Dear Carolyn: As if 2020 weren't lousy enough, my beloved dog unexpectedly died and I have been beyond miserable. My sister knows this and calls every week to ask if I am feeling better. She loves me, she means well, but her calls are upsetting.

If I said, "I love to talk with you and thanks for your concern, asking about my feelings every week isn't making things better, it's just upsetting me more so please stop asking how I'm doing," it would hurt her feelings. Any suggestions?

— Miserable

Miserable: Oh, no. I’m sorry.

When it feels wrong to say you don’t want something, say instead what you do want. Same ends, subtler means.

In this case: “I love to talk with you and thanks for your concern” — that was a good start. “Right now, what helps is to talk about something else, get my mind off things. Tell me how you’re doing.”

After saying the longer version once, shortcuts might suffice thereafter. “Hanging in. Now tell me about you — watching anything good?” Gentle consistency is your friend.

So is your sister. She just needs you to show her how.

Hello, Carolyn: I live with a roommate, going on three years. We get along well and make good roommates. One of the best I've had. But due to some frustration and feeling overwhelmed with two jobs, covid and family issues, some things bother me more lately, such as clutter and loud conversations — nothing really devastating.

I vented to a neighbor-friend about these roommate issues, in confidence. Well, she told my roommate everything I said. It led to a tough couple of weeks, but we cleared the air and everything is pretty good now.

I was furious at my friend for revealing these conversations. I ignored all her texts and just ghosted her. I felt like sending a very ugly text telling her she stabbed me in the back. She's got to know why I've ignored her.

I don't think I can ever trust her and be friends with her again. Should I let her know? It'll get ugly if I talk to her.

— Furious Friend

Furious Friend: Completely ignoring friends without explanation as they repeatedly try to get your attention isn’t ugly? Then what is?

“Ghosting” is just shunning with a clever new(ish) name. It’s still just as rude, dismissive, cruel and abusive as it always was — and presumptuous, too. Underlying decisions to ghost is the assumption you stated out loud: “She’s got to know why I’ve ignored her,” or its companion assumption, that if she doesn’t know why, then she should!!! So you’re making it her fault that she doesn’t know, not yours for refusing to tell her.

Your friend betrayed your confidence, a crappy thing I won’t defend.

But you did a crappy thing to your roommate when you “vented” about household stuff to someone close to you both. The ghosting, obviously, I can’t abide. And you don’t have standing to condemn your friend if you’re going to let yourself off the hook.

I realize you’re in distress already for so many valid reasons. Still, hold yourself accountable on this, please: Tell your friend why you’re angry. Allow her a defense, even if you don’t accept it. Apologize for not doing this weeks ago. Uncomfortable and ugly aren’t interchangeable things.

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