Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Business Dinner Leads to Influential Contacts

DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a business dinner the other evening and met a number of very influential people. Two of them gave me their cards and asked me to keep in touch with them. I was honored to receive their cards, but I have no idea what we would talk about if we were to follow up with each other. One woman is a legend in her field. The man is on the rise at his company. Me, I’m just trying to reinvent myself after having worked for 20 years in one field, only to see it virtually shut down recently. I don’t see why they would want to talk to me. I’m thinking they gave me their cards just to be nice. What should I do? -- Timid, Falls Church, Virginia

DEAR TIMID: Clearly these individuals saw something in you they liked since they offered you their cards. Use this opportunity to expand your horizons. Follow up with them and say how much you enjoyed meeting them. State something specific you remember about your interaction that could spark further conversation. Trust that there is a good reason these people wanted to be in touch with you. Do your homework. Learn about what they do. Think about whether there are any synergies between you. Each of them may have knowledge and insight that could be helpful to you as you reinvent yourself.

Prepare to talk to them by being aware of who they are and clear about where you are headed. These people may have job opportunities that could be perfect for you. Have faith in yourself and find out.

Read more in: Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics

Friend Offends With Offer of Hand-Me-Downs

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have recently lost a lot of weight. I’m down about two sizes of clothes, which makes me elated. I want to get rid of the clothes that don’t fit anymore. With good intentions, I offered some of my clothes -- that I think are very nice -- to one of my girlfriends. She was highly offended. She told me she is not that big and how dare I assume she could fit these clothes. She went on and on berating me for calling her fat, which I did not. I had selected some really nice pieces I thought she would appreciate, but the whole thing backfired. How can I get her to forgive me? And what should I do with the rest of my clothes? They are really nice, and I didn’t want to just give them to charity. -- Generosity Gone Wrong, New Orleans

DEAR GENEROSITY GONE WRONG: Congratulations on your weight loss. You should be proud of your accomplishments. You are already seeing that weight loss and friendship can be a prickly pair. While your intentions were good, offering a friend clothes that are too big for you is tough to do without hurting feelings. Another way to handle that could be to send out an email to a friend group or to individuals saying you have some clothes you are looking to give away. State what the size of the clothing is, and invite people to contact you if they are interested. This way the individuals have to be proactive in order to receive them. If nobody bites, it’s perfectly good to give your clothing to charity. Be sure to get a receipt so you can write it off your taxes.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors | Health & Safety