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Sense & Sensitivity

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I went years without speaking to someone who told a cruel lie about me. That lie affected my friendships and even my family. It was so bad and so hurtful that part of me never recovered. It was hard to believe that someone I cared a lot about would intentionally lie about me to a host of other people. They recently reached out to me to apologize privately for the lie that they told. The disrespect was public, so I think the apology should be public, too. In order for me to move forward, I want a detailed public retraction of the lie. Is this a reasonable request? -- Public Apology

DEAR PUBLIC APOLOGY: Start by meeting with this person and listening to what they have to say. Find out why they chose to say those hurtful, untrue things in the first place. Explain the repercussions of their lie and how negatively it impacted your life. Thank the person for coming to you now with this apology. Then, make it clear that the private acknowledgment is not enough. Ask for the person to state the apology in detail in a public forum. Today that could be social media, a traditional news outlet or a community organization. Make it clear what you want, and try to get this person to agree.

If you are worried about how forthcoming the person ultimately will be, bring a witness with you to the in-person meeting. You can also state that you want to record the meeting before it begins, but remember that in some states it is illegal to record a phone conversation without consent.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine is going through a hard time. Her world has basically fallen apart. She is in the middle of a bad breakup and is having a lot of family issues. She moved recently, and it seems like everybody is bickering. I loaned her money back in early March. Although she is having a hard time, I am not rich, and I need the money back ASAP. I don't want to be insensitive. How should I go about asking for my money back? -- Pay Me Back

DEAR PAY ME BACK: The problem with loans to friends is that you almost never get the money back on time, if at all. That's why many people recommend loaning only what you can afford to give away. Of course you deserve your money back. If you established a deadline for payment and you have either reached or passed it, you have the right to request your money now. You can do so with caution and compassion, but you also need to be realistic. If your friend is in the throes of a tumultuous breakup, she may not have the bandwidth to even think about her responsibility to you. That doesn't make it right, but it may make it real. You can express to her how desperately you need to be repaid so that you can handle your business -- even if it's a payment plan. Good luck.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend talks way more than she listens. I feel like we are constantly talking about her issues, and she rarely cares about what's going on in my life. We both had job interviews on the same day, and afterward we talked about her interview the entire time -- she didn't even ask about mine. Is this a friendship worth holding on to? -- One-Sided Friend

DEAR ONE-SIDED FRIEND: How often do you call your friend on her selfishness? Now is the time to clearly let her know what you have observed. Tell her that you have noticed a pattern in your relationship that you do not appreciate -- that she does all the talking and rarely seems to care about what you are going through. Give her concrete examples, such as the debrief after your job interviews. Have two more examples handy so that she can't write that one off as an anomaly.

Then, tell her what you want. Ask her to listen to you when you talk. Request that she not interrupt or change the subject when you are attempting to get a point across. Tell her that the way she can actually be your best friend is to listen more and talk less.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My aunt has been grieving the loss of my uncle (her husband), but she has been taking out her anger on the rest of the family. She doesn't really answer any of our calls these days, and when she does, she's very short-tempered on the phone. What is the best way to deal with this? I do not want to leave her alone with her grief. -- Angry Aunt

DEAR ANGRY AUNT: Do your best to look past her insensitivity right now. While deep in the grieving process, your aunt may feel so raw that she doesn't realize how she is behaving toward her loved ones. Remind yourself that she is in pain. Reach out to her anyway. If the phone isn't working, send her cards. Text her to say you are thinking about her. Make her favorite food and drop it by her home so that she sees the loving gestures regularly.

Don't give up on her. At the same time, you do have to take care of yourself. Limit the length of your interaction with your aunt. If you believe she is going to be rude or dismissive, be pleasant and quick with your engagement with her. Or stick to texts for a while. When you can't take her attitude any longer, tell her that you love her and want to be there for her, but the way she is interacting with you hurts your feelings. Ask her to be more gentle. If she continues to attack you, step back.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I've been working remotely for a little over a year now. I'm currently in an entry-level position, and of course I would eventually like to move up. I don't make very much now, but my friend was telling me how jealous she is that I work remotely. She tells me that I have the freedom to work from wherever I want, go wherever I want -- all I have to do is take my laptop with me. I am thinking that I should start taking advantage of the fact that I work remotely and spend my time and money traveling with my laptop. I'm sure that after I leave this job, my next one may not be remote. Is this a practical idea? -- Remote Worker

DEAR REMOTE WORKER: First, make sure that you have mastered the duties of your job. That can be more challenging when you work remotely because you aren't in the company of your boss to make course corrections as needed. Figure out a way to get regular feedback so that you continue to learn and grow and stay connected to the company.

In terms of traveling to see the world, figure out what you want to see, and map out a plan. Many people moved back home or to other interesting locales during quarantine, which sometimes opened their horizons and led to new employment. Others simply had wonderful adventures that allowed them to experience new cuisine, neighborhoods and people. Yes, use your remote time to explore your world -- but only after you have set yourself up for success with your business.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I had a lot of ideas this year that I tried to execute, but here I am at the end of the year feeling like a failure. I did complete a couple of the things that I had mapped out, but nothing made me any money, and I feel like I wasted my time. My wife told me that I need to get my act together and stop with all these schemes. She says that my so-called "bright ideas" end up costing the family money. But my job only makes so much. I feel like I have to do something more in order to provide for them. How can I assure my wife that my efforts are for her and the family and not just me having unrealistic ideas? -- Pie in the Sky

DEAR PIE IN THE SKY: Your intentions sound good, even though your outcomes have not measured up. That says that you have been looking in the wrong direction for ways to supplement your income. It is time to investigate what the needs are in your community that you are able to fulfill.

First, make a list of all of your skills. What can you do that could possibly benefit someone else? That can include technical skills, yardwork, people skills, etc. Check with your local chamber of commerce to see what opportunities exist. If you want to do something with flexible hours that allows you to keep your current job, search for that. Call centers often need support, for example. If you are gregarious and speak well, you may be able to make extra money by doing sales calls for local businesses. The point here it to figure out the need where you are, and offer to fill it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always had clear, young skin. I pride myself on it. I am already 60 years old, and you would never know it if you looked at me. The other day, though, I noticed that my skin is looking dry and I can see some lines forming on my forehead. I'm wondering if it's time for me to start getting Botox or something. I am afraid that if I lose my looks, I will lose everything. I don't have any money or things. What can I do? -- Cracked Mirror

DEAR CRACKED MIRROR: Remember that we are literally entering a new season -- winter. Weather conditions in most places become cold and dry, requiring more lubrication inside and out. As you get older, your skin becomes more sensitive to the cold. Start by moisturizing your skin better and drinking more water. Visit a dermatologist to evaluate the condition of your skin and discover new ways to protect it for this time in your life. Ask about Botox. But don't rush to inject yourself with anything. See what you can do naturally to fortify your skin.

Also, realize that we all age, some more quickly than others. It is unrealistic to think that your face or body will remain the same forever. Rather than hinging your long-term success on how you look, pivot to embracing how you behave and treat others as symbols of your value. They will last. Your looks will not.

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

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