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?
Love these pics of the snooping kitties! I have no problem with buttinskis, because I have had long experience, like yourself , of evading their intrusive, rude queries. If it's someone who is really bugging me, I'll say something mildly humorous like " I think the information desk is over there". But mainly, I look them straight in the eye and say something simple and direct like " I don't discuss that kind of thing". These nosy parkers are so used to people accommodating their requests for information that a curt refusal disconcerts them and stops them in their tracks. I'm afraid my claws come out for them!ReplyDelete
It looks like you know what you're doing Sulky. It's important to reinforce boundaries with these people because they won't stop on their own. They truly are used to being accommodated.Delete
Love this posts, and your kitties so made me laugh. We always used to joke by calling our 'Buttinskis' ... Mrs Kravitz (from Bewitched). I got a good laugh from a post this week on Life on Peanut LayneReplyDelete
Oh yes, Mrs. Kravitz! That certainly fits :) I really enjoyed that post; thanks for the link!Delete
How are your hemorrhoids doing today, dear Martha?ReplyDelete
Sometimes you can mess with a buttinski's mind by giving absolutely outrageous answers to their prying questions. Let your imagination fly! It can be quite amusing. Try to horrify them!
That's a great way to handle way. The look on their face when you give them a crazy answer is priceless!Delete
Oh, and my hemorrhoids are just fine, thank you :)
I have been fortunate not to have met a real buttinsky until this year. I have a real problem dealing with this aggresive woman. And I get so put out at myself for being rude. (Although it seems to roll off her like water off aduck's back). I have wondered if it is a cultural thing? This woman didn't grow up in Canada, where we are more reserved. Any thoughts??ReplyDelete
The first time you come up against a person like this is the hardest. I hope it gets easier to deal with her as time goes on. It's hard not to be rude to someone who is being rude! I have found that most of the time they just don't get the message. It's best to be vague and redirect the conversation, or else play around and give them stupid, crazy answers. Even ask crazy questions of your own. It might or might not be a cultural thing. I'm not sure. But the buttinskis I've come up against are all born and raised here, so I get the feeling they come from all backgrounds.Delete
How much was your house? How much did you put down on it? What was all that noise I heard from your property yesterday?ReplyDelete
Hehehe, I will buttinski out!
I am with you. Truly annoying.
I have had people ask questions about our home. My husband and I just say "enough". It can be annoying, but it's best to stay calm and be vague.Delete
A lady in the next county over just had her birthday, and I think she was 115. (The Guinness Book people were there, she might be the oldest woman in the country.) She said she did two things: She never eats junk food and SHE MINDS HER OWN BUSINESS! Pretty good advice to me!ReplyDelete
Great advice. She knows what she's talking about after 115 years!Delete
I can sort of deal with nosy strangers - with them, it's not so hard to say, "none of your business" or just give evasive answers. But nosy friends and family are so much harder...ReplyDelete
There was this one time when one not-very-close friend kept asking more and more personal things, including how far I went with that one guy I'd dated for a while. At that point, my best friend, who was also with us, and noticed how uncomfortable I was, turned on her and loudly asked, "And how about you? Have you ever had sex?" Not a pleasant situation to be in, but looking back it makes me laugh!
Nosy friends and family are harder because we don't want to be rude and hurt their feelings. But I think what we tend to forget is that they're being rude to us. Being firm with them in a polite manner is a good way to handle them.Delete
Love that story! :)