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Ask Lisi: What to do when people don't respect personal space

Unfortunately, we live in a world of self-involvement, where people are constantly plugged in to some device.
Advice columnist Lisi Tesher

Dear Lisi: Why are people so disrespectful and rude? I was travelling through Europe last month for business, and opted to take the train so I could get some work done between meetings. On the first train, I sat near a young man who was listening to music through a speaker. I asked if he could turn it down, or even listen through some device (he had a pair of Beats around his neck), but he refused.

On my next train, a man and woman were sitting behind me, clearly strangers who felt the need to chat for the duration of the four-hour journey. I felt like a chaperone on their first date! Unfortunately, the entire conversation was inane and uninteresting punctuated with plenty of swear words.

On the third leg of the trip, a toddler was nearby. As a father myself, I don’t have a problem with crying babies or children … but I do have a problem with their parents who don’t seem to notice that the crying is disturbing others. This child was bored and hungry, obvious from his begging for food and his desire for attention. His mother was on the phone, ignoring him. Besides being heartbreaking, his incessant cries were hard to bear and made concentrating on my work nearly impossible.

Why are people so unaware of their surroundings? And how can the rest of us let them know, politely?

Public nuisance

Unfortunately, we live in a world of self-involvement, where people are constantly plugged in to some device or another. Walking down the street, people have conversations going with others through their ear-attached devices, which are often hard to notice.

At least the new-found couple on the train were having a face-to-face conversation, which is rare these days. Your train adventures sound frustrating, and I’m sorry you didn’t get the peace and quiet you were looking for. I believe there are sections designated to quiet riding, which you may want to investigate for next time. My other suggestion would be to get noise-cancelling earplugs for your own use.

Lastly, I guess you could have asked the couple to lower their voices, whether they acquiesced or not is another thing. And perhaps you could have moved away from the music.

Dear Lisi: We have been cast aside as grandparents. We have tried many times to extend a welcoming hand. Our son says he wants to but then never follows through. His wife appears to be the blocker. We have not seen her for four years.

If we’re lucky, summer birthday presents are finally allowed to be delivered to their house in November. It’s April and we are still waiting for permission to deliver our Christmas gifts from 2023. When we finally plan an opportunity to drop by, on a specific date and time as determined by them, our daughter-in-law is never home. We have no idea why she doesn’t want to see us.

They are also fighting with their brothers and their brothers’ wives.

Do you have any ideas on what’s going on and how to help us?

Gone Grandparents

Without more information, I cannot tell you why your son and his wife are behaving the way that they are. However, you mentioned they are also on the outs with your other children. Remain close with these other families, and appreciate the ability to be parents, in-laws and grandparents to them.

Discuss with these adult children what their thoughts are as to why their brother and his wife are disconnecting from everyone. It may take an intervention.

Lisi Tesher is an advice columnist based in Toronto. Send questions to [email protected].