Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: Carpathia on October 05, 2012, 02:59:22 PM

Title: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Carpathia on October 05, 2012, 02:59:22 PM
Hello all - am hoping that I wasn't rude, but if I was, how can I handle this situation while remaining polite?

MIL has always been paranoid that we ignore her calls - when we had an answer phone we discovered that she would quite literally ring every few minutes until we picked up (often the phone was ringing as we got in the door). Once she left a message saying "I've been calling, I know the children have school tomorrow so I can't believe you're not in" (we weren't in!). We don't usually ignore the phone, and we mainly keep in contact with her by phone as we don't see her often.

She does however have a terrible habit of calling us during our dinner. We eat roundabout the same time each evening and we have repeatedly told her that we're in the middle of dinner when she calls and have suggested she calls earlier (we eat late) but she usually tries to carry on whatever conversation she's been planning on having instead of saying "Oh sorry, will call you back". If we say "Sorry, we're in the middle of dinner, we'll call you afterwards" she sometimes gets very upset and goes very quiet and does a bit of a snarky 'well I'm sorry for ringing' which because we know her, we know she's annoyed or upset but it's the sort of phrase that in the right tone of voice would be completely innocuous.

Last night she called, and we decided not to pick up and let the phone ring out. We'd call her after dinner. Phone went again, this time from a withheld number but we were sure it was her, we ignored it. She rang from her mobile. Then a moment later the phone rang for a fourth time so I decided to answer (because it was very disruptive and DH was getting really cross). I may well have sounded slightly irritated when I said 'Hello?' (tried to keep it out of my voice but I was annoyed so it may have come through). I wasn't 100% certain it was her, but when she said 'It's me' I didn't greet her warmly as I would normally have done, I just said 'Oh, we're in the middle of dinner. We'll call you back'. She apologised then said 'I just want to speak to DH for one minute'. I know that it's never one minute with her and I also didn't want her to get the idea that if she called multiple times from multiple numbers that we'd pick up eventually. So I said 'I'm sorry MIL, but he's just eating dinner, I'll get him to call you back as soon as he's done'. She went very quiet and said in a very frosty tone that she was so sorry for calling and hung up.

I hate to upset her, and I really hate that she's now mad at me and probably thinks I'm stopping her from speaking to her son but I'm also annoyed that she tried to catch us out by calling from different numbers and withheld numbers (she's done it before) because she thinks we would pick up if it wasn't her. That's not true - we don't want to speak to anyone in the middle of dinner!

I'm also annoyed that she doesn't respect that we either can't or don't want to answer the phone and rings until the phone rings off and then instantly tries again.


Do you think I was rude by not greeting her as I normally do on the phone - she must have picked up that I was annoyed from that?
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: MyFamily on October 05, 2012, 03:07:24 PM
No.  And in the future can you make a policy of no calls during dinner and turning off the ringer on your phone?
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on October 05, 2012, 03:08:07 PM
Wow, so rude!

Your MIL, not you! :) I think you were fine. Is there anyway you can shut the ringer off or silence it during dinner so you can just let it ring without disturbing you? (I see MyFamily beat me to that)

DH had a friend like this.  The guy would call repeatedly throughout the day and if you didn't answer, he wouldn't leave a message at all, just hung up and tried again until you did pick up.  Thing is, it was NEVER an emergency or even a time sensitive thing as I'm sure is the case with your MIL.  I think that's the most aggravating thing.

It was just "Hey how are you?" Really, you're calling non stop to find out how I am?  ::)
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: PastryGoddess on October 05, 2012, 03:11:26 PM
Well she's learned that if she keeps calling she'll get her way eventually.  I don't think you were rude, I think she was rude.  However, I do think that you need to stick to your guns and not answer the phone when you don't want to. 

Also, if you do pick up, rather than having a conversation with her you may just want to give a stock phrase and then hang up.  There is a customer service rep at my company who does this and it drives me a little batty (I like to chat), but she is very polite and it is very effective.   It goes something like this (edited for your scenario:

You: Hello?
MIL: Hi it's MIL
You: Oh Hi MIL! It's so nice to hear from you.  Unfortunately *we're eating dinner* so we can't chat, but we'll call you as soon as we can OK.  Talk to you in a bit, bye!
And you hang up the phone.  The part between the ** can change depending on what you are doing.  But hopefully she will learn that if she wants to talk, it will be on your terms, not hers.

The key is to not let her get a word in edgewise
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: JenJay on October 05, 2012, 03:11:51 PM
She was horribly rude, you were not. I'm with everyone else - silence your phone during dinner whenever possible! I'd also have DH answer when it can't be silenced and say "We're eating. I'll call you back in an hour or so. Goodbye." and hang up.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Daffydilly on October 05, 2012, 03:13:31 PM
You've taught her that she will get her way if she calls during dinner. I would simply tell her, "we won't take phone calls during dinner time". Turn off the ringers during dinner and enjoy the time with your family.

