Life Advice



Neighbor Wants To Support Woman With Cancer

Harriette Cole on

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a loudmouth neighbor who has been remarkably quiet recently. She told me that she got cancer and was going to have to undergo treatment. My guess is that this is why she has gone radio silent. I see her husband and son from time to time; when I ask them how she's doing, they are pretty tight-lipped, but I can tell that things aren't so good. I like this woman even though she can be a pain in the neck. I would like to do something for her, but I don't want to overstep my bounds. She loves to cook and would sometimes share dishes she had made with me. Do you think it would be good to make her a special dish? -- Reaching Out

DEAR REACHING OUT: It's good that you have noticed your loud neighbor's radio silence. And yes, it would be good to do something to let her know you are thinking about her. You can get a lovely card and write something nice to her wishing her a speedy recovery. You can send her flowers -- preferably ones that are not fragrant, in case she has sensitivities around smell.

I would not send her food unless her family says it's a good idea. When people are undergoing cancer treatment, their eating habits and abilities are often compromised. Whatever you send could go to waste. When you see her family, be sure to ask them to say hello for you. You can also ask them if they need anything.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a somewhat heated debate with a client the other day because she made a big mistake that was embarrassing for my company. Later, I realized that while she definitely made a mistake, so did I. In the moment, I cut her down, really admonishing her for the mistake she made. When I realized that I was wrong, too, I said nothing. Should I go back and have a debrief and point out what went wrong on both sides? -- Post Mortem

DEAR POST MORTEM: Stepping back after a project ends to discuss what worked and what didn't can be very helpful. In a situation like this where both sides made mistakes, it can be enlightening and healing for everything to be on the table. This helps to stop the finger-pointing and support learnings for the future.

I highly recommend including an apology there, too. If you were intense in the moment when you noticed the mistake -- one that may have been more inflamed than the moment called for -- say you are sorry for the way you reacted to the mistake. Also, very clearly admit what you did wrong as well so that you do not appear to be diminishing your role in the problem. Being honest and direct about the good and bad of a situation helps frame you as a trustworthy ally and leader. Owning your mistakes is a sign of strength and integrity.



(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.)






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