Don’t be a busybody, and other lessons in tact from Rachel Lynde

Tact is the ability to say what you think while valuing the other person as well. It goes by many names–diplomacy, sensitivity, discretion, savoir faire–but whatever you call it, Rachel Lynde didn’t have it.

Life Lessons from Green Gables: Learn Tactfulness from Rachel Lynde | Modern Mrs. Darcy

If you’re at all acquainted with Anne of Green Gables, then you know Rachel Lynde as the busybody neighbor who’s so cruel to Anne when she first arrives at Green Gables. Even L. M. Montgomery had to resort to sarcasm to describe Mrs. Lynde:  “Mrs Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind without fear or favour.”

Rachel Lynde valued blunt honesty above all else.  She lacked tact–which meant she insulted friends and neighbors all over town with her lack of regard for the feelings of others.  The citizens of Avonlea wished Mrs. Rachel had better control of her tongue.  If she ever asked their advice, they would have wanted her to know these tips to improve her social graces.

10 steps to trade a sharp tongue for gentler speech

1. Don’t give harsh criticism under the guise of being “honest.” Mrs. Lynde criticizes Anne cruelly upon their first meeting: “Well, they didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s sure and certain….  She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla.  Come here, child, and let me have a look at you.  Lawful heart, did anyone ever see such freckles?  And hair as red as carrots!”

2. Don’t be alarmist. “Well, I hope it will turn out all right,’ said Mrs. Rachel in a tone that plainly indicated her painful doubts.  ‘Only don’t say I didn’t warn you if he burns Green Gables down or puts strychnine in the well.”

3. Don’t be a busybody. “Few things in Avonlea ever escaped Mrs. Lynde.  It was only that morning Anne had said, ‘If you went to your own room at midnight, locked the door, pulled down the blind, and sneezed, Mrs. Lynde would ask you the next day how your cold was!'”

4. Don’t give advice unless asked.Mrs. Lynde dearly loved to be asked for advice.” Mrs. Lynde could truly give excellent advice–but it doesn’t do any good to dole out good advice if nobody wants to hear it.  Wait to be asked.

5. Give advice in limited quantities. According to Anne, “[Mrs. Lynde’s] advice is much like pepper, I think … excellent in small quantities but rather scorching in her doses.”

6. Don’t nag. In the words of Marilla, “I sometimes think she’d have more of an influence for good…if she didn’t keep nagging people to do right.  There should have been a special commandment against nagging.”

7. Don’t kick ’em when they’re down. You’re too heedless and impulsive, child, that’s what.  You never stop to think.” Anne is already well aware of this and has already confessed as much.  Rachel’s just piling it on.

8. Don’t be more attentive to other people’s affairs than your own. “Thomas Lynde lay more on the lounge nowadays than he had been used to do, but Mrs. Rachel, who was so sharp at noticing anything beyond her own household, had not as yet noticed this.”

9. Know when to hold your tongue.  Amazingly, Mrs. Lynde did sometimes manage to keep her mouth shut.  In her own words:  “The way Marilla dresses [Anne] is positively ridiculous, that’s what, and I’ve ached to tell her so plainly a dozen times.  I’ve held my tongue though, for I can see Marilla doesn’t want advice.”

10. Admit when you’re wrong. Mrs. Lynde was not above an apology:  “When I went home that night [three years ago] I says to Thomas, says I, ‘Mark my words, Thomas, Marilla Cuthbert’ll live to rue [adopting Anne].’  But I was mistaken and I’m real glad of it.  I ain’t one of those kind of people, Marilla, as can never be brought to own up that they’ve made a mistake….I did make a mistake in judging Anne.”

If reading about Rachel Lynde’s tactlessness has whetted your appetite to see her in action, you’ll enjoy this video, or you can read more L. M. Montgomery with these Free L. M. Montgomery downloads from

This is the first post in the series Life Lessons from Green Gables.  Don’t miss the rest!

Don’t Be a Drama Queen, and Other Lessons in Friendship from Anne Shirley.
Learning to Mellow Like Marilla Cuthbert.
Go After Your Girl Like Gilbert Blythe.
Revisiting Rilla of Ingleside.

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  1. Mrs. Zwieg says:

    I can always count on you to brighten up my Tuesday mornings! I LOVE this post! Thank you so much and may I again ask if I may share this on my blog? You do such an amazing job!

  2. Oh, how I miss watching this series. How can I convince my husband he wants to watch it with me? We used to watch it almost monthly as kids. I was just remembering the series as I came across “The Highwayman” in a poetry book. Until then, my only knowledge of the poem was from Anne’s recitation (will Gilbert’s standing ovation afterwards). Love that scene!

  3. Catherine says:

    I need these lessons as I’m tactless – a bit too much like Rachel Lynde. The girls and I listened to Anne of Green Gables traveling back and forth to Florida the year they lost their grandfather. I loved the tv series, and the book, even more. The girls loved to hear what Anne got into.

  4. LOVE IT! This is one of my favorite movies – and I confess Rachel Lynde is one of my favorite characters. LM Montgomery had such a colorful sense of humor and incredible way of giving each of her characters such…..character. *grin*

  5. Jana says:

    I would like to write something about Anne or Jane Austen. I have written lots of thoughts about them and would like to share if thats possible.

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