Saturday, April 22, 2006

I'm sitting outside with my new neighbor, who happens to work for a PR/ad agency. He knows I'm always loooking for freelance writing work, and he recommends a blog. (He also recommends that I get with the 21st century on electronically storing my clips, but that involves crawling under my desk and staring at several inches of dust. Scary.)

I'm not yet sold on the whole blog concept. I mean, who really cares what I think? But then I realize there's a whole audience of people out there who don't know me in real life and are therefore missing out on the boundless wisdom I can offer, if not actually use in my daily life. There are people out there who don't know the joy of eating a Poptart and drinking a Diet Coke for breakfast, or want to live vicariously through me as I try to keep my mouth shut around the in-laws.

With that in mind, I'm going to share a little tidbit I learned for dealing with - how shall I say this - challenging folks. You know the type. They prefer to preach rather than discuss things, and they assume you're hopelessly misguided because you didn't vote for the right presidential candidate. After 40 years of trying to have reasonable, rational discussions with these folks, I've stumbled upon an approach that helps me keep my mouth shut while offering abundant entertainment. It's called the Dian Fossey approach.

Remember Dian Fossey, the lady who studied the gorillas? She'd often provide a voiceover to the viewers, imparting her interpretations of the behavior on the screen. Guess what? This works in almost any situation where you need to keep your mouth shut. Just sit back and let a running commentary take over. You're now an observer, taking a purely clinical approach to the whole dysfunctional mess.

For instance, suppose you have a relative who likes to argue. Instead of rising to the bait, pretend you're Dian Fossey:

"The neurotic female relative begins to flail her arms as she speaks. When the younger female refuses to respond, the older one becomes more agitated and resorts to screaming. This has no effect on the younger female, who simply turns and walks away, leaving the older female a flailing, screaming mess."

It works. Trust me. :)

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