Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Scared To Hurt Feelings in Charitable Giving

DEAR HARRIETTE: I get requests for donations online all the time. I see birthday fundraisers on social media, charity efforts to support various causes, etc.

Recently, I saw a campaign to support a friend’s children’s school. This looked good, and I am happy to support a friend. My question is whether this leaves me vulnerable to other people who know me and will wonder why I chose this campaign over theirs. I like saying that I made the contribution, but I do not like others judging me because I didn’t choose their charity. How can I handle this? -- Wanting To Give

DEAR WANTING TO GIVE: You can stand confident in the knowledge that you have the right to choose your charity of choice. If others ask you why you chose a particular charity, share your reasoning. If they ask why you chose this one over theirs, tell the truth. It could be that you learned about this one first, you feel close to the child who is attached to the charity, you have a personal affinity for the charity -- or whatever else. If you are new to philanthropic giving, you can say that as well -- this is new to you, and you were attracted to this project.

Part of the reason people donate anonymously is to avoid scrutiny from others, either by virtue of the amount of contribution or the affiliation. Whatever you decide, feel confident about giving to a good cause. And don’t allow yourself to be bullied into giving more than you can afford or to charities that do not draw your interest.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage son is extremely shy. When he and I go places and people speak to him, it takes him so long to respond that I often find myself answering questions for him. I know that this isn’t helpful in the long run, but there are times when the pauses are extremely uncomfortable between when someone says something to him and when he responds. How can I support him to become more confident and outgoing, and what should I do when people ask him questions and it takes too long for him to answer? -- Shy Son

DEAR SHY SON: Your son may need to venture out on his own so that he doesn’t have your support in helping to answer questions. You may want to bring him to events with you, remind him of key small-talk points that are specific to where you are (topic of event, key parties who should be in attendance, personal interests, etc.), and let him know that you want to circulate independently. Encourage him to make eye contact and small talk. If he practices, he will be able to say things when he is nervous. It’s easiest for you to bite your tongue if you aren’t there at all. Let him go for it on his own.

Make sure he knows you are not abandoning him. Instead, you are setting him up for success by preparing him and then giving him space to interact with others independent of you.

(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.)