buttinski (alternative spelling of buttinsky)
noun, plural butt•in•skies. Slang.
- a person who interferes in the affairs of others; meddler.
- one who is prone to butt in, interrupt, or get involved where (s)he is not welcome.
Buttinskis. We all know them. They’re in our families. Our jobs. Our circle of friends. And every neighbourhood has one or two or three of them. They are the busybodies that stick their noses everywhere to satisfy their prying thirst to know everything about everyone else’s business.
What’s most surprising and frustrating about them is that they truly believe that it’s their right to do so; that you are obligated to answer their questions and tell them what they want to know. The audacity of these people is incredulous. And their tactlessness is astonishing.
I’m an extremely private individual, and few things are as annoying or as difficult for me to deal with as people who are meddlesome; people who ask prying, pointed questions that dig deep into my personal life. And I have to tell you that nothing raises my blood pressure faster than this type of personality. Although you’d hardly guess that I’m boiling inside since I manage to keep my self control even when dealing with the worst of these types of people.
Years ago when I separated from my first husband, a friend of mine would ask really personal questions about my situation whenever we spoke on the phone; questions that invaded my privacy to the point of infuriating me. One time, terribly exasperated by the endless bombardment of intrusive and thoughtless questions, I blew my fuse and blurted out “And why would you want to know that?” Silence for a few seconds. Followed by an embarrassed giggle. And then “I guess I’m just being nosy...”
Yes. Nosy. That’s what she was being and I called her on it. At the very least, she realized what she was doing and felt some level of shame. Which is great. But a light bulb doesn’t go on over everyone’s head. Some snoopy people don’t realize – no matter how irritated you become when they pose some very prying questions – that they are invading your privacy. Others simply don’t care. They are intent on getting the latest scoop on your life so they can pass it on. So they have no reservations about crossing the line whenever you meet them.
When I was younger, I was overwhelmed and flustered by buttinskis. But as I get older, and hopefully wiser, I refuse to let them get to me, so I’ve learned how to handle and get around their irritating questions. Sometimes I change the subject. Sometimes I give vague answers (Buttinski: “What is your salary”; Me: “Same as anyone else in my position”). Sometimes I ignore the question and ask a question in return. And sometimes I simply breathe deeply, blink and keep silent, hoping that they’ll get the hint and stop.
If someone is absolutely incapable of grasping how tactless their nosiness is, and it’s a relationship that can’t be severed for some reason or other, I minimize social interaction. The very thought of interacting with such a person too often is unbearable, so I keep personal visits, phone calls and any and all social meetings to a minimum.
Of course, sometimes you don’t have a choice but to be upfront with some buttinskis, like I was with my friend, and force them to butt out. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone directly but tactfully that the questions they are asking are much too personal and that you’d like them to stop. Hopefully they’ll get the message. And maybe even thank you for pointing it out.
How do you handle buttinskis?