DEAR HARRIETTE: I have double-booked myself for two really important events, and now I am in a terrible position. I promised to participate in a friend's retirement dinner. I am so happy for her, and now I feel terrible. She wants me to speak at the event, but I have to work. My boss asked me to take on a new project, and I agreed without realizing the time conflict. When I mentioned the conflict to him, he said too bad. The only possibility is for my part to be early in the evening at my friend's retirement party and then rush over to work. But I doubt she wants to change her plans. How can I broach this with her? -- Torn, Detroit
DEAR TORN: Consider it a blessing that there is even a chance that you can attend and possibly participate in a tiny part of your friend's event. Reach out to her and tell her your predicament. Apologize for the mix-up. Be clear that this is your job and that you have to be there. Suggest that you can come for a few minutes and possibly do whatever formal presentation your friend has requested, but that you cannot stay.
Being honest is what's most important. If that means, by the way, that it actually is too much for you to do a drive-by at your friend's party, tell her that. You have to be responsible for yourself first. She is retiring from a full life of working. If anyone should understand, she should be the one.