DEAR AMY: I recently lost my husband after 31 years of marriage. He was 54 years old.
I am back to work, and trying to keep things together.
I know friends and co-workers truly care about how I am doing; however, every day I am asked, “How are you?” Many days I’m not good.
I have no desire to share how I’m really doing with casual co-workers.
In all honesty, I would like to wear a sign saying, “Please, don’t ask how I am.” Any suggestions for how to avoid these questions?
Please Don’t Ask
DEAR PLEASE DON’T ASK: I’m so sorry for your loss. I can understand why you don’t want to engage in what for you is a very loaded question, especially at work.
Please remember, however, that for many, “How are you” is a pedestrian greeting, along the lines of “Hey, how’s it going?”
Trying to answer truthfully opens up a conversation you aren’t ready to have with your co-workers, so go ahead and paint your truth with a broad brush. Say, “Oh, I’m hanging in there. How are you?”
DEAR AMY: My mother remarried and started a new family when I was 16.
She and I have had periods of estrangement but for the past few years we have grown closer.
When she married my stepfather, Mom began working for her mother-in-law in real estate.
I believe her MIL, who is in her mid-80s, has been extremely manipulative and cruel to her. Despite this, Mom continues to work with her.
Mom is in her mid-60s. She is at a point where I feel she should be slowing down due to physical issues. Instead, she is pursuing more real estate transactions and needs to update her training.
She has asked for my help with some computer aspects of the transactions, which I don’t mind doing.
But she recently asked me to do a final walk-through with clients before closing on a piece of property. I am not a realtor and I do not work in real estate. I told my mother I felt it would be best that she maneuvered her schedule so she could be there with her clients, but if she needs me to do it that, I would not mind.
However, I do have reservations about it. I feel it is not professional, but I would not say that to her because I don’t want to hurt her.
She gets very short when we don’t agree.
Looking at it from a client’s point of view, it seems odd.
Because my mother has some nagging health issues I try to be understanding that she wants to work as long as possible, but I also feel she is opening herself up to even more stress. I need to lay down a boundary about where I will help and what her professional responsibilities are.
DEAR FRUSTRATIONS: I agree that you need to lay down some reasonable boundaries. I wonder, however, if you are capable of doing that.
If you don’t want to do something — for whatever reason — you need to say so. “I don’t want to do this, but if you insist, I don’t mind…” is a muddled message.
Your mother has every right to continue to work into her mid-60s and beyond.
If she is asking you to take on more and more of this real estate work, you should tell her, “I can’t help you with this. I’m not licensed and this is not my field.” (Would you ask your mother to take your place at work for a couple of hours? I assume not.)
As a potential client of hers, I would not be thrilled to learn that the person performing the final walk-through was not qualified or licensed. Worst-case scenario — a miscommunication during the walk-through could scuttle a sale or land a client in court.
Your assistance should be in the form of encouraging her to take good care of herself, and to keep her skills current.
DEAR AMY: “Still Working” was retirement age but was annoyed when people asked her if she was still working.
I went back to work 15 months ago. I’m currently 68.
When I get asked, “Are you still working?” I say, “I get full benefits, 401k, pension plan and medical. Wouldn’t you still work?”
DEAR PROBLEM SOLVED: As I responded to “Still Working,” asking this question of someone in the retirement zone shouldn’t be seen as a huge affront.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.