DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who constantly refers people to me for advice. He calls and expects me to drop everything and support these people. I do my best to be of help; usually they are good people. But my friend does not return the favor. When I contact him -- even if it’s just to catch up -- I usually get his voicemail, and often it takes him days or weeks to respond. How can I get him to be more immediately responsive? He expects that of me, but doesn’t offer it in return. -- Not a Priority
DEAR NOT A PRIORITY: Stop replying immediately when this friend calls you for help. The way that you may get him to notice his own behavior is if you start acting like him. Don’t be so quick to pick up the phone and do whatever he asks. Live your life, and focus on what you need to be doing for yourself, your family and your loved ones who are more attentive.
When your friend inquires as to where you have been and what you are doing, tell him that you have been busy. If you are up for it, reveal your disappointment at his behavior. Remind him that you consistently respond to him in a timely manner when he contacts you, but that he responds intermittently at best. State that it hurts your feelings when he neglects you while at the same time he expects you to keep him top of mind and respond immediately.
Next, put your money where your mouth is. Allow yourself to put him on a lower priority rung in your life so that you don’t react so swiftly to him. You have to decide that you can and will do this. Otherwise, you will end up disappointed.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has been getting all A’s in school, and we are proud of him. Last week, he texted me to say that he had failed a quiz. We were all shocked, including him. When we talked about it, we realized that he had been busy the weekend before and hadn’t applied himself the way he should have. I’m sure he didn’t imagine that he would fail his quiz, but it was a wake-up call. What can I do to reinforce that he has to manage school and fun better? I want him to have a well-balanced life, but failure is not an option. -- Striking a Balance
DEAR STRIKING A BALANCE: As hard as it seems today, this failing grade may be the best wake-up call for your son. First, he sees for sure that he isn’t automatically a straight-A student. He has to work hard to keep up his grades. Second, since he can see the direct result of too much play, he now knows that he cannot do that again without risking failing again. Your job is to help him make smarter decisions. Allow him to have fun with his friends after he has completed his studies, whatever they are.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)