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Sense & Sensitivity

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DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I ended up in the middle of a chaotic fight at a bar the other night. When things started to get too rowdy, I asked her if we could leave, but she insisted that we stay and continue on with our evening as if nothing was wrong. One thing led to another, and she ended up in a full-blown physical altercation with another girl. Not only did my girlfriend throw the first punch, but she instigated by hurling insults at a woman who wasn't even speaking to her in the first place.

The next day, she apologized to me for being unruly and blamed it all on her drunkenness. Although she told me it would never happen again, I can't look past the trashy, loud, messy side of her that I saw that night at the bar. Could that have been her true character, or should I look past this incident and move on? -- Bar Fight

DEAR BAR FIGHT: Take this incident seriously. When both of you are sober, revisit it. Remind your girlfriend of what happened. Go into detail describing how she behaved, what she said, how she said it and how you feel about it. She will not likely want to be part of this conversation, but you should press her. Tell her how upset you were (and still are) at her behavior. Just because she was drunk does not excuse her, and it makes you look at her in a different light.

Talk about sobriety. Could your girlfriend possibly have a drinking problem? Look carefully at her behavior and yours. What kind of support would best help you two get through this? If talking to a counselor might help, make that recommendation. You don't necessarily have to end your relationship now. You should pay close attention to it to see what it needs to be healthier.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always been an overachiever. I take pride in knowing that whatever I set my mind to, I can accomplish about 99.9% of the time. When I can accomplish it, I always overdeliver. When I got to college, I realized that I was overachieving to fill a sense of emptiness inside. I'm well into adulthood now, and this feeling has not faded. I find myself setting nearly impossible goals for myself, only to accomplish them and feel empty once again. I am ready to dig deeper within myself and find a new purpose. How do I find a purpose that is bigger than achievements in my career, my finances or anything superficial? -- New Purpose

DEAR NEW PURPOSE: I love the practice of meditation because it helps us still the mind and listen to the voice inside. I highly recommend that you quiet yourself and look for your own inner guidance. What do you want for your life next? What goals do you have? What do you want for yourself? Is it a relationship? Overall peace of mind? The ability to relax? Is there a hobby that might interest you?

Figure out what is missing from your life and focus some of your attention on that. You can do so with gusto -- think about how you approach academic and work goals. You can apply similar enthusiasm to a new hobby. Ultimately, though, the goal is to relax and just enjoy the moment. That, in and of itself, is a huge achievement.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend's sister is one of the worst people I've ever met. I hate how she treats my friend. I've watched her steal from my friend, embarrass her publicly and try to harm her. My friend is a little older and believes that she has to be the bigger person in the situation because her younger sister obviously has some behavioral or emotional issues. I told her that the next time her sister takes her things without asking, tries to hit her or shows any type of violence toward her, she needs to call the police. Am I wrong for encouraging my friend to call the police on her younger sister? I think it's the best decision regarding my friend's safety. My friend worries that this might give her sister a record or embarrass her parents. I think my friend's safety is worth the risk. -- Call the Cops

DEAR CALL THE COPS: Start with a family intervention, if possible. Suggest to your friend that she gather other family members and friends who believe her sister needs help. First talk (without the sister) and agree on the idea that it is time to take things to the next level. Plan out carefully whatever you want to share with her. The wording should be clear and precise, but not inflammatory. Your goal is to have her hear what is being said and to be willing to be responsive. Then find a mental health professional who is willing to see her. Arrange for a meeting immediately after the intervention if you can.

Next, have your friend invite her sister to meet with her, and have the others assembled. They should state their case and encourage her to accept help. If she refuses, the next time she attempts to harm her sister, that's when to call the cops. For more tips on staging an intervention, go to:

DEAR HARRIETTE: Ever since I was little, I wanted my ears pierced. I was raised in a deeply religious household, and jewelry is frowned upon in my religion. Now that I'm 20 and no longer living with my family, I'm living by my own rules. I've gotten five different facial piercings in the last two years. I haven't seen my family since before COVID-19, and I'm nervous about their reactions to all my new piercings. Should I warn them before seeing them? -- New Piercings

DEAR NEW PIERCINGS: An unfortunate consequence of an extremely strict upbringing is that many young people rebel by doing the very thing that their parents wanted them to avoid. You know that your parents will be upset and disappointed. You will have to explain yourself, preferably with compassion. While you do not share your parents' views on piercings, they devoutly follow them. Don't be flippant with your decision to ignore them so overtly. Be prepared to explain why you made the choices that you did.

Yes, it would be thoughtful to give them a heads-up. Whichever parent you feel will listen best should be your point of contact. Call that person and say that you have gotten a few piercings since you have been on your own, and you just wanted to let them know. Assure them that your intention is not to be disrespectful of them. Instead, you have made choices based upon your beliefs, which do not always match theirs. Out of respect, you wanted to tell them in advance so it's not a surprise.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I made a mistake that cost my boss thousands of dollars. I found a way to pass it off as someone else's problem, but the guilt is eating me alive. I am afraid that coming forward about the details of the mistake will cost me my job. Should I be honest about something that's so detrimental? Everyone else has seemed to move on from it. The only thing I could stand to gain is peace of mind. -- Guilty Conscience

DEAR GUILTY CONSCIENCE: I am a firm believer in telling the truth. As you see, not doing so is costing you peace. Could you lose your job if you tell your boss what actually happened? Yes. But that shouldn't prevent you from telling him anyway.

Take a moment first to think about what happened and why. How did you cost your boss so much money? What went wrong? Do you know how to prevent it in the future? The facts coupled with recommendations for a better future outcome can be helpful during your conversation. Be prepared to tell your boss why you didn't come forward from the beginning. Be honest. Were you afraid? What happened?

Finally, think about your future. Where can you go from here? If you lose your job, where can you apply? Know that if you are fired, you can collect unemployment for a short period so you will have a tiny cushion. Think about your next steps in case you need to pivot. Then go in and talk to your boss. With humility and confidence in your integrity, tell him what happened.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My assistant has been doing a good job at work, so I offered her a promotion and a 20% raise. I was surprised and disappointed by her response. She said she thought the raise wasn't enough and that she deserves a lot more. I run a small business and do not have more to give her. I never know if all of my current contracts will last, so I have to keep sizable savings in order to pay for all of the expenses it takes to run the business. I know that many companies, including ones much larger than mine, don't even give cost of living increases on a regular basis, let alone a whopping 20%. I can't go higher, nor do I think she deserves it. But I also don't want a disgruntled employee. How should I handle this? -- Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Sit down with your assistant and remind her of how much you value her. That's why you offered her both a promotion and a big raise. Acknowledge that you know she is not satisfied with your offer. Share insights with her about job trends in our country so that she can gain a bit of perspective on her situation. In 2019, for example, the U.S. Government's cost of living increase for Social Security was 2.8%. Many corporations paid a similar amount to employees. According to, the average raise these days is 4.5-6%, so 20% would be considered exceptional. That said, it probably doesn't seem so great if the base salary was low. It can take time for a smaller starting salary to increase to a comfortable figure.

For anyone looking to request a promotion or a raise right now, you may want to take a number of factors into consideration -- take a self-assessment of your job performance to honestly consider whether you are deserving, prepare a presentation to demonstrate clear reasons why you are ready, and go in with confidence. Here are more suggestions:

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106


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