Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Fake Accent Is Hurtful, Not Cute

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a Spanish speaker and find it infuriating when my co-worker "Connie" pretends to speak Spanish by affecting a horrible accent and adding an "o" to words. I don't think she understands all of the implications that come from her actions. Should I tell Connie that the office is branding her as a racist and not a comedian? -- Learn It or Lose It, Bangor, Maine

DEAR LEARN IT OR LOSE IT: Rather than making a comment to Connie about the office branding her as racist, be specific about how you feel. Educate her. There is a good chance that Connie's actions are pure ignorance, potentially without malice. This does not make her behavior any less offensive, by the way, but it may allow you to have more compassion for her.

Tell Connie that when she attempts to speak Spanish extremely poorly that you find it offensive, not funny. Point out that what she is doing seems racist to you whether that is her intention or not. Let her know that you suspect that you are not the only person who looks down on what seems like mockery of Spanish speakers. Suggest that she stop.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I found out some information about what a "friend" was saying about me behind my back. I chose to ignore this but distance myself from her. "Blaise" has just noticed that I haven't spoken to her much in the past months and has been bombarding me, expressing her love for me and trying to get together. I never confronted her when I first found out that she'd been a bad friend, and now don't know how to react to her. Beating a dead horse is pointless, but she also might deserve an explanation of why I essentially cut her out of my life. Which option should I choose? -- Too Long Ago, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR TOO LONG AGO: Walking away from a deceitful friendship can sometimes work. When you know with certainty that someone has spoken badly about you, it is OK to step back rather than confront the person. But when that person reaches out, bewildered, trying to reconnect, it can absolutely be worth it for you to respond. She deserves to know why you disconnected from her.

What's more, if you let her know that you are aware of her behavior -- specifically telling her what you learned that she said about you -- you will be able to clear the air. This doesn't mean that she will admit to having made the comments. Often people lie. Ultimately, you will have to decide whether you will let this woman back into your life.

I do recommend that you forgive her. This is because holding on to this grudge will hurt you far more than it will hurt her. Be willing to hear her out, draw your own conclusions about how much you can trust her now that time has passed, forgive her and continue to live your life. Do not let her sidetrack you.

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