our everyday life

How to Politely Tell Someone to Mind Their Own Business

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Have you ever noticed how some people just love to stick their nose in your business? Whether it’s your family telling you how to keep house or raise your kids -- or your neighbor’s nosy unsolicited advice, sometimes you just have to put your foot down and tell that person to butt out! You can nip nosy Nellie’s interference with tact, especially if you want to keep your relationship with that person healthy and friendly.

Try to put on the brakes early. You might thank the person for her concern but assure her that you have the situation well in hand. That doesn’t mean you have to hear her out, but you might, just to see if you could learn anything. You might respond with,“You know, I really appreciate your desire to help me, but we have decided how we want to handle this. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll let you know and we can talk about this then.” Of course, you probably have no intention of getting back to her, but you don’t have to say that. Alternatively, you might say, "We plan to follow our pediatrician’s advice on the matter."

Define what you need. If the person offering the advice is doing so because you brought the topic up, you might clarify why you did. “I wasn’t looking for advice. I just needed to vent,” you might say as you shrug your shoulders. This can help the friendly bearer of advice decide that he doesn’t need to solve the problem for you.

Display some surprise as you exclaim, “Wow, I didn’t know you were an expert on that! Have you written a book about that? That’s really sweet that you want to share your knowledge with me.” It’s essential that you utter this with a shocked and wide-eyed expression, or you will never pull it off as a polite response. Okay, this obviously won’t have the same effect if the person actually is an expert in the field, but the people offering unsolicited advice aren’t usually experts, even if they think they are. Your response might have her peddling backwards really fast to assure you that she has no recognized expertise.

Thank the individual and then wave goodbye as you express the urgent need to get to an appointment. You might ask him to email you whatever he wants to tell you, but that might encourage him to continue, which you don’t want. Instead, you could promise to call or email if, or when, you need more information. If he brings it up the next time you see him, you could say, “You know, everything worked out fine. Thanks for asking.”

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

  • David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images