Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife of 12 years has developed a habit that is wearing on my nerves. If I ask if she would like a late-evening snack of ice cream, she asked if we have any. My response of "If we did not have the ice cream, I would not have asked" draws a look of displeasure. When we travel and I ask if she would like to stop for a burger or a sit-down meal at a nicer restaurant, she does not respond with her choice but replies, "Yes, that would be OK." If I see her looking through a closet or cabinet and ask what she is looking for, her answer is "something." What is the problem with her inability to provide a simple and direct answer to my questions? -- Irritated in the South, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR IRRITATED IN THE SOUTH: There is a chance that your wife is suffering from memory loss. She could potentially be in the early stages of dementia. Among the common signs of dementia are difficulty completing simple tasks at home, confusion with time or space and difficulty in planning or solving problems.

Instead of getting angry and frustrated with your wife, take her to the doctor. Go with her and share with the doctor some of your concerns. Ask the doctor to conduct blood tests and neurological tests to discover the status of your wife's mental and physical health. For more information on dementia, visit

DEAR HARRIETTE: I thought your advice to the person taking the public speaking class who was looking for ways to overcome his or her shyness was great -- the most important thing to do is to practice. I took a public speaking class in high school. The first time I had to speak in front of the class -- doing no more than telling about myself -- I was beside myself with nerves. But I was stuck for a semester, so I had to find a way to deal with it. Practicing my speeches was invaluable. I practiced in front of the mirror, into a tape recorder and for my family. I learned to make eye contact and always had a detailed outline in front of me that I could glance at when necessary. I not only overcame my nerves and shyness, but I went on to major in speech communication in college. I now work as a financial consultant. It all started with my first public speaking class.

I would like to add that the speaker should always remember he is the only one who knows what he intended to say. If the speaker makes a mistake, no one is the wiser. -- Communication Lover, Washington, D.C.

DEAR COMMUNICATION LOVER: Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are proof of what I profess all the time, that with practice we all can improve ourselves and even overcome our biggest challenges. What is most amazing is that moment when you realize that you have neutralized a fear and mastered what once was a deficit. It is possible with confidence and practice.