She acts like a toddler because someone doesn't answer their phone. It is a phone call, not a summons to speak with the queen. I would ignore all the pouting and drama. If she can't have a polite conversation when you do call back, just tell her it sounds like she's not feeling well and you'll talk to her when she's feeling better.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Firecat on October 05, 2012, 03:15:45 PM
No.  And in the future can you make a policy of no calls during dinner and turning off the ringer on your phone?

POD. You're not rude, but your MIL is definitely being rude about this.

I don't know if this would help, but would your DH be willing to set up a specific time once a week to talk with her? (Provided that there's nothing else toxic going on or something like that, of course). Maybe if she knows that she'll be able to talk to him for half an hour every Wednesday or something, she'll get the feeling of connection she may want, and you guys will get a peaceful dinner.

Another option is to set the boundary clearly and explicitly, talk to her (when it's not your dinner time) and tell her, "MIL, we eat between X time and Y time every night. We are not going to answer the phone for anyone during that time - anyone at all, not just you." And then silence the ringer if you can or at least turn it down to the lowest volume you can if that's an option. More specifically, since it's your MIL, your DH should be the one to tell her if that's the route you decide to take. But be prepared for her to step up the behavior for awhile, because she'll almost certainly test the boundary.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: FauxFoodist on October 05, 2012, 03:15:56 PM
You were not rude; she was and terribly so (not to mentioned entitled).  She needs to learn boundaries and go find something else to do while you are at dinner.  Unless it's a dire emergency, she can wait.  One of DF's best friends is like this.  He thinks everyone should drop everything and talk to him.  It had even gotten to the point that DF picked up the phone and told him to stop calling because he was interfering with the task DF was trying to accomplish.  DF has a cousin like this also.  I've pointed out to DF that the only way these people will learn not to exhibit the entitled behavior is to not give in.  I think it's finally working (although it put me on his cousin's hate list since I'm sure she blames me for him no longer being at her beck and call, but her opinion means nothing to me, not to mention me not wanting to deal with a lifetime of her entitled behavior, so I don't care).
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: lowspark on October 05, 2012, 03:22:20 PM
I agree. Turn off the ringer or unplug the phone or put it off the hook. We have a policy in my house that we never answer the phone during dinner. When the kids were little it bugged them (the extreme curiosity to find out WHO is calling is very compelling) but as they grew up, phone ringing during dinner actually annoyed them as much as it did me and they became insistent that the phone would not be answered during dinner.

Anyway, the big question is, of course, when you say you (or husband) will call back after dinner, do you? If you always follow through and return the call, then you just have to put your foot down and if she is annoyed, well, that's her problem.

No, you weren't rude. But next time, don't answer in the first place. Make sure she understands that calling between x & y times will result in no one answering the phone, then stick with it.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Hmmmmm on October 05, 2012, 03:32:29 PM
You need to start turning off your ringer during dinner.  Then when she calls you won't hear it but can check caller ID to see if she did.  Then her son can call her back and say that your family has a new policy of turning off the ringer during dinner because your family was being interrupted so frequently. 
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: JustEstelle on October 05, 2012, 03:40:24 PM
A simple solution would be to turn your phone off at meal time and check for messages/calls when you are finished with the meal.  Your MIL has learned that, if she calls enough and makes a big enough pest of herself, you will answer and then she gets to play the "offended card" on you.  Don't play her game.  Just turn the phone off (or turn off the ringer), enjoy your meal, and then call her back when it's convenient to talk.

You were not rude.  She was the rude one.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: artk2002 on October 05, 2012, 03:42:15 PM
As others have said, you've taught her that she has the right to demand an instant response whenever she calls. Reteaching her is going to be a long, slow and painful process. You probably got into this situation because it was easier to answer the phone/respond than to hear her whine. Unfortunately, you now have to pay for that ease and it's going to be much more expensive. "Begin as you wish to continue" is always good advice. Thus endeth the sermon.

Killing off this kind of behavior is a tough job and one that requires a great deal of fortitude. Once you start the process, you cannot give in, not even once. Decide when it is appropriate for her to call and when it isn't. Always respond when she calls at an appropriate time and never respond when it isn't. Yes, she is going to cry and whine and moan about this. You're going to get lots of PA things out of her during this process. Don't give in! Giving in even once just teaches her how hard she has to work to get the response that she wants.

Good luck.

This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Carpathia on October 05, 2012, 03:56:11 PM
LOL @ artk2002!

