This question comes from my wife Alice (her English is even worse than mine).

In the middle of the day, my wife ("Alice") goes for a walk in the park with our 2 months old son, and a dog.

There are other dogs and children in this park; they are not a problem. But there are also elder people (around 70 years old), and many of them are feeling lonely and need a conversation.

But the problem is that they act a bit awkward: saying such things like:

"let me play with your dog".

"your baby may be cold/exposed to sun/whatever".

The answer to both is "no", which seems to be a not very polite way to end a dialogue, and there's really nothing to talk about.

How can Alice prevent this before it starts, or answer, so that no one feels offended?

3 Answers 3


Romanian perspective, as I feel we are culturally closer

I've had quite a handful of unsolicited advice regarding my son when he was a baby. My first advice would be not to be afraid to offend people, especially when they've already offended you by implying you are not taking proper care of your child. They do believe they're providing valuable help, but they are not.

My second advice would be to also learn to live with it a little bit. With a new baby you are tired and you are stressed and you don't need unnecessary external factors to bother you, so don't let it bother you so much. They come, they talk, they leave. You would just need to establish some boundaries: no touching of the child, no touching of the dog. If that happens, explain frankly why they shouldn't do it: such as you do not want your child to come in contact to germs at such an early age and the dog has a nasty habit of biting strangers. If they argue or do not comply, interrupt the interaction immediately and go on with your life.

One last piece of advice would be not be concerned with what people think. If a certain limit has been crossed, get up and move to somewhere else or simply ignore or do not respond. I've had to do that once with an old lady who was quite upset that I had my son's toy strapped to my backpack and it could be so easily stolen. She thought I was being irresponsible. I thought she should really mind her own business. We would have not come to any agreement had the conversation continued, so I left.

  • Thanks! Yes, I think you're right about our cultures. Thanks for the point "hey've already offended you" - never thought it that way, and now I think it's the only correct way to think)
    – k102
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 14:43

Please note that this is an answer from a Dutch point of view. We Dutch people can be relatively blunt. For us, blunt is good. It's clear what a person's intentions are.

Just keep walking, don't make eye contact. Usually it takes some kind of contact like that for someone to start interacting.

There are plenty of options to quickly end an interaction, should the "ignore and keep walking" have failed. Just say something like:

"Please excuse me, I need to get going."
"Please don't pet my dog, he's not used to strangers."

On a comment about your child's clothes / whatever:

"Thank you.", and keep walking.

It is not acceptable to force one self on a dog / child like that. Those people need to respect a person's boundaries. If the only response they get is a "Yea, no, maybe not, well okay", they may not get the message that interaction isn't always desirable or welcome.

  • 1
    Respecting boundaries is a great issue here, especially for the elder generation (soviet generation, actually)
    – k102
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 8:45

My answer comes from an Indian point of view, but this should be equally effective.

First of all, if you want to prevent a conversation from even being started, try pretending that you are busy and don't want to be disturbed. Avoiding eye contact is also a key here. Because an eye contact may make them feel welcomed to have a conversation.

When they try to say "your baby may be cold/exposed to sun/whatever", reply like,

Thank you. I will take care of him/her.

Or when they try to pet your dog, reply like,

It doesn't answer to strangers, so you can't pet him.

and move from there.

If you don't feel like leaving simultaneously, say,

Look. I gotta get going. I have some urgent work to do.

If the conversation has already started and you want to end it, reply something like,

It was nice talking to you, but since I am already having a bad day, I'd need my own space. Thank you and have a nice day!

You may need to be more direct and firm if they still want to talk.

  • 1
    Thanks, bit that's more about ending the conversation, but not preventing
    – k102
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 9:20
  • @k102 There is a paragraph on prevent.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 15:47
  • @k102 You did mention "how to prevent" in your question.
    – A J
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 16:10
  • @Paparazzi Yes, because OP mentioned it.
    – A J
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 16:10

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