Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend and I used to be very close until she moved back home to take care of her ailing mother (who has since died). Honestly, she seems stuck. She is of retirement age, though she still needs to work, so she does odd jobs here and there.

Whenever I talk to my friend, I hear the same things over and over. She lives in the past. I want to be there for her, but I am so exhausted by hearing the same old stories. What’s worse is that she doesn’t listen well. So if I attempt to tell her about my day or tell her a story about something that happened, she listens for places to insert her old stories and jumps in without letting me complete a thought. It is annoying. Part of me wants to distance myself. Another part says I should tell her she’s bothering me rather than abandon her. I’m one of the only people she talks to. What do you recommend? -- Clingy Friend

DEAR CLINGY FRIEND: The compassionate choice would be to have a heart-to-heart talk with her, preferably in person. Express your gratitude for reconnecting with her now that she is back home. Tell her you know how hard it has been for her to reacclimate, especially after her mother’s passing. Note that you enjoy talking to her, but that recently it has gotten hard. Then tell her why: She doesn’t listen well, so it doesn’t feel good when you are having a conversation, and she interrupts you all the time to insert her thoughts. Ask her to try to participate when talking to you rather than taking over the conversation. Ultimately, you may also have to limit your chats with her, but at least telling her this may help her to make an effort to listen more.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker borrowed $1,000 from me last year because she was in a bind. When I loaned it to her, we made a clear agreement that she would pay me back with monthly payments of $100 until it is paid off. For the first couple of months, she honored that agreement, but for the past three months, she has given me nothing. When I have brought it up, she shrugs and says she doesn’t have it. But I see her going out for lunch and spending money on other things. I feel used. Can I tell my boss about this? What should I do? -- Repay a Loan

DEAR REPAY A LOAN: This was a deal between you and your co-worker, not your boss. Leave the boss out of it. But make it clear to your co-worker that you do not appreciate your trust being broken. Tell her that you loaned that money out of the goodness of your heart. Point out that you are not made of money. You can threaten to tell human resources, though you shouldn’t do it. The threat may get your co-worker to pay up.

(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.)