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Carolyn Hax: Feeling done with people ‘relentlessly voicing opinions’

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Hi Carolyn: A lot of letters to you seem to be about how to deal with others’ unwanted, uninvited opinions, such as a recent one about a cousin’s plan to name their child Mateo. I find this — people relentlessly voicing opinions — exhausting in my own life, but so far haven’t made a dent in it.

I’d like to stop people when they start to say, “I don’t like the color they painted their [X],” or, “He should do [Y],” or, “She shouldn’t [Z] so much.” But people don’t take kindly to direct responses such as, “What difference does that make?” Or, “Why do you care what they do?” I know writing an anti-opinionating opinion is ironic, but any thoughts?

— Exhausted

Exhausted: One, mainly: Amen, brother.

My next thought may not interest you, if you have good reasons not to test your bonds with these people, but: Just because people “don’t take kindly” to your pointed questions doesn’t mean your objections aren’t appropriate or hitting their mark.

Most people wouldn’t respond well to being told their negativity is trivial, presumptuous and boring, in so many words, so I don’t think it was ever realistic to think they’d appreciate your perspective.

But it is both a valid perspective to have and a defensible one. Namely, you’re standing up for the people on the wrong end of these constant opinions. That is an act of decency, and your “direct responses” are actually pretty tactful.

One more thing that might — might — vault you above those potential hard feelings is to make a broader point about how you feel: “Maybe you’re right. But I’ve got opinion fatigue; I’ve got nothing left for other people’s business.” That makes it about you, which is a kinder approach than correcting others — and you’d give people a chance not to keep doing something in your presence that you find annoying.

Most important, though, is you’d open the door to conversation, inviting people also to think more broadly about and even co-sign your timely, excellent point.

If nothing else, it’s more interesting than a dissection of what X should Y about Z.

Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend was sitting right next to me and had the nerve to talk about some girl she thought was “cute and pretty” and how she had a crush on her. I don’t want to take it to heart, but I honestly don’t know.

The thing with being lesbian is that you never know if she’s just friends with someone or if she likes them. She’s been really mean to me lately, and I feel as if she’s losing feelings. Will you help me out?

— Replaced

Replaced: Here’s the thing about those “losing feelings” feelings: The kind of specifics you’re asking about are beside the point. You know enough.

Same with being mean.

So the question becomes what to do about it. (Also not much of a riddle.) Even when being part of a couple involves kids or other legal entanglements (which I’m guessing are years away in your case), the point of a close relationship is still, baseline, how you feel with that person.

If you don’t feel good, supported, wanted or loved, then it’s time to consider whether staying with your girlfriend is healthy for you. Regardless of “friends” vs. “like.”

This is not automatically true, by the way, about admitting crushes. Even great loves aren’t crushproof, and plenty of happy couples tell each other when they have them. It’s when you feel alone while you’re together; that’s the warning you heed.