Thank you all for the replies. Glad I wasn't rude. I do hate upsetting her but she gets upset so easily.

To answer a couple of points; we have told her before that if she calls between 7 and 8 we're likely to be eating but it hasn't stopped her - I don't think she looks at the time when she rings and then feels snubbed if we don't want to talk to her right then.  This annoys DH who has sometimes retaliated by not calling her back (which I think is a bad idea because it reinforces her belief that he doesn't want to talk to her).

I answered on the fourth ring partly because DH was about to answer and be really, really curt (causes more hassle in the long run) and partly in case there was a real emergency - neither she nor her husband are in good health. I thought that not passing the phone to DH as she wanted would count towards not getting her own way.

I don't want to give the impression that she's always been a nightmare to deal with - she hasn't, she's just got a lot of health problems right now, most of them mental health issues, and I am always happy to listen if she's in crisis. If I'd got any hint of that on the phone I'd have listened there and then but I want her to differentiate between calling because she's in crisis (instant conversation and a shoulder to lean on) and calling because she just wants to say hi (that's great, we love to catch up, but not when it's inconvenient for us to talk).
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: AmethystAnne on October 05, 2012, 05:00:18 PM
Does MIL call you on your landline phone?

This is what I've done in the past and would do in this situation as well:  when you do not want to be disturbed by phone calls, take the phone receiver off the hook and then disconnect the coil from the base of the phone.

When the phone is like this, anybody that calls will get a busy signal, and you don't hear the remarkably loud BEEPBEEPBEEP coming from the off-the-hook receiver.

After dinner, reconnect the phone coil and put the receiver back on the hook.

Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: TootsNYC on October 05, 2012, 05:24:25 PM
Well, you just taught her that if she rings often enough, to enough different phones, you WILL pick up.

And you taught her that you DO screen your calls.

So maybe a sit-down with DH in which HE says, "Mom, we don't like to take calls during dinner, and that's the only reason we didn't answer. We don't like the disruption to our family--it sends an awful message to our children. It's an important parenting strategy. We will never again answer the phone during dinner. We will call you back."

And then follow through.

Even if she's in mental-health crisis, I betcha she can wait 45 minutes.

You might also head her off by automatically calling her as soon as dinner is finished. Prop the phone on your shoulder and chat while you're clearing the table.

Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: doodlemor on October 05, 2012, 05:47:52 PM
You and DH need to set your boundaries, and keep to them. 

Carpathia, you said.....

she's just got a lot of health problems right now, most of them mental health issues, and I am always happy to listen if she's in crisis

Be very, very careful with this.  I have known several people who have used this crisis thing to get attention and manipulate others.  Think about whether your listening [for long periods of time, I suspect] actually helps her to change and solve problems.  Or, are you caught on the phone for long periods of time listening to the crisis du jour?
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: YummyMummy66 on October 05, 2012, 06:39:09 PM
It got to a point in my household, that we actually had to put something like this on our answering machine:

"Hello, you have reached so and so.  We are unavailable at this time, but please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we can.  Please no phone calls after 9pm unless an emergency".   We go to bed early and were tired of constantly getting late phone calls.  This message worked very well.

I think you need to do something along the same lines.  "Hello, you have reached so and so.  We are unavailable at this time, but please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we can.  No phone calls will be picked up or returned during our dinner hour of 7-8.  Thank you and have a great day".
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Marbles on October 05, 2012, 08:46:35 PM
You and DH need to set your boundaries, and keep to them. 

Carpathia, you said.....

she's just got a lot of health problems right now, most of them mental health issues, and I am always happy to listen if she's in crisis

Be very, very careful with this.  I have known several people who have used this crisis thing to get attention and manipulate others.  Think about whether your listening [for long periods of time, I suspect] actually helps her to change and solve problems.  Or, are you caught on the phone for long periods of time listening to the crisis du jour?
I was thinking something along those lines, too. If she's in crisis there are many services she can call if she has to talk to some one *right away*. Otherwise, she can wait until it is convenient for you to talk.

Also, just because she's upset, doesn't make it your fault or your problem to fix. Her expectations are unreasonable. If she's having mental problems, then it's especially important for you to decide what contact is comfortable and reasonable for your family. Then stick to those boundaries.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Petticoats on October 05, 2012, 09:28:27 PM
LOL @ artk2002!

Thank you all for the replies. Glad I wasn't rude. I do hate upsetting her but she gets upset so easily.

To answer a couple of points; we have told her before that if she calls between 7 and 8 we're likely to be eating but it hasn't stopped her - I don't think she looks at the time when she rings and then feels snubbed if we don't want to talk to her right then.  This annoys DH who has sometimes retaliated by not calling her back (which I think is a bad idea because it reinforces her belief that he doesn't want to talk to her).

I answered on the fourth ring partly because DH was about to answer and be really, really curt (causes more hassle in the long run) and partly in case there was a real emergency - neither she nor her husband are in good health. I thought that not passing the phone to DH as she wanted would count towards not getting her own way.

I don't want to give the impression that she's always been a nightmare to deal with - she hasn't, she's just got a lot of health problems right now, most of them mental health issues, and I am always happy to listen if she's in crisis. If I'd got any hint of that on the phone I'd have listened there and then but I want her to differentiate between calling because she's in crisis (instant conversation and a shoulder to lean on) and calling because she just wants to say hi (that's great, we love to catch up, but not when it's inconvenient for us to talk).

Just going by the bolded, it looks like she's really trained you and your DH to conciliate her and do what she wants so she won't subject you to her bad moods. I definitely second the posters who've recommended establishing firmer boundaries and training her to respect them. You shouldn't allow yourselves to be held hostage to her willingness to sulk. I'm not saying it's easy to be firm instead of conciliating her, but I think you'll feel a lot less frustrated if you aren't tiptoeing around her bad moods.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: HonorH on October 05, 2012, 09:31:13 PM
Since she's your DH's mother, he needs to be the one to tell her that you two will not be taking calls during dinner, period, and that if she leaves a message, you'll return it after dinner. And then, turn off the phones.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: singingserpent on October 05, 2012, 11:29:18 PM
If we say "Sorry, we're in the middle of dinner, we'll call you afterwards" she sometimes gets very upset and goes very quiet and does a bit of a snarky 'well I'm sorry for ringing' which because we know her, we know she's annoyed or upset but it's the sort of phrase that in the right tone of voice would be completely innocuous
VS
I may well have sounded slightly irritated when I said 'Hello?' (tried to keep it out of my voice but I was annoyed so it may have come through)

Do you think your MIL is sitting at home wondering if your feelings are hurt because she was snippy with you? I don't and don't think you should feel bad about reinforcing a boundary you (and your husband) have already discussed with her.  And, next time if your husband wants to answer the phone and be curt with her, let him! Why keep insulating her from natural consequences from her own actions?



Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: christmascarol on October 05, 2012, 11:38:33 PM
We had the exact same problem with MIL calling when we were eating.  When hubby said we were eating, she'd reply, "That's ok" in a `don't worry about it, I don't mind´way and just carry on talking.  When he said mealtimes were not a good time to call, she said, "But I know you're in then!" and kept on talking. 

The weirdest thing finally worked, I still can't believe it.  Hubby said don't call at x-time as we watch a TV programme then and we don't want to miss it.  That worked  :o 
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Otterpop on October 06, 2012, 12:20:50 AM
She doesn't understand that you're hungry and your food is getting cold?  OP, what is she calling to say anyhow?  I agree w/ the others who said turn off the ringer during mealtime.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: CakeEater on October 06, 2012, 05:25:11 AM
You've had lots of good advice as to how to deal with this issue. I just wanted to add that it's a really, really normal thing to not want to answer calls during dinner, and most people, when someone says, 'We're eating dinner, can I call you back?' say, 'Sure, no problem.' and think no more about it.

So it's definitely her problem, and not rudeness on your part in any way.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Pen^2 on October 06, 2012, 06:35:07 AM
You are not being rude at all. You are asking her to act appropriately, and she isn't. There's nothing rude in that (on your part, anyway).

I echo the thoughts of others that you have inadvertently trained your MIL to keep persisting in order for you to pick up the phone, and given her the message that she can control you through sulking. I'm sure she knows about your preference for her to call outside meal hours; it's just that she doesn't seem to see this as important. And if you've already explained things to her, then a sit-down and a talk might not do much.

I had a similar situation with my own parents--they used to ring me at all hours of the day for no reason at all except things like "I'm at the supermarket, which kind of cheese do you think I should get this week?". They tracked down my work phone number (not too hard to do through Google) which I had carefully not given them, and I started getting messages dozens of times a day from the front office saying that there was an "urgent" or "emergency" phone call--they would always be about something trivial. I found that if I said something like "I can't talk now; I'll call you back," they'd always just see it as an opening and talk more. It never made a difference if I explained things to them. So I'd just say "I can't talk now because I'm busy/eating/working/etc. and I'll call you back later, bye!" and hang up. There wasn't time given for a response, and they learned fairly quickly that ringing me at work got no further response, so they stopped doing it.

