Meddlers come in all shapes and sizes. It could be a boss at work micromanaging a project, a relative with strong opinions about how to run this year’s family reunion, an aunt asking if you have a “special someone” in your life, or parents meddling in your spending choices. It could be a friend trying to be helpful during a hard time, but instead telling you how to live your life.
In all cases, meddling is different from advice in that it is unwelcomed, counter-productive, and the person giving it often takes your response to the unsolicited advice personally. Because even some of the most important people in our lives can be meddlers, it’s important to navigate these relationships in a way that leaves the meddler with a clear message and you feeling you have set appropriate boundaries.
Here are three tips to consider when dealing with meddlers.
1. Have a vision before a big announcement takes place
I think one of the best examples of this is weddings. When my mom said, “When you marry, you marry someone plus their family,” she meant more than sharing holidays and Sunday dinners. In intimate relationships, often times, you find yourself balancing your own thoughts and opinions along with your partner’s and the people close to you and your partner, whom you both respect and love. To cope, meet with your partner before you announce big news to your families and decide on a clear vision. If it’s a wedding, talk to each other first and create a shared plan for your day. That way, when you are bombarded with opinions, it’s easier to say, “We’ve already talked about it, and we agreed we’d like to do it this way instead.” Allow your vision to keep you grounded and weigh the opinions you’re getting against it.
2. Introduce people to the situation on your terms
One of the most practical ways to deter meddling is to reduce the number of people who have an all-access pass to your personal life. In the age of social media, this can become especially challenging. Perhaps now more than ever, it is important to decide what to share, when to share it, and with whom. Sharing the news of having a baby, starting or ending a relationship, or getting a promotion at work are all things that can send an overwhelming, though often well-intentioned, flood of thoughts your way on social media. Instead of opening the floodgates, think more carefully about who you want to share the information with first, like close friends and family, and when you want to share on social media, if at all. Broadcasting every detail of our lives on social media can invite meddlers to weigh in. Being intentional in this way puts you in control.
3. Practice responses that reflect your worth and ability
Everyone thinks he or she is an expert in something. The problem begins when unwanted experts insert themselves in our lives when we are trying to get by on our own. Here’s a good example: You leave home for college or move to a new city. Parents, especially those who have a hard time letting go, might weigh in with insight on how clean your apartment is, how to run your finances, what to do with your free time, etc. If you’re getting unsolicited advice, instead of saying, “Thanks, but I don’t want your advice,” which they might take personally, fill your response with strong self-empowering statements. Say things like, “I appreciate your opinion, but I see this as a learning experience, and I embrace that,” or “I’m actually really excited about this new chapter in life, and I want to try to navigate it on my own. I’ll be happy to come to you if I need help or advice.”
Meddlers are a part of life. Sometimes dealing with a meddler is more difficult because they are people we care about and whose advice we sometimes welcome. However, setting boundaries and hearing our own voice above all the others is an important step in self-growth. Each time a meddler starts meddling, see it as an opportunity to reaffirm and express who you are.