to try and figure out the online equivalent to saying “huh” 🙂

  58. I get this type of response from strangers when they see me in the store with my motorcycle; they will even walk up to me in parking lots. “That bike is too big for a little girl like you,” and “You shouldn’t ride a motorcycle, my cousin’s wife knows someone who died in a MC accident.”

    I used to be polite and tell them that I understand the risks and that I so what I can to mitigate the risks on my side,” or some other thing. However, they would follow me and become very insistent telling me that they are concerned about my health and well being. I finally started getting snarky. I now tell them that my mom was killed in a car accident (true) so maybe its cars I shouldn’t ever get in. They get all apologetic and leave me alone after that. I also get a lot of women and short men asking for advice about finding bikes that aren’t too tall. I am always happy to talk to them.

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