Mudita Nisker, M.A.

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Dear Communicator,

My brother and his wife are not as financially secure as my husband and I are. They live in a mid-western state and have never traveled out of their state. They want to visit us here in Los Angeles and take their children to Disneyland while they're here. Although we have room for them I simply cannot tolerate having people stay at my home for more than two nights. I feel trapped and greatly imposed upon.

They expressed their excitement at taking this long-awaited trip and I faked excitement in return. As it approaches I am becoming more and more anxious. I have fantasies of checking myself into a hospital to have an iron-clad excuse. How do I get out of this obligation without hurting their feelings and appearing cold-hearted?

Feels Trapped

Dear Feels Trapped,

The short answer, you probably won 't get out of your obligation unscathed. Many of us "good" people struggle with wanting what we want while avoiding hurting others. Faking excitement, (while easier than negotiating a more acceptable length of stay) has spiraled into increasing anxiety for you. While its easy to blame your brother, your feeling trapped and greatly imposed upon is connected with your false representation of your desires. (I won 't even go into the issue of your thinking you had to fake your feelings with your brother.)

The question to ask yourself is what is more important to you - to get out of your obligation and probably hurt their feelings and greatly disappoint them or to keep your relationship running smoothly by finding ways to tolerate them and remain sane. The Communicator values harmonious family relations.

Therefore, I suggest you allow them to stay more than 2 days, and that you find ways to absent yourself from the house and reduce the amount of time you spend with them. Perhaps you think you need to be with them more than you actually do. Your brother is an adult. Let him explore with his family while you remain in the background! Use your creativity (besides a hospital stay!) to both have your space and be a gracious host/sister.


Dear Communicator,

One of my best friends suddenly finds that his business has exploded. He's always been disorganized, but now his disorganization is proving to be very costly to him: it adds hours and hours of time to his already too-busy work day. Still, when I try to tell him what his problem might be, and suggest ways he might be able to solve it, he pretty much completely ignores me. Should I butt out and leave him be?

Loves Giving Advice

Dear "Loves Giving Advice",

The short answer - Yes! The longer answer: Even though you want to be helpful, unsolicited advice often sounds as provocative as criticism and falls on deaf ears. I know you feel irresistibly drawn to sharing your good ideas, but wait until your friend asks you for it. If you just can't wait, you could try asking him if he wants some advice from you. If he says yes and chooses to hear you, he'll probably be more receptive to your suggestions.


Dear Communicator,

I've got a severe hearing loss and most people I know are willing to make small adjustments to help me hear. One person I work with, however, seems not to understand, or care, about what I need to be able to hear, which is proximity and speaking directly to me.

This person comes into my office and talks to me and my office mate as if nothing were wrong with me. No matter how many times I tell her that I can't hear if she won't stand closer, she ignores that and so, effectively, cuts me out of all conversations. I'd like to be included in the conversation. What do I do?

Wants to be Included

Dear "Wants to be Included",

Besides the possibility that she doesn 't understand or care about your hearing loss, perhaps she just doesn 't want you involved in the conversation. On the other hand, if you think she cares about your hearing needs, I suggest you pick a relaxing time to sit down with her and let her know how important it is to you that she includes you in the conversations.

Simply tell her that you thought you 'd made your hearing loss clear to her and your need to have her stand closer and speak directly to you. Next, ask her what 's keeping her from responding to your request. Wait and give her a chance to respond. Who knows, you might even learn something about her (or about you) that will help you solve this problem


Dear Ms. Communicator,

I've been attending the same gym for 20 years. I usually workout at night when the same group of men congregate in the weight room until closing time. One of the men, who appears to be about 60, relentlessly teases a younger man (not part of the group) about being gay, earning laughs from his buddies. I want to do my workout in peace, but I am distracted and angered by what sounds to me like nasty and unwelcome teasing.

The gay man, who is foreign born, seems embarrassed, but he never calls a halt to the teasing. I don't know him, and therefore I don't feel I have the right to tell him not to tolerate this treatment. I also don't want to embarrass him further by coming to his defense. Should I complain to the management or confront the instigator of the teasing? What would be the best way to approach a person like this? I've taken such a dislike to him that I'm afraid of losing my temper if I talk to him.

Frustrated in Oakland

Dear Frustrated in Oakland,

Being compelled to act on someone else's behalf is a lovely example of compassion and can be useful. However, if you've developed a strong case of anger and aversion towards the instigator of the teasing, you will probably find it more difficult to influence him to stop his teasing. People who enjoy bullying others are often unmoved to change their behavior by angry input from a stranger. Instead, if you approached the younger man outside of the weight room and told him that the older man's behavior was inappropriate and downright upsetting to you, this younger man might find your words quite supportive.

Once you hear his perception of the situation (if he chooses to share it), you might find that you alone have a problem that he doesn't share. Remember, this is your problem that you're bringing to him. He could have a non-problematic, valid way of seeing the situation. For example, he might think of the teasing as good-natured. If this were true, he wouldn't have a problem. On the other hand, he might perceive the situation in the same way that you do and therefore have a problem. Depending on his reading of the situation, you might be moved to drop the issue or perhaps to offer some assistance. Be sensitive. You know that the older man's behavior is clearly a problem for you, but until you get more information, you're only assuming it's a problem for the younger man.


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