DEAR ABBY: Have you any tips on how to deal with an emotional bully? My mother-in-law is insulting, but sneaky about it. She insists that she's "just trying to help." If I speak up, she says, "Why are you being so sensitive?" or, "I'm just being honest." She has criticized my parenting skills and chiseled away at my self-esteem more times than I can count.
Because she's my mother-in-law, it isn't easy to get away. I try to keep busy during holidays and family visits so she won't be able to catch up with me and insult me.
Defending myself doesn't help. If I try, she turns a deaf ear. I need some strong, but polite, comments to get her to back off. Please help. -- UNDER ATTACK IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR UNDER ATTACK: Two can play the game of selective deafness. Has it occurred to you to simply tune the woman out? Just because a jackass brays does not mean you have to take the noise to heart.
If, however, you feel compelled to respond, then straighten your posture, look her in the eye and say, "Then I'm going to be honest with you, too. I'm doing the best I can. Your comments are hurtful, and unless you stop criticizing me, I'm going to spend more time with MY family during the holidays. Got it?" If that doesn't slow her down, do yourself a favor and follow through.