Dear Harlan: I've been fired from six jobs due to my attitude. I have trouble opening up to people right away. They ask me personal questions, and often the same questions repeatedly. I know they sense my hesitation and irritation with it. This closes down communication, and they assume I am not nice and then I get fired.
What can I do to overcome this and keep a job? — Fired
Dear Fired: You might think it's your attitude, but you could be like a guy who gets rejected by dozens of women and thinks the problem is his strong personality, when it's actually his strong body odor. I'm not saying you smell, but I think this rