Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Husband Bristles at Thought of Learning Etiquette

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I grew up very different from each other. His family members were all farmers, while mine were educated and spent a lot of time in so-called high society.

My husband and I get along great, but things get awkward whenever we go to social functions. He doesn’t have the social graces expected at these events. He bristles when I try to tell him. I don’t mean to be a nag, but I do think it will make his life easier if he would be willing to follow some of the basic codes of etiquette that these settings expect. How can I get that across to him? -- Supporting My Man, Dallas

DEAR SUPPORTING MY MAN: If you can make learning these codes of conduct fun, you will have a better chance of inspiring your husband to participate. Look for a social dancing or etiquette class in your neighborhood that you two can take together. You can learn the waltz, formal dressing, the art of small talk at these social events, etc. Doing this as a couple can create closeness and will foster togetherness rather than making him feel that he has to have remedial training. I learned long ago that life gets easier to navigate when you understand who you are, what your values are and what’s expected where you are going.

Read more in: Marriage & Divorce | Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics

DEAR HARRIETTE: I hired a cousin who was in need of work to help me out on a project. We talk a lot, and I got the sense that she would work well on this particular project. She agreed, and things started out OK, but it hasn’t gone smoothly lately. We have scheduled several calls that she missed. She got busy with another job and didn’t complete the work that she had agreed to do. She seems nonchalant, like it’s not so bad that she hasn’t completed the work since she’s my cousin.

She has put me in a bind. I needed her help in a timely manner, and now the work is not done. How should I address this with her? I need to reassign it to someone else. -- Bad Family Vibes, St. Louis

DEAR BAD FAMILY VIBES: Put on your professional hat and let your cousin know that you have to part ways because she has not fulfilled the obligations that she accepted. Tell her how disappointed you are that she did not take the work seriously. Explain how her lack of professionalism has put you in a bind, and you don’t appreciate it. She needs to know the impact that her inability to complete the work has meant for you. She also needs to understand that she has damaged her reputation. You cannot recommend her to others because she did not do her best for you.

After you talk to her, it’s time to pivot. Find someone who can help you get your work done.

(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: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Work & School