DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a hard time keeping in touch with people. I have gone months and even years without calling people I really care about. It’s not because I don’t love them. More, it’s that they aren’t around, and I just don’t think about them. I have even gone weeks without calling my mother. Obviously I love her. But I’m busy with my life, and time just slips by.
Recently, some friends have called me out on this. One old friend complained that I should have at least called him back when he tried to check in on me during the shutdown. I agreed, but I haven’t really altered my behavior. I don’t know that I can change at this stage of the game. I am a grown man. I don’t know why people expect me to become somebody else. How can I get them to back off and leave me be? -- Stuck in My Ways
DEAR STUCK IN MY WAYS: I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a pass on your behavior. You know that it is not kind to forget about your loved ones -- and to be flippant about checking in with them, especially during an international health emergency. You can do better than this.
Breaking a behavioral pattern is hard to do, though. I recommend that you begin to keep a daily or weekly calendar. Included in your everyday duties for work and for home, add a “loved ones” list. Write down the names of people you care about, from family to friends. Then put their names into your calendar sprinkled throughout the days and weeks at times when you can place a call. Don’t pass the day without attempting to reach them. You can do it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor has been cleaning out her closet. She has given a few great pieces of clothing to my teenage daughter, who acts like she couldn’t care less. She has accepted them, but hasn’t even tried them on and is nonchalant about the whole thing. I can tell that my neighbor wants to know if the clothes fit. I have taught my daughter to have good manners, but she’s not showing them now. How can I get her to behave better? -- Etiquette
DEAR ETIQUETTE: Your daughter may feel traumatized by being sequestered at home for so long. Even though your neighbor is being kind, chances are, your daughter isn’t really connecting to what’s happening.
You have to wake her up, so to speak. Remind her that even during times like these, good manners count. She may wish that the person paying attention to her is one of her good friends, but she needs to acknowledge the one who is being kind to her. Take away a privilege, if necessary, to get her to respond. If you confiscate her phone until she tries on the clothes and thanks your neighbor, I’d wager the gratitude will come pretty quickly. Be gentle with her, too, as this is a weird time, especially for a teenager who longs for her contemporaries.
(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.)