Ask Amy

Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I have always been known as a "good listener." Whenever there was a family crisis, an argument between my brothers, parents or other family members, I was the one they all came to.

I am now a 60-year-old woman.

My relationship with family, friends and co-workers remains the same — I am the "listener." It has gotten to the point that no one even bothers to ask me about myself, my family or any other aspect of my life.

When I try to share a problem, they either continue to talk about themselves or compare my problem with something that, of course, is even worse in their lives.

I know part of it is my fault because this is the role I have played for so many years.

How do I get people to stop being selfish and begin to care about people other than themselves? I have reached the point that I no longer want a relationship with anyone other than my husband and children.

— The Listener

DEAR LISTENER: You can't stop people from being selfish or train them to care about others. People have a vexing way of behaving whatever way works best for them.

If being selfish and disinterested in you nets your friends and family your undivided attention, then that's how they will behave. You need to start behaving in a way that works best for you because the only behavior you can change is your own. When you change how you respond, others will have to figure out a way to adjust.

Rather than declare a moratorium on all family or friends, you could retreat from your role as the official listener by not jumping in to offer solutions or even respond in any particular way.

The next time someone dumps his or her problems onto you, you say, "Well, I'm sure you'll figure it out." This statement is both true and lobs a person's personal issues back where they should rest — on his own shoulders.

You should seek out relationships where you can receive — as well as offer — an interested ear.


DEAR AMY: My daughter is getting married next spring.

We recently had an appointment to pick out bridesmaid dresses and the "mom" dresses.

I tried on and purchased a lovely dress in navy blue.

I showed my daughter and her future mother-in-law the dress, and they both approved. By the time we left the store, the future mother-in-law purchased the same dress — in black!

I didn't know what to do without causing a scene or embarrassing my daughter.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think she would get the same dress.

This has bothered me ever since. Now I think that I need to get a different dress.

I know I shouldn't have to, but wouldn't this look strange to all our guests, or would no one care but me?

— Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I agree that there is no reason for the mothers of the marrying couple to wear matching uniforms. This pickle also sounds like the plot for a dispiriting episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

In your case, you can and should say "no" to the dress.

I don't think your other guests would necessarily care about your matching dresses, but you do.

So return your dress, get yourself a different one and only run your choice past the bride. Your future in-law could be either flattering your style through imitation or she could be a dress poacher. Because you don't want to discuss this with her, you'll have to adjust.


DEAR AMY: You recently printed a wonderful letter from an 88-year-old lady who is happily joining Facebook to communicate with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Let's not overlook how huge it is that her family members have "friended" her on Facebook! Unlike so much of the trashy behavior one sees on Facebook, clearly the young people in her family have nothing to hide. I'd like to see more Facebook users posting only messages and photos that pass "the grandma test."

— Parent of Teen

DEAR PARENT
: I'd like to see "the grandma test" put to use in all sorts of communicative arenas. Thank you!

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Filed under: Lifestyles