Dear Ann Cannon • This is a common problem with an unusual twist. My 30-something niece and her husband have decided to leave the LDS Church, which is very hard for her dad and mom, my beloved sister. The twist is that many years ago I made the same departure. Although it was tough on our parents, it was the right decision for me. I want my sister and niece to keep a loving adult relationship between themselves. I care greatly about both of them. What can I say or do?
Dear Uncle • First, I want to compliment you. The respect you’re demonstrating for both your sister’s AND your niece’s choices is noteworthy. Well done. I know a woman whose brother helped her son transition out of the church behind her back and the level of hurt and betrayal she felt made it difficult for her to fully trust that brother again.
Meanwhile, what can you do? I would tell both your niece and your sister personally what you’ve said so beautifully here — that you hope they will “keep a loving adult relationship between themselves.” Then ... just listen to their stories without taking sides. Offer insight when appropriate without throwing gasoline on the fire, and resist the temptation to give advice unless you’re asked for it. My guess is that you have enough life experience and stores of kindness to navigate your way through this tricky family territory. Good luck to you and your loved ones.
Dear Ann Cannon • I quit drinking alcohol in August 2018. I haven’t made a big deal about it but have told some of my closest friends whenever it was important to share this detail. One longtime friend, who knows I quit drinking, invited me to dinner recently. She said, “I know you don’t drink, but can you bring white wine since so-and-so is bringing the appetizers?” I was flummoxed. What is the diplomatic response to something like this? I know my way about the downtown wine store, so it’s not a big deal on one hand, but the request seems pejorative and disrespectful to my choices. What would you do?
Dear Surprised • I totally, totally understand why you feel disrespected by your friend’s request. You probably didn’t make the decision to give up alcohol lightly. And perhaps there have even been difficult moments for you along the way. At the same time, I’m guessing (although I could be wrong) that your friend didn’t mean to deliberately disrespect you, so I’d cut her some slack. I’m a big believer in cutting the people in my life some slack, in the hopes they’ll do the same for me when I innocently screw up. However! Without making a big deal out of it, I would definitely say something. Help her understand why you were surprised by her request. A conversation like this can clear the air, and at the very least, she probably won’t ask you to bring the white wine again.
Dear Ann Cannon • What do I do when people I don’t know all that well ask me to put in a good word for themselves or their daughter/son-in-law/cousin/friend when they apply for a job at the place where I work?
— Reluctant Reference
Dear Reluctant • I think most of us have had this experience, and yeah — it can be awkward. Clearly, there’s more than one way to handle things, but here’s what I’ve done. I’ve told friends I’d be happy to put in a word for their daughter/son-in-law/cousin/friend. And then I’ve told my boss about the request, while making it clear I don’t know the potential employee “all that well.” This puts the ball in the employer’s court, which is where it should be anyway.