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DEAR HARRIETTE: I never had a good relationship with my sister growing up — or even as adults, quite frankly. Recently, though, we have been getting along well. We do not live in the same town, but we talk on the phone occasionally. In the past, these conversations would often be awkward. This year, though, things have been much better. We have had very friendly conversations. I’m almost afraid to believe that this will continue since they used to be combative. How can I let go of the past and just be in the moment with her? My worry is that she used to hurt my feelings a lot. I have kept my guard up for so long, I’m not sure how to completely let it down. — Renewed Relationship
DEAR RENEWED RELATIONSHIP: While you may not want to let down your guard completely, you can continue to ease into a relaxed engagement with your sister. When you two talk, assume the positive — that it will be a good conversation. Listen and share naturally. When it seems like the conversation is over, end it. You can take control in this matter. Also, if you sense that old behaviors or patterns are creeping in, beg off. Tell her you have to go and that you look forward to talking at another time. Do not subject yourself to any abusive language or tone. Just end the conversation. You can even say something directly about it, like, “It looks like this conversation has taken a turn for the worse. Let’s talk later.” And then hang up. Or, “Hmm. Looks like this is my cue to go now.” No fire. No anger. No hurt feelings. Control.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My boss forgets a lot of things, and it is causing chaos in the office. She will give us assignments and not remember whom she asked to do what. Then she will lambaste us for not following through on things. This is incredibly frustrating as usually she is berating someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. When we attempt to call her on it, mainly to sort out what the task is and who was assigned to do it, she gets upset and won’t listen. This happens both on group Zoom calls and in the office when we go in. I worry that my boss is losing her memory or is just so stressed out that she can’t keep things straight. How can I help her in a way that can help all of us? — Need a System
DEAR NEED A SYSTEM: If you are good at organization, here’s your chance to help your boss and make yourself shine. You can use program management software if your company has it, or research it and present options to your boss for how to organize and track projects. Pitch this idea as a way to streamline your work and ensure that everyone is able to fulfill the tasks she assigns.
If your boss doesn’t like this idea or the cost of it, create a spreadsheet for her with each employee and a column for tasks and deadlines. Encourage her to use this when she makes assignments and then share it with the team.