Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Overwhelmed Intern Has Dropped the Ball

DEAR HARRIETTE: A young lady has been interning with me for a month or so. She has been consistent in some areas and flaky in others. My job is to teach her how to be professional and what she can learn about my industry. She is a college student, and now that her classes are all remote, she is freaking out. She has missed all of the deadlines I have given her for projects. I just heard from her that she feels overwhelmed because her schedule has changed so much. Her tone was worrisome. On one hand, I am annoyed that she has dropped the ball on things she agreed to do. On the other hand, I feel like I need to check in on her mental health. But since we cannot be together, I’m not sure what to do. -- Helping the Intern

DEAR HELPING THE INTERN: Start by sending her a note acknowledging what she has told you she is feeling. Forgive her for not meeting your deadline, and ask her to schedule a time when you can talk “face to face.” Use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or some other form of technology to have a video conference. In as calm and welcoming a tone as possible, invite her to tell you what’s going on in her life. Ask how her classes are going and if she has good relationships with her professors. Ask her what she needs in order to feel better. Sometimes just having someone to talk to can be helpful. Learn about her support system. Does she talk to her parents or close friends?

Finally, give her a break with your responsibilities. Especially since she isn’t doing the work anyway, take the burden off her shoulders. Let her know she can come back to work after things settle down. If you have her parents’ information, reach out to them to express your concern about their daughter’s well-being.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Now that it feels like we have who-knows-how-long to live, I wonder if I should take a chance and tell my neighbor how much I like him. I am a pretty shy person, so I have never spoken up. But I see this man most days because we live in the same building. He is so nice and thoughtful. He is single and mostly keeps to himself. Whenever we see each other, he goes out of his way to talk to me. I really like him a lot. I feel like now could be a good time to say something, but I have no idea what to say. -- Tongue Tied

DEAR TONGUE TIED: Given that everybody is stuck at home and he lives in your building, why not invite him over for dinner? Be mindful of keeping social distance if you do, but you may be able to sit across from each other at your dining table. Instead of professing your love for him, just talk with each other over an extended period of time. That overture of the invitation should be enough for him to know that you like him. See how things unfold from there.

(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.)