My friends and family all know that I’m a pretty equable person, one who is, normally, open to listen to advice and suggestions, even when they’re not solicited. However, with everyone else, I’m a bit more reserved. People who know me and my parenting/family dynamic have the right to butt in—but perfect strangers, not so much.

I’m not saying that I won’t politely accept a suggestion from another mom at the beach or the park or whatever—heck, I often solicit them! I’ll see some mom who is managing her brood so well, I will ask what her secret is. Or, vice versa, if I see someone having a hard time I’ll offer a kind word, such as to the mom in the grocery store line whose child is having a meltdown: “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there,” and maybe offer to help if I can do it without seeming too busybodyish. But criticism, or “You should do it thus-and-such-way”, type stuff is strictly verboten with me, given and received. Why? Because I’m in no position to judge—and neither are you.

However, today’s culture is infuriatingly nosy and intrusive. Part of this is owed, of course, to the fact that we put our dirty laundry out there for everyone; we blog, tweet and post about everything, and we solicit advice and we give it into the ether in the guise of sharing. I’m just as guilty as everyone else is. The difference is, I don’t butt in and try to act like an expert to someone. I’ll put my two cents in for an article, but I always try to couch my advice in the terms of “this is what works for me, it may not work for you,” and I never say I’m right, or that anyone else is wrong. That’s the sticking point.

What to do with these well-meaning yet clueless people? Well, here’s what I’ve found is effective:

Be polite: smile, nod.

Don’t engage them. It encourages it! At the most, say “Thank you,” even if you’re offended…a public fracas isn’t pretty.

If it continues, tell them, “Thanks for the advice. I’ll consider it. Have a nice day.” (You’re lying, but hey, maybe it’ll shut them up?)

Walk away.

Although, if you have a particularly snarky advice-giver, a nice parting shot may be in order, if you can think of one on the spot. It’s fun…just beat a hasty retreat.