It might help to do the same with your MIL--say you can't talk and will call her back, and end the call without letting her start up a conversation. If she gets upset, that's her personal business, not yours, since you haven't done anything wrong. Just don't give her an opening to respond, since she's shown that she isn't going to respond appropriately. As for mental health issues: is she aware of other numbers to call when in crisis? If so, then you needn't feel so obliged, especially since she is clearly taking advantage of you and controlling you with threats of a foul mood.

Or you could get an answering machine and have your phone go straight to it during meal times. Just make sure it isn't one of those ones that plays the message aloud while it's being recorded, or it will be just as disruptive. Whatever you do, be consistent, or you'll simply give her the message that she has to work harder, and that's the last thing you want.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: cicero on October 06, 2012, 06:45:05 AM
I agree with what the PPs have said.

And i wanted to point something out to you:

you say you don't want to upset or annoy your MIL which is fine.

however, by *not* being assertive here, you are in essence annoying and upset yourself and your husband. i think that in this case, your family (you and your husband) has to come first. it doesn't mean you ignore your MIL forever; it just means you set boundaries and stick to them. Remember, as PPs have pointed out - every time you answer the phone during meals, you are teaching her that your answer the phone during meals. no matter what you *say* to her ("MIL please dont' phone between X and Y"), actions speak louder than words. It's like a toddler - they will whine and whine and cry and do all the things they need to do until their parents break down and give in. if you do't give in, eventually they learn how to ask for things.

Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Sophia on October 06, 2012, 08:58:39 AM
Both my parents and my MIL used to always call during my babies nap-time.  My MIL just kept forgetting (truly I think).  My parents thought she should just learn to sleep through the ringing phone. 
It wasn't until I started to unplug the phone when baby went to sleep that it stopped.  I sometimes then genuinely forgot to plug it back in.  Then we'd have this conversation

"We tried to reach you yesterday evening but you never answered"  (they were too smart to fess up to calling during naptime)
"We were home.  Oh, wait, I must have forgot to plug the phone back in"
"Why did you unplug the phone"
"Because you and MIL INSIST in calling during naptime, and I will NOT have her naps disturbed." 

Eventually we stopped unplugging the phone. 
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: AmethystAnne on October 06, 2012, 11:17:02 AM
Sophia.......I love what you said during your conversation with your mother. The tone I got from it was, "I'm the mother, and I'm in charge of my household."
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: gen xer on October 06, 2012, 11:20:49 AM
Are you my sister in law by any chance???? :)

My MIL is continually scandalized by family members who don't answer their phone every single bloody time it rings....and frankly I don't give a rat's patootie. Like another poster said - it is not a summons.  You are absolutely not rude to tell her you are eating and will call back.  In fact you have been exceedingly patient and polite.

 
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Shoo on October 06, 2012, 11:50:25 AM
One way to keep your mother-in-law from calling during dinner time is to turn the ringer off on your phone(s).  If you don't hear it ring, you won't be tempted to answer it.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: LeveeWoman on October 06, 2012, 11:52:01 AM
And, gosh it would be awful if you forget to turn the ringer on again so she wouldn't get a chance to harangue you over not answering.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: GreenEyedHawk on October 06, 2012, 02:49:25 PM
The only reason to repeatedly call is in event of an emergency and it seems very much like your MIL is crying wolf here.  What if there's a reason she *really* needs to get ahold of your DH, but because her constantly calling and calling and calling until someone answers is the norm for her, that's exactly how you and your DH would take it, and probably you'd continue to ignore the phone, even if there could be a legitimate emergency.

I'd bring that point up to her as well, and have a clear definition between you of what constitutes "emergency".
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Winterlight on October 06, 2012, 04:05:18 PM
Well, you just taught her that if she rings often enough, to enough different phones, you WILL pick up.

And you taught her that you DO screen your calls.

So maybe a sit-down with DH in which HE says, "Mom, we don't like to take calls during dinner, and that's the only reason we didn't answer. We don't like the disruption to our family--it sends an awful message to our children. It's an important parenting strategy. We will never again answer the phone during dinner. We will call you back."

And then follow through.

Even if she's in mental-health crisis, I betcha she can wait 45 minutes.

You might also head her off by automatically calling her as soon as dinner is finished. Prop the phone on your shoulder and chat while you're clearing the table.

This.

And I would be suspicious of her crises at this point. It sounds like she's using them to make sure you and DH pay attention to her.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: O'Dell on October 06, 2012, 04:11:51 PM
Then a moment later the phone rang for a fourth time so I decided to answer (because it was very disruptive and DH was getting really cross).

