Express Advice Columnist

Don’t miss the next live chat: Dr. Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been helping readers with Baggage Check since 2005, hosts a weekly live chat at washingtonpost.com on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. She discusses her recent columns and answers any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more. Join or read Dr. Andrea’s latest live chat here.


Q. What is the best way to bow out of an event due to social anxiety? Because I want to please people, it puts me in a situation where I don’t want to disappoint them and am afraid to say no, but I also know I’ll be miserable if I go. I have gotten to a point where I know what limits I need to set for myself in order to function, and I prioritize the things I want to, but I need a better way of just saying no to the things I don’t.

Respectfully declining an invitation in order to see to your own needs is not a crime. But remind yourself that the sooner and more definitively you do it, the less you can be accused of being a ghosting flake (or a flaking ghost) — which does venture into crime territory, at least from a civility standpoint. So be early and clear, and don’t talk yourself into circles that give people openings to pressure you. Give yourself permission to say a firm no with little explanation. “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to make it. I hope you have a wonderful time!” Often with social anxiety, the goal is to push through angst by actually attending events you ultimately would like to attend. But in this case, it’s just as important to push through your angst in saying no.

Say his name, say his name …

Q. My son is dating a girl who calls him by a nickname we have never used. He has always used his given name. He says he doesn’t mind this, but I know he does because all throughout his childhood, he would correct people who used that nickname for him. I am not particularly fond of this girl, and I think this is just one of the things she does that is not good, but it is also the simplest to correct. I have made a point of calling him his given name as much as possible in her presence, but she doesn’t seem to get the hint, and I know he won’t say anything to her about it. My husband says to leave it alone but as his mother, this irks me.

I am not trying to be unkind, but I’m getting a strong vibe of “sitcom character” from you. I’d urge you to read your letter again, and pick up on the irony: You are worried a girl is steamrolling your son, so your reaction is to try to steamroll her (and your son) in the process. Seriously. If he can’t decide for himself what is acceptable and what is not in terms of his nickname (and I’m assuming he is far past the preschool years), then what can he decide? How would he even be autonomous enough to be in a relationship? If he hates the name, it will be a growth experience for him to speak up himself. If he likes it, then you have no right (or reason!) to intervene. And if you’re worried that he has somehow learned to be overly dominated by strong-willed women (how curious!), then make a commitment to not be doing the dominating.

Read more Baggage Check:

She’s the most important thing in my life. But I’m her No. 4 … or 5 …

My husband does a horrible job handling our toddler’s questions

I’ve been lying to my boyfriend about my job since the day we met

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.