DEAR HARRIETTE: A woman I know from years ago has recently been in touch with me. She is divorced and trying to make things work for her life. She started working with one of those companies like Mary Kay or Avon (but not), where you make money both by selling the products and also based on how many people you can sign up to sell under your name. I understand that she is trying to do her thing, and I am happy for her, but I am not interested in it. The thing is, she is not taking "no" for an answer. She has called me about a dozen times. Now she has taken to inviting me to every event she is having. I have told her that I really do not have time to come. She then asks if she can come and meet me at my home or work. She is relentless. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I really am not interested. How can I get her to back off without seeming rude? -- Stepping Back, Detroit
DEAR STEPPING BACK: Sometimes people need to hear a clear and definitive "no" in order to accept it. In this case, it sounds like your politeness makes this woman think that there is a chance that you can and will help her in some way. Without meaning this, you may just be stringing her along by not being crystal clear about your intentions. Clearly, she thinks that you and your potential Rolodex of friends and associates would be beneficial to her and her business. If you do not intend to share these contacts with her, you must let her know.
While it may hurt her feelings that you are unwilling to listen to her spiel or otherwise engage her about her product line, it will hurt less if you just handle it. Tell her apologetically that you wish her well, but that you are not interested in her products and that you are not interested in having a meeting with her about this effort of hers in the future. Wish her well, but be firm about your decision.