Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Family feuding and now you aren’t invited to celebrate New Year’s Eve together? Frustrated by colleague who takes things without asking?

DEAR NATALIE: My sister-in-law is throwing a New Year’s Eve party and decided that I am not invited. She is literally inviting my whole family except me and my children. She claimed the reason is because it is an “adults only” party. My children are 16 and 18, so they aren’t exactly babies. I really think the reason is because my brother, her husband, and I got into a fight at Thanksgiving. He hasn’t spoken to me since. It was over something trivial and I have let it go. He, clearly, has not. I want my family to be back together and start 2019 off right. What should I do? --FIX IT PLEASE

DEAR FIX IT PLEASE: It sounds as though your brother is trying to have his wife do his dirty work for him. He is driving a wedge between the two of you because he is clearly nervous to talk to you directly. I would end this nonsense by calling him and squashing whatever caused the fight in the first place. Just start by saying something like, “I know we said some harsh things to each other at Thanksgiving. I don’t want to continue down this road with you. I’m sorry for what I said and for hurting you. I want to be together during the holidays and my kids want to see their aunt and uncle. Let’s try to find a way forward here.” If he isn’t ready to apologize, don’t bristle. Some people take time to absorb apologies and recognize their role in the fight. The important thing to do is to mend the fence enough to survive the holiday season. You can always work towards building a better relationship in the new year, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

DEAR NATALIE: I have a little office inside the school that I work at because I do a lot of one-on-one learning with my students who have special needs. Yesterday, the guidance counselor used my office to give a student a test. When I got back in this morning, there were a bunch of wrappers for candy and treats that I give to my students in the garbage can. It looked like 15 or more candies had been eaten. Either the counselor ate them while the student took the test or she was giving them to kids. They were in a bin that had all of my personal items in it, so it was clear that they belonged to me. She didn’t say anything to me about it and I don’t want this to become a regular thing. What should I do? --NOT SO SWEET

DEAR NOT SO SWEET:This would really annoy me if I walked into my office and saw that someone took things without asking. Maybe she noticed the candy and started mindlessly eating it while she was waiting for her student to finish the exam. When she realized how many she consumed, perhaps she just became embarrassed and hoped you wouldn’t notice. Or maybe she just didn’t care. Let’s hope it is the first theory. Regardless, the next time she wants to use your office, you may want to lock up items in a drawer or a bin that you don’t want anyone to touch. You could also confront her, nicely, about this situation, but it may just make things tense between the two of you. I suggest trying the “hide the candy in the drawer” option first. If she continues to take things from you, there won’t be any choice but to address it directly. It’s important that we establish boundaries and a healthy level of respect for space and property when working with many types of people. Better that than throwing candy at her head.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Meeting someone for the first time? Arrive ten minutes early, not late. Showing someone that you respect their time by being on time is a great way to start the relationship off on the right foot.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)