DEAR HARRIETTE: I work for a woman who can be extraordinarily difficult. It’s so bad that I break into a cold sweat before scheduled calls with her. I’m constantly worried that I will not measure up to her expectations. My boss is rude and condescending usually, though other times she acts like an angel. I never know which person I’m going to get. I need this job, so I don’t want to walk away from her, but I am growing weary of feeling like I have to be on guard. What can I do to stop letting her get under my skin? -- Time to Relax
DEAR TIME TO RELAX: I had an aunt who was completely no-nonsense. When I was little, she told me that one of the torture tactics used during World War II was the taunting of prisoners by their captors with anything that made them feel vulnerable. She told me that I should never let people see me upset or nervous, because then they have an advantage over me.
While my aunt’s advice may seem harsh, I have used her words from time to time. I consider myself to be both sensitive and practical. When I have had to work with people who are rude or dismissive, I do my best to remember that it is not personal -- usually the issue lies with the other person and not with me. Moreover, I make sure that I am fully prepared. I work to figure out all of the possible ways that I can be ready for engagement with my difficult client. When I do that, I am able to draw upon factual information rather than trip over errors on my part or undue criticism on hers.