I think you're going to have to get comfortable with people being upset if you go the route of training your MIL. It's okay if she's upset that you all don't drop what you are doing when she calls. It's really her problem, don't make it yours. And it's okay if your husband gets mad at her antics. That will just motivate him to follow through on the plan (or you can help to channel his irritation that way if needed).
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: FauxFoodist on October 06, 2012, 05:18:02 PM
Then a moment later the phone rang for a fourth time so I decided to answer (because it was very disruptive and DH was getting really cross).

I think you're going to have to get comfortable with people being upset if you go the route of training your MIL. It's okay if she's upset that you all don't drop what you are doing when she calls. It's really her problem, don't make it yours. And it's okay if your husband gets mad at her antics. That will just motivate him to follow through on the plan (or you can help to channel his irritation that way if needed).

I agree.  As with other things here when trying to either change the bad behavior or, at least, get people to understand you no longer are going to put up with it, things will get worse before they get better (but nothing will likely change unless you stop giving in).
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: miranova on October 07, 2012, 11:36:26 AM
I had a person like this in my life, who truly thought that I had an actual obligation to answer my phone every time it rang.  No matter what else I was doing, no matter that I promised to call back when it was a better time....nothing worked.  He just kept calling and calling and calling and getting VERY angry when I wasn't immediately available.  The only thing that worked was literally blocking his number for 3 weeks.  He got insanely angry, but I had to NOT CARE and not give in.  After that I did unblock him (without getting into details he did need to contact me occassionally so I had to) but I told him I'd do it again if started getting crazy with the phone calls again.  He is allowed to leave ONE message and then WAIT.  It finally worked.  YEARS of harassment and it was the only thing that worked.

In your case since it is a family member that you presumably love and do want to talk to, I wouldn't go quite that extreme but I would unplug the phone during during.  Set yourself a timer if you are afraid you'll forget to plug it back in.  But you have every right to eat dinner uninterrupted. It won't take longer than a week or two before she gets it and is retrained.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Carpathia on October 07, 2012, 12:16:50 PM
I've figured out how to turn off the ringer on the phone  >:D

Thanks for all your suggestions. Part of the reason we answer the phone when she repeatedly calls is because the disruption is just the same as having to tell her we're busy (but as pointed out by others, doesn't stop the behaviour). Silencing the phone will solve both the problems  :)
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: FauxFoodist on October 07, 2012, 12:33:05 PM
I've figured out how to turn off the ringer on the phone  >:D

Thanks for all your suggestions. Part of the reason we answer the phone when she repeatedly calls is because the disruption is just the same as having to tell her we're busy (but as pointed out by others, doesn't stop the behaviour). Silencing the phone will solve both the problems  :)

Good for you!  I'd like to offer a further solution that another poster used -- if she asks why you turned off the ringer, be honest with her and tell her that she won't stop calling during dinnertime and you will not have dinner interrupted (just in case she continues to refuse to get it into her head that she needs to stop).
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: gellchom on October 07, 2012, 12:49:34 PM
I think you are doing fine.  I was very relieved to read the tone of your post and almost all of the replies -- all respectful, polite, and solution-oriented, not the sort of "Oh, goody, an excuse to really give it to someone -- I get to be screamingly mean, because they were rude!  Yay!" tone we sometimes hear. 

And I agree with the advice.  Make a policy of NO calls, to or from anyone, not just MIL, during dinner.  Let her know in the same polite way you've been doing.  Turn off the ringer during dinner if necessary. 

The only reason I am posting too is to add this: make sure you do return her calls as promptly as possible, and without letting her hear your exasperation.   Don't get sucked into any conversations about why you didn't answer, either to apologize, defend yourself, or to lecture her, just as quickly as possible get to, "Well, here we are now -- what's up?"

Some people who call insistently are controlling, but others are simply insecure or lonely.  If she feels like she gets enough of her family's attention, she will be more likely to back off.  I am not saying that you and your husband have been neglecting her or pushing her off (it doesn't sound a bit like you are), and I definitely recognize that some people are bottomless pits for attention.  I just mean that I have learned that as a general principle, what works best with people who seem so hungry for attention is not to pull away, but to make sure to give them plenty of it, on terms that suit me, and then they are much, much less likely to demand it in inappropriate ways and times.  I know that doesn't work in all situations, but when possible, try it.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: FauxFoodist on October 07, 2012, 01:09:14 PM
I definitely recognize that some people are bottomless pits for attention.  I just mean that I have learned that as a general principle, what works best with people who seem so hungry for attention is not to pull away, but to make sure to give them plenty of it, on terms that suit me, and then they are much, much less likely to demand it in inappropriate ways and times.  I know that doesn't work in all situations, but when possible, try it.

