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by Abigail Van Buren

Dad's 'Tall Tales' Come Up Ever Shorter on the Truth

DEAR ABBY: My father, who is in his 60s, has always been a storyteller, but since retirement his tales have gotten longer, and so has his nose.

I suspect he's concerned about his waning influence in the world and that's why he puffs himself up. He tells people he has academic degrees he hasn't earned, takes credit for coining phrases that predated him and claims the hero role in events he couldn't possibly have participated in.

Most of the time I let it go. But sometimes he starts spouting "facts" that are not only untrue but also potentially harmful, or he takes credit for work done by others who deserve the recognition.

Is there a way to call him on it that lets him save face? Speaking to him privately does nothing. When prodded in a more truthful direction, he becomes immediately hostile. Suggesting other ways for him to contribute to the world (volunteering, etc.) have been non-starters. Before you ask, he has been to the doctor and this behavior isn't the result of a medical issue. -- EMBARRASSED IN TEXAS

DEAR EMBARRASSED: It should be apparent to you by now that you can't change your father. His bids for respect and attention are sad, because the individuals being lied to usually learn the truth eventually.

Because we can't change the behavior of others, it's important to remember that we can change the way we react to them. Because correcting your father in public hasn't worked, if you catch him telling someone something you know is untrue -- and which could be harmful healthwise or financially -- contact the person privately and advise him or her to verify it with a doctor, lawyer or trusted financial adviser.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Aging | Etiquette & Ethics | Self Worth