DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a social media message from a guy who went to college with me. We have not communicated in more than 20 years, and there he was in my inbox. He was very pleasant, and we started chatting on WhatsApp. It has been nice striking up a casual friendship with this guy -- up until he made what I consider to be the “big ask.” He lives in another country and wants to visit the United States. He asked if he could stay with me on this visit. I don’t know this guy like that, and I do not feel comfortable inviting him to stay with me.
I don’t mean to be rude, but this request came as a surprise, and I do not want to agree to this -- nor do I want to seem cold or mean. Nothing in our communication, from my perspective, should have led this man to believe I was inviting him to visit me. What should I say? -- Long-Lost Ties
DEAR LONG-LOST TIES: “No” is a complete sentence.
Without seeming mean or cold, you can simply be honest. Tell this man that you have enjoyed getting to know him since he reached out on social media. Offer that you would be happy to meet up with him and go out to dinner or something if and when he comes to the States. But draw the line by explaining that you did not mean to mislead him in any way, but you are not inviting him to stay at your home. He is not coming to the U.S. solely to spend time with you. This is important to remember so that you do not unwittingly get stuck with this guy upon his arrival.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a part of an organization that requires internship experience. I have a list of places in mind, so I feel set. My minor setback for applying for these internships is my lack of recommendation letters. I keep in contact with many of my professors, but I am only close to three. In recent semesters, I have been so busy with my schoolwork that I forgot to bond with my professors. Thankfully, this semester I am learning from my past mistakes. Many of my professors are close to me, but still not close enough to write my recommendation letters.
I have until next week to get professors to write me letters of recommendation. The three professors I am close with are barely available, so I do not have enough connections. What should I do in this situation? -- Lost Connection
DEAR LOST CONNECTION: Reach out to those three professors anyway. Either speak to them in person and make your request, or send them an email expressing your need and asking for their help. Whether in person or in writing, be clear and specific. Remind them of any positive highlights of you as a student in their classes. Let them know why you want the particular internship and why you believe you are right for it. Thank them for considering being a reference for 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 email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)