DEAR HARRIETTE: I am unable to express my thoughts during meetings due to my anxiety and fear of speaking out of turn to my superiors. Throughout my life I've had difficulty properly expressing my thoughts when I speak, whether it be due to nerves or stumbling on my words. What are some ways I can shed this fear and anxiety and be comfortable to speak in meetings? -- Anxious Newbie
DEAR ANXIOUS NEWBIE: Preparation is key. Spend time thinking about and preparing bullet points of what you intend to share with your superiors. Do enough research so that you feel completely comfortable with the content of the conversation. Then map it out so that you are clear about what needs to be shared. Practice so that you can know what it feels like to express yourself with confidence while delivering your message. The more you practice, the easier the situation will become. Your goal is to be able to breathe comfortably and simply talk to anyone, including your boss, with ease because you are prepared with whatever information you need in order to have a successful encounter.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Throughout my childhood, I was always easily distracted, and I suspect I have a mild case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I've been using ADHD medication that I've received from my friends, and it is extremely effective and useful to prevent me from getting distracted. I am not sure if my use of these medications -- such as Dexedrine and Adderall -- is drug abuse, or if it is something I should have been using in the first place.
I am planning on visiting my doctor in the hopes of getting diagnosed properly; however, I'm not sure if I want to tell him about my experience with medication. Taking it drastically improves my ability to get work done and benefits my career prospects as a whole, and I don't want him to take it away. Do you think I should tell him this? -- Possible Adult ADHD
DEAR POSSIBLE ADULT ADHD: Thank you for sharing this private side of your life. It takes a lot to speak up when the stakes feel high. You may have ADHD, or you may have something else. It is smart for you to get properly diagnosed under a medical doctor's care. Yes, you should tell your doctor what you have been ingesting, the quantity, dosage, etc. This information is critical to an accurate diagnosis on the doctor's part.
Talk about yourself, your concerns, your goals, your challenges and your triumphs. Explain how your behavior changes with the use of the medication. Answer your doctor's questions honestly so that you can receive the most accurate diagnosis. Then, listen to whatever the doctor says, and do your best to heed the advice given. Give the medical professional's diagnosis a chance -- no matter what it is.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage daughter invited a friend to spend a week with her at our summer house, but things got uncomfortable after a few days. I think it was too much togetherness for two young ladies who aren't really close.
My daughter, who is an only child, invited this girl because she is part of her friend group -- but also because her closer friends couldn't come. It all worked out OK, but there were definitely some tense moments. Do you have any advice for what to do to occupy an only child's attention when her best friends are not available? -- Alone or Not
DEAR ALONE OR NOT: Talk with your only child about how long she thinks she can be comfortable with anyone -- especially someone who is not so close to her -- one-on-one. Ask her to think of how she might handle this situation differently in the future. She needs to take ownership for what occurred because she wanted to have a friend along.
Talk it out with her. If a trip is long, should she have a friend for a while and spend the other part of the time just with her parents? As an only child, she probably enjoys alone time. When she doesn't have it, she can feel claustrophobic. You may also recommend that she create alone moments even when friends are with her. It is OK to have quiet time when you are entertaining people over an extended period. If she can learn to claim her space, she will be able to enjoy close or peripheral friends and still have her peace of mind.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother and I have a very close relationship. I call her almost every day and update her with any big things going on in my life. Recently, she has started dating a new guy, and we aren't speaking as often as we used to. I am very glad that she is in a new relationship and is happy, but I miss talking to her. I'm not sure if it's selfish of me to want to speak to my mom all the time, being that I am 22 years old, or just that I'm not used to her having a boyfriend. I don't want to bring it up to my mom, because I'm scared she will take it personally or that I will seem very needy. What is your take on how much communication is healthy and normal between a mother and a daughter? Do you think I am overreacting when it comes to speaking with my mom? -- Daughter Misses Mom, Cleveland
DEAR DAUGHTER MISSES MOM: What you are experiencing is a natural shift whenever a loved one gets a boyfriend or girlfriend. Suddenly, there is less time for friends and adult children because the lovebirds are so devoted to each other. The good news is that the intensity that excludes others usually doesn't last too long. Give your mom some space to explore her new relationship. You can suggest that you spend some time together. Invite her to coffee or to go shopping, something that will get her attention. But try not to push too hard at first. She will come around.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am recovering from a breakup, and my family and friends are supportive. My boss is encouraging and always wants me to be happy. However, she might be trying to set me up too early when I'm not fully recovered from the breakup. She has men in mind whom she would like me to meet, but I'm not ready. How can I tell her to back off for now, but that I will be ready later? -- Not Ready to Date Yet, Towson, Maryland
DEAR NOT READY TO DATE YET: It's great that your boss is supportive and that you feel comfortable talking to her. The other side of that is her being too involved. Ask your boss if you can talk to her for a moment. Thank her for her support during this difficult time for you, and tell her that you appreciate her interest in introducing you to potential new partners. Ask her to wait before she does anything. Explain that you are still hurting from the breakup and that you are too emotionally fragile to meet anybody new right now. Assure her that you will let her know when you are up for a date.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My in-laws have been coming around, and it has become an inconvenience for me and my family. We don't mind if they come over, but the problem is they come over unannounced. I work all day and sometimes come home stressed. My husband and I have told them to call before they come, but they don't. When they come in, they immediately want to jump into whatever conversation we are having. They interrupt the children to try to get them to hang out when they need to do their homework. They can be disruptive -- even though we know it is not intentional. How do I tell them they need to call before they come so they will listen? -- Need Advance Notice, Raleigh, North Carolina
DEAR NEED ADVANCE NOTICE: This is a hard situation that may require tough love. If you and your husband have the stomach for it, you may need to tell them that they cannot come in on days when you are stressed out. You can choose not to open the door, even acting like you aren't at home.
Your in-laws have a lot more time on their hands than you and your husband, which is making them not accept your schedules. You might have to hurt their feelings to give them the reality check that they need to respect your privacy. This will be an awkward period, but it should work if you stick to your plan to say no when you don't have the energy to entertain them.
Be sure to talk to them, too, and point out that when they come unannounced, they often unintentionally interrupt the children's homework and the overall family pattern. Suggest that you have a regular time when they visit for part of the day on the weekend or for dinner once a week -- something that is inclusive and manageable.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106