5 Simple Rules to Keeping the Peace: A Re-booting Refresher

I don’t know about you, but I’ve crossed paths with more than my fair share of busybodies and they can cause a LOT of trouble! Personally, I like to call these folks “air traffic controllers” because their biggest goal in life is to hold vigil in their Tower of Infallibility 24/7, ordering people around. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! You know the sort of person who tries to get you to say or do something that’s bound to cause trouble? Know anyone like that? Here are some examples in case you find yourself drawing a blank. “Hey, Monica, don’t bother getting that dress cleaned, it makes you look fat.” “Honey, why don’t you tell your brother that in addition to being fat, he needs to get sober. Don’t forget to add that she’s a saint for putting up with him.” “I was thinking that that pathetic woman down the street would benefit from a visit; showing you care by asking intrusive questions about her health is just what she needs. It doesn’t matter that she barely knows you.” Oh really? If it’s such a good idea, why don’t YOU do it?

 

Have you gotten embroiled in one of their cockamamie schemes? If so, I’m sorry. By my guess, you have the bite marks on your back to prove it was ill advised. If you haven’t, well you’re one wily survivor… Full confession: I have had my moments of being a bossy pants myself. While by nature I’m prone to having opinions, what I have learned over the years is to cultivate less and less curiosity about what it is other people are doing or why they are doing it. The way I see it, wondering simply invites opinions and opinions demand to be expressed. BAD IDEA. So, to help you avoid this trap, I am presenting five handy dandy rules for the sage re-booter.

 

Rule # 1: Nobody wants to hear your opinion. About anything. Ever.

 

Need I say more?

 

Rule #2: Don’t make it your business.

 

For someone who enjoys people watching as much as I, and for whom the human psyche is endlessly fascinating, learning to ratchet down my curiosity is no small task. But ratchet I have. If it’s not your business, it’s not your problem, If it’s not your problem, you don’t need to solve it. Keep your big honkin’ schnoz out of it. You can’t really know what’s fully going on, so just stay out!

 

Rule #3: Keep your helpful suggestions to yourself.

 

Even if you have the best intentions in the world (which you probably don’t), if you aren’t a marquee player in the drama, exit stage left or risk dropping through the trap door. Don’t add your two cents! All you wind up doing is stirring the pot–this compounds exponentially if you’re some form of an in-law weighing in. For the love of all that is right and good in the world, zip your trap. Just zip it!

 

Rule #4: Run for cover if you are recruited.

 

I don’t care if they come to you. I don’t care if they plead with their big, weepy eyes and claim they want your advice. I don’t care if you feel sympathetic. Don’t fall for their line that, “this is just between us.” This is a Trojan Horse. They have targeted you for their own purposes. Remind yourself that these people are adults (at least in theory); they have the tools and responsibility to figure this out on their own. Back away slowly. Do not answer your phone. Do not text back. Become mysteriously unavailable.

 

Rule #5: Nobody will thank you.

 

Most of the time, these dramas will blow over, but in the midst of things, it can feel like a locomotive bearing down. It matters not whether the combatants scream and carry on or behave more like giant icebergs, freezing cold in their icy disdain. This is between them. This is about them. It is not about you. You cannot, repeat, cannot do anything about it—even if what’s going on impacts you. Even if you feel sad. You are not the Grand Negotiator. Remind yourself that nobody can ever fully understand the dynamics between two other people, no matter how much you know or think you know. I’ve seen a lot of people make the mistaken assumption that they fully understood what was going on, naively believing they were able to build a bridge to peace or apportion blame. Please don’t do this. Please don’t make this error. See Rules #1-4.

 

Of course, nobody likes to feel helpless. It’s hard to watch people we care about struggle while we stand by, feeling impotent. But that’s what we are. We cannot fix it for them. They have to do this themselves. What re-booters can do is offer gentle, non specific, non inflammatory support. But leave it at that.

Linda Tripp

 

 

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