Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work for a woman who can be extraordinarily difficult. It’s so bad that I break into a cold sweat before scheduled calls with her. I’m constantly worried that I will not measure up to her expectations. My boss is rude and condescending usually, though other times she acts like an angel. I never know which person I’m going to get. I need this job, so I don’t want to walk away from her, but I am growing weary of feeling like I have to be on guard. What can I do to stop letting her get under my skin? -- Time to Relax

DEAR TIME TO RELAX: I had an aunt who was completely no-nonsense. When I was little, she told me that one of the torture tactics used during World War II was the taunting of prisoners by their captors with anything that made them feel vulnerable. She told me that I should never let people see me upset or nervous, because then they have an advantage over me.

While my aunt’s advice may seem harsh, I have used her words from time to time. I consider myself to be both sensitive and practical. When I have had to work with people who are rude or dismissive, I do my best to remember that it is not personal -- usually the issue lies with the other person and not with me. Moreover, I make sure that I am fully prepared. I work to figure out all of the possible ways that I can be ready for engagement with my difficult client. When I do that, I am able to draw upon factual information rather than trip over errors on my part or undue criticism on hers.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Occasionally, I work with a guy on a project that puts us in close proximity. He is very nice and does a good job, but he has horrible B.O. I’m not exaggerating. I got in his car today, and while it is tidy, it smells like his B.O., too. I do not think that he bathes every day.

I think my co-worker is a former hippie. He is in his mid-60s, and I bet he learned that you shouldn’t waste water by bathing daily. Whatever the case, I have a strong sense of smell, and I gag most times I am near him. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I’m not sure what to do. I think this is essentially a cultural difference between us. He’s already in his 60s. I doubt that he would start practicing different hygiene if I tell him he stinks. What can I do? -- Funky Co-Worker

DEAR FUNKY CO-WORKER: Sadly, I think you are right. You will likely create awkwardness without the desired results if you approach him about his body odor. Instead, consider any of the following: wearing lemon oil on your pulse points that will warm up when you blood starts flowing faster and help cleanse the air; sucking on a mentholated lozenge that will release a strong menthol smell that may mask the odor; bringing a cleansing room spray to clear the air in your work space; or opening the window in the car.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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