Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Can't Stand Client's Unnecessary Criticism

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have periodic calls with one of my clients right before we activate a project, and I dread the conversation every time. Like clockwork, she finds a way to berate me right before we start going over details of the project.

This last conversation, I was not able to turn the other cheek. She insinuated that I never follow up on the pointers she shares with me, so it seems like a waste of time for her to give them. That is patently untrue. I take copious notes and do my best to incorporate all the input she shares.

Her blanket comments make it seem like I don’t pay attention and don’t respect her. I stood up for myself this time and said, “I take offense to that statement. I do listen and incorporate your input.” Her immediate response was to tell me I shouldn’t take offense. We went back and forth a few more times until I said, “Let’s just move on,” because she wouldn’t back down.

I’m not sure how to handle this. Constantly being put down and told I do a horrible job when it isn’t true is hard for me. Standing up for myself doesn’t seem to register to her as anything but annoyance. I hate this job, but I also need it. How can I survive? -- Constantly Put Down

DEAR CONSTANTLY PUT DOWN: Being browbeaten over and over again can wear on your spirit. On one hand, it is important to be able to work and earn money to put food on the table. On the other, you have to be careful not to destroy your spirit.

Occasionally standing up for yourself -- as you did -- making it known that you are a professional and that you do follow her guidelines is fine. But you also have to accept that if this is how this woman behaves, you are not going to be able to change it. At some point, you will either need to actively seek another job and leave or find a way to deflect her comments without fighting with her about them. For your spirit’s sake, I suggest that you look for a new gig.

Read more in: Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics

Reader Doesn't Need to Become Chauffer

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently bought a car. For years, I had been taking public transportation everywhere, which can be tough because I live in a suburban area. My car makes it possible for me to get to work and to other activities much faster than before. I am so grateful. My problem is that my neighbors and family members act like the car is theirs as well. They are constantly asking me to give them rides. A couple of them have asked to borrow my car. I don’t feel comfortable with that. If someone has an accident, I have to pay for the insurance. Also, when I do give people a ride, they rarely offer to chip in for gas. They just act like I’m rich or something. I bought this used car with hard-earned money. I don’t appreciate being taken advantage of. How can I handle this? -- Not Your Chauffeur

DEAR NOT YOUR CHAUFFEUR: Set ground rules for your car. Let your loved ones know that when you can, you will help them out, but you need them to chip in for gas. Make it clear that you will not always be available to drive them, and they need to respect that. Do not let others drive your car. Tell them it’s an insurance issue -- which it is, by the way.

(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.)

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