The first one is from Marsha Ganthier, a 28-year-old currently unemployed graphic designer from New Jersey:
My "Sticky Situation" is about a friend of mine whom I've known since high school. I consider her to be a very dear friend. She's always there for me when I need her. Only problem is she gets offended if I don't give her personal details of my everyday life. I've been going through a lot of personal transitions including my recent unemployment status. When she inquires about how I'm doing, I feel that all she needs to know is that I'm doing OK. It's not a trust issue; I just believe that my personal business is just that. She gets offended and makes me feel guilty for not confiding in her.
How can I reserve my right to privacy without alienating my friend?
Cole says: "It takes a lot of courage to follow your heart during challenging times. You should be commended for trying to do that now. When you give yourself space to contemplate your life without other people's opinions, you create an opportunity to learn from your own wisdom. That's great."
Since Ganthier has a relationship with her friend where personal life details are exchanged, Cole says this may be the time to redefine some boundaries.
"Let her know that you love her and appreciate her support. The best way she can support you right now is to give you some space. You need to be still to sort through what's going on in your life. You want her to know that she shouldn't take this personally at all. The best way she can be a friend right through here is to let you be. When the time is right you will share with her," says Cole.
And in regards to respecting someone's privacy, the following question is appropriate.
With the anniversary of 911 coming up, some people may want to acknowledge a family member, friend or stranger who lost someone on 911. What's the proper way to handle such a sensitive time and situation?
Cole says: "If you are close to the person, reach out and let the person know you are thinking about him or her during this sensitive time."
Here are Cole's suggestions:
- Send a card with a handwritten, personal note included.
- Phone to express your feelings verbally.
- Invite your friend to do something with you on that day. It could be something that the two of you have enjoyed together, or attending a memorial service together, or whatever the person suggests.
If it's a stranger or someone you don't know well, you can still be thoughtful, says Cole. "For example, you could send a coworker a cheerful card. You can be friendly in general as you encounter people. Remember the spirit of thoughtfulness and cooperation that naturally occurred right after the tragedy. Invoke that spirit as you interact with people. Above all, listen. What most grieving people need is a loving, compassionate ear."
Finally, Pat Rusk from Salt Lake City Utah asks a very timely question as the school season has begins. She wants to know how to handle more than just an interest in reading, writing and arithmetic.
"What should a parent do if a child has a crush on their teacher?"
The most important thing to remember in this case is to respect that his feelings are real and very powerful to him, says Cole.
"For many children, a teacher is the first person outside of the home who expresses sincere and focused interest on him. If the teacher is really creative and attentive, the student can easily interpret that attention as love. In a way it is. What you need to do is talk with your child about love - how it takes many forms. Right now, it may feel like he's in love with Mrs. Green, but perhaps those feelings are more like the love that he feels for a family member."
To help your child gain perspective on the relationship, Cole's advises that you "talk to him about the teacher-student relationship and how you can be respectful in it. Also talk to the teacher. Find out what's been happening in school. Discuss sensitive ways that the teacher can support redirecting your child's energies without rejecting him."
About Harriette Cole:
Cole worked for 11 years as a writer/editor at Essence Magazine, splitting her time there between the lifestyle section and fashion section. In 1993 she wrote a book called "Jumping the Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner." In 1999, she wrote a guide to living with grace and integrity called, "How To Be."
Cole writes an advice column in the New York Daily News called "Sense and Sensitivity" which appears three times a week. The column goes into syndication Monday.
In 1995, she formed her own life coaching company called, Profundities, inc.
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