Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Don't Pussyfoot Around Uncle's Bad News

DEAR HARRIETTE: My uncle is a local businessman who has had some bad breaks recently. A local blogger just wrote a scathing article about his business practices, and it is making its way all over our community.

I feel so bad for my uncle. He is a good man who didn't mean to mess up like he did. I figure he must be pretty embarrassed. What can I do to make him feel better? Should I pretend like I don't know about the blog post, or should I say something? -- Uncle Supporter, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR UNCLE SUPPORTER: Sometimes not addressing the elephant in the room just makes it more uncomfortable. The best thing you can do is to visit your uncle, give him a big hug, and tell him you love him and are so sorry that the blogger wrote such a horrible article about him.

By stating the obvious, it no longer has to be a source of tension. You need not ask your uncle about his business practices or the article. If he wants to talk about any of it, he will. What he will appreciate most from you is your loving support.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently ran into a woman I met many years ago. She was with a former employee of mine -- a nut job whom I had to fire. Every time I have seen the former employee over the years, it has been weird. She is dishonest and seems to be mentally unstable.

The other woman, however, seems nice, and she wants us to reconnect. I asked if she and my former employee are still friends, and she said they talk now and then.

I don't want to be in my former employee's life. Should I just walk away from this nice woman, too? -- Choosey Friend, Baton Rouge, La.

DEAR CHOOSEY FRIEND: Be honest with this potential new friend. Tell her that you would be happy to reconnect with her but that you have no interest in a relationship with your former employee. By establishing your terms clearly, she can react to them and respond. And remember: Just because she stays in touch with your former employee does not mean that you would automatically find yourself in her company.

Instead of dredging up all your memories from the past, stay in the present. Have tea with this woman. Find out if you have any current shared interests on which to develop a friendship. In that way, you will be able to tell if this was simply a pleasant momentary reconnection or a budding friendship.