At a soiree the other night, the discussion came around to the necessity of confronting loved ones about their annoying behavior. The techniques suggested were all very useful for behaviors that are evidently reprobate.

Then someone reminded us that even certain good behaviors can be annoying – behaviors that you get prizes for in school: being smart, being right, being the leader. You can’t confront these in the usual way because they’re not improper.

That’s when the word “insufferable” came up. These behaviors and attitudes, although not bad, can nevertheless be insufferable. And the usual way of dealing with them is often by snipes and jabs and even meanness or, sometimes, distance.

Luckily there is a remedy. It was given to us by President Reagan when he was debating President Carter. His famous retort “There you go again” can be reversed and personalized by the offending party: “Here I go again being smart, right and controlling.” Remarkably it diffuses the toxicity and can even be humorous.

We decided readers should know about this in case it’s an issue in your family.

And now back to politics.

Joseph McKenna

Portland

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