Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a problem that I cannot quite get rid of. I have a best friend who gets on my nerves constantly. While I am sure the normal solution is to not be friends with her anymore, it is hard not to be. If I need help or if my back is against the wall, she is there for me -- and vice versa. Yet I often find myself not wanting to hang out or be bothered by her. What should I do to address this, and is it worth being friends at all? -- Frustrated Friend, Philadelphia

DEAR FRUSTRATED FRIEND: You need to find a way to accept your friend for who she is -- both the things you like about her and the things that you do not. As you well know, it is common for people to have certain behaviors that can get on your nerves, even as you also really appreciate them. This sounds like the case with your "best friend."

Do yourself and your friend a favor and step back to think about what actually gets on your nerves. Is it something serious or just a personality quirk? Could it be that you spend too much time with her and sometimes she irks you? What is it exactly?

If you find that you really do not like her, be willing to sever your friendship. It would be unkind of you to keep her around just to help you out of a pickle if otherwise she is an irritant. But if it is more likely that you could benefit from spending less time together while remaining friends, attempt that route.

DEAR HARRIETTE: In regards to "Standing My Ground," about a student's macroeconomics teacher: I agree with your response that the student should speak up about his grievances, with one caveat -- the student should do what you suggested after he has received his grade.

In my experience both as a student and as a professor, some professors will treat a student differently for the rest of the course, and it would be difficult to prove that the lower grade received -- and it generally will be a lower grade -- was because of the response from the student.

Unfortunately, more and more professors teach only their own perspective rather than a balanced approach. And also unfortunately, department heads and deans agree with that approach. -- Practical, Chicago

DEAR PRACTICAL: I hate that you could be right, that it can be risky to speak up when a student feels wronged by a teacher. I get it, though. I would never want a student to jeopardize his or her grade. At the same time, I am a big advocate for speaking up.

I want to believe that there is a strategic way in which a student can engage a teacher, discuss a grade in question and request that the teacher reconsider a particular grade without repercussion. If the teacher is approached in a neutral, non-aggressive way, perhaps the risk of retaliation would diminish.