Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Overweight Sister's Health Is Cause for Concern

DEAR HARRIETTE: I look at my sister, and I am so worried about her. She has gained almost 100 pounds in the past few years. Her ankles are swollen, and she doesn’t look healthy. I love her, and I don’t want to see her die. I asked her if she has gotten a physical recently, and she brushed me off.

I know she doesn’t want to talk about any of this. She gets defensive whenever I even try to address her health. I feel like I would be a bad sister if I didn’t at least try to get her to get an evaluation of her health. Maybe if she gets a reality check, it will help her decide to make some changes in her life. What can I say to her to get her to take her health seriously? -- Obese Sister, Atlanta

DEAR OBESE SISTER: First, you have to be clear that you cannot control your sister. You can love her and lovingly tell her your observations, but you do not have a magic wand, and you cannot force her to do anything. One strategy you may want to consider is appealing to your love for each other. Tell your sister that you are worried about her. Point out that you see that she has gained a lot of weight, and you are worried for her health. Tell her how much you love her and need her in your life. Express your concern that she may face a health crisis in the future if she doesn’t make a change today. Beg her to get a physical. Tell her you will stand with her and support her in any way that you can, but you need her to get checked out to see what she can do to preserve her health.

Know that your sister may get angry with you. If so, so be it. Keep telling your sister that you love and need her. It may sink in.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work in an office where several of my co-workers are Spanish speakers. I have no issue with that. I do find it uncomfortable, though, when they speak to each other in Spanish when I am sitting right there with them. I’m not talking about during downtime. We will be working on a project together and they will switch from English to Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, so I can figure out only a few of the words, but it always makes me feel that they are either talking about me or totally ignoring me. When I mention this to them, they apologize but keep on doing it. What can I do to get them to include me? -- Language Barrier, Dallas

DEAR LANGUAGE BARRIER: You may need to speak to your supervisor about this. But first, ask them if you can work together as a team. Tell them that you want to be collaborative, but it is impossible when they choose to speak Spanish when they know you do not speak or understand it. If your job is not bilingual, it should not be acceptable that they speak Spanish when they should be working with you.

After you make your case to them, speak to your boss. Explain the situation and ask for help. All you want is to be able to work together as a team without language limitations.

(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 | Work & School