Question: Dear Luise: I’ve been reading your web site with great interest but never thought I would be asking a question. However, a lady from the neighborhood stopped by recently and I am still fuming at what she said and, more than that, at my inability to find a way to stop her. Our houses are all very similar and she complimented me on how I’d decorated mine. Since I feel really proud of that, I took her on a “tour”. We have 660 square feet so it didn’t take long! I have the bedroom and my husband converts the living room into a bedroom every evening. It works very well for both of us. Well, she started in on me right away, since my twin bed made our arrangement obvious. Why in the world did I think I had to explain? I can’t believe I did that! And when I did, she had the nerve to tell me that he could share the bedroom with me if we got another twin bed, and that that’s what we “should” do. I am still steaming. What business is it of hers? Audrey

Answer: Dear Audrey: Well, it none of her business, obviously. We all know that. What a “nosey-parker”! What happens in these instances is that we get caught off guard. You were genuinely surprised at her gross bad manners.

When things like this happen, it’s sometimes weeks before a light bulb goes off in our head and we exclaim, “Ah, that’s what I should have told that witch!” It makes you want an instant replay, with you staring as the clever one this time.

There are several things you can do to prevent such intrusions but you have to be prepared in advance. First of all, it doesn’t sound like this was a close or potentially favorite person. When that kind of person comes calling, try not to let them appeal to your ego. That’s what happened. You were showing off. Not that there’s anything wrong with happily sharing your decorating abilities with the right people. Why not get the kudos you deserve, right? Well, not always. Sometimes you just need to ere on the side of caution.

In addition, there is a way to not become defensive when you are genuinely surprised and can’t think of a proper retort. Silence. You can look at a person questioningly. It drives people nuts. Try it! Smile and act like you simply don’t understand. Let her fill the silence with more babbling about why she thinks you life is her business. If nothing else, it gives you time to collect your thoughts.

After your silence and her discomfort, change the subject without ever explaining anything and move on to the next room. And you should probably skip the bathroom. Who knows what she’d come up with in there! Blessings, Luise

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