Sadly, I haven't found that those who are hungry for attention who are then given it are less likely to demand it in inappropriate ways and times.  It has been the opposite with multiple individuals; they come to believe they should have more and more time so I've learned to just ignore it and not engage the crazy since nothing gets through.  To be fair, these are all people who think the world revolves around them, anyway, so I'm not surprised.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: YummyMummy66 on October 08, 2012, 07:35:38 AM
I think that the next time you have MIL over for diinner, give us your phone number(s).  We will take turns calling all of your numbers,  and if we don't get one number, we will continue on until we either leave a message or you finally pick up.

Maybe your MIL will understand by hearing and seeing just how her calling you at dinnertime interrupts your family dinner.

I bet she say something when this happens and you can give her the speech, "Why, MIL, I am surprised this bothers you.  this is what you do to us all the time and why we have asked you to stop."   I bet you get tht deer in headlights look.

(Actually, have a friend do it for you or or your family members take turns without MIL noticing.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: weeblewobble on October 08, 2012, 08:09:10 AM

I would also caution you against being the "dumping ground" for her stress.  If she has mental health issues, she needs to discuss these stresses with her doctor/counselor.  Discussing them with you prevents her from getting the help she needs and learning to cope with these stresses on her own. I had a personality like this in my life and let me tell you that trying to be "nice" and "helpful" can lead to this person taking over all of your time with their needs and "crises." (Because there will always be a crisis.) 

In my case, this person used me as her dumping ground because it was easier than discussing her problems with her therapist.  She got to dump all of those problems in my lap, walk away feeling better (while I was emotionally exhausted) and then go to her appointments and act like she was OK.  The therapist thought she was making more progress than she was.

This person honestly didn't care what I had going.  I was to be at her beck and call at all times.  Because my life was "easy." she said, and I didn't have her problems, so I didn't have the right to say no to her.  And because she was a member of my husband's family, I didn't feel like I could alienate her totally, so I put up with it.   Then there was an incident that really illustrated how little she cared for my time or feelings, and I was able to put my foot down.

I really hope that it doesn't come down to a "put your foot down" moment with your MIL.  But I will say that your husband needs to be the one dealing with this.  He's going to be curt and hurtful with his Mom?  Big deal.  It's his mom.  He chooses how to interact with her.  Maybe she needs to suffer the consequences of her actions.

She doesn't get to be rude, and then act like the injured party when you don't react according to her expectations AND walk away scot-free while you worry about hurting her feelings.  She is creating this situation.  Not you.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: GratefulMaria on October 08, 2012, 08:23:20 AM
I definitely recognize that some people are bottomless pits for attention.  I just mean that I have learned that as a general principle, what works best with people who seem so hungry for attention is not to pull away, but to make sure to give them plenty of it, on terms that suit me, and then they are much, much less likely to demand it in inappropriate ways and times.  I know that doesn't work in all situations, but when possible, try it.

Sadly, I haven't found that those who are hungry for attention who are then given it are less likely to demand it in inappropriate ways and times.  It has been the opposite with multiple individuals; they come to believe they should have more and more time so I've learned to just ignore it and not engage the crazy since nothing gets through.  To be fair, these are all people who think the world revolves around them, anyway, so I'm not surprised.

I'm extremely lucky and grateful that this did work with my mother; but it takes a person who wants to make the situation work and wants people to be happy about it, not just compliant.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: *new*mommyagain36 on October 08, 2012, 11:16:59 AM
My MIL had a habit of calling my cell as I was driving home after work.  I wouldn't answer it (it's illegal here and I also just do not feel like talking while I drive.)  Once I told her that she was always calling while I was driving, she adjusted her time and my cell would ring the minute I got in my car at the end of the day.  It would literally be 5 minutes after my workday ended. I felt like she was timing me walking out of the building, across parking lot, getting in the car, etc. I still would not answer my cell.  Then she changed her time of calling to just as I was clocking out of work.  I just stopped answering my phone unless I was already at home for the night. Why? The reason she was calling me at those above mentioned times was because she wanted me to pick up something for her from the store and drop it off to her at her house on my way home.  I have numerous voicemails that say, oh, can you pick up such-and-such and drop it off on your way home?  Thanks!  Bye.  She drives and there is really nothing stopping her from running her own errands.  It was maybe 4 months of this several times a week and me never answering my phone before she caught a clue and stopped calling me.
I say all of this to say, perhaps you just do not answer the phone?  Or if you've answered the phone once and told her you would call her back, then do not answer the phone again?  Let it ring, turn off ringer, take phone off the hook. 
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: JenJay on October 08, 2012, 04:25:49 PM
My MIL had a habit of calling my cell as I was driving home after work.  I wouldn't answer it (it's illegal here and I also just do not feel like talking while I drive.)  Once I told her that she was always calling while I was driving, she adjusted her time and my cell would ring the minute I got in my car at the end of the day.  It would literally be 5 minutes after my workday ended. I felt like she was timing me walking out of the building, across parking lot, getting in the car, etc. I still would not answer my cell.  Then she changed her time of calling to just as I was clocking out of work.  I just stopped answering my phone unless I was already at home for the night. Why? The reason she was calling me at those above mentioned times was because she wanted me to pick up something for her from the store and drop it off to her at her house on my way home.  I have numerous voicemails that say, oh, can you pick up such-and-such and drop it off on your way home?  Thanks!  Bye.  She drives and there is really nothing stopping her from running her own errands.  It was maybe 4 months of this several times a week and me never answering my phone before she caught a clue and stopped calling me.
I say all of this to say, perhaps you just do not answer the phone?  Or if you've answered the phone once and told her you would call her back, then do not answer the phone again?  Let it ring, turn off ringer, take phone off the hook.

That's nuts! I would have enjoyed calling her back just after I got home and saying "Oh shoot, I never check my messages until after I get home. Hey, as long as you're going out, could you grab me some ice cream and drop it off? Thanks!"  >:D
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Carpathia on October 08, 2012, 06:06:47 PM
My MIL had a habit of calling my cell as I was driving home after work.  I wouldn't answer it (it's illegal here and I also just do not feel like talking while I drive.)  Once I told her that she was always calling while I was driving, she adjusted her time and my cell would ring the minute I got in my car at the end of the day.  It would literally be 5 minutes after my workday ended. I felt like she was timing me walking out of the building, across parking lot, getting in the car, etc. I still would not answer my cell.  Then she changed her time of calling to just as I was clocking out of work.  I just stopped answering my phone unless I was already at home for the night. Why? The reason she was calling me at those above mentioned times was because she wanted me to pick up something for her from the store and drop it off to her at her house on my way home.  I have numerous voicemails that say, oh, can you pick up such-and-such and drop it off on your way home?  Thanks!  Bye.  She drives and there is really nothing stopping her from running her own errands.  It was maybe 4 months of this several times a week and me never answering my phone before she caught a clue and stopped calling me.
I say all of this to say, perhaps you just do not answer the phone?  Or if you've answered the phone once and told her you would call her back, then do not answer the phone again?  Let it ring, turn off ringer, take phone off the hook.

That's nuts! I would have enjoyed calling her back just after I got home and saying "Oh shoot, I never check my messages until after I get home. Hey, as long as you're going out, could you grab me some ice cream and drop it off? Thanks!"  >:D

First time I've bemoaned the lack of a 'like' button on forums  ;D

My MIL is getting professional help (DH and I rang her doctor and told him how ill she was getting - she'd been telling him she was fine). She's not chewing up the phone lines in crisis every night, and I'm not a substitute for a professional counsellor - hence ringing her doctor when the conversations became more than just letting off steam or needing a sympathetic shoulder for twenty minutes. Most of the times she calls she's just wanting too see how we are and have a bit of a natter.

I think she rings me partly because she's very neurotic and blows things way out of proportion and I'm the opposite so it's good for her to hear someone saying 'Now slow down and look at this logically..." and also because she genuinely doesn't see anyone such as friends anymore, they've lost touch over the years or passed away. She's basically stuck in a very small flat with only her husband for company (good man mostly but an odd duck) and because of her agoraphobia taking her out is rarely an option. I think I'd be begging for outside contact in her shoes too.

I think the turn-off-phone-during-dinner strategy will stop her calling during mealtimes and since her calling isn't usually a problem unless we're tied up and can't get to the phone it'll solve the problem without making her think we're ignoring her.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: TootsNYC on October 08, 2012, 06:17:43 PM
In addition to turning off the ringer, consider adding an answering-machine message that says, "We can't come to the phone. If it's between 6 and 8pm, please know that we do not take phone calls during family dinner. Leave a message, so we can call you back when we're free again."

That'll remind her every time she calls that it's dinner time!!!
Maybe she'll start ramping down calls at that time.
Title: Re: Think I've upset MIL - was I rude?
Post by: Rohanna on October 09, 2012, 12:29:27 AM
For all I'm not a fan of some of the changes with IoS6- I *love* the new "Do Not Disturb" feature- love love love! I can set the hours that either no one can call, only certain people can call- or allow repeat calls to go through if they dialed immediately. When the "quiet time" is up, the phone goes back to normal, so there's no forgetting it's silenced. My husband loves it for daytime naps before night shift- he sets it so the local hospital, his work, our kid's school and I can call- and that repeat dialing back will ring through- but he's not bothered by friends who don't know he's on nights, doctors/dentist/mechanic offices, telemarketers, etc. More phones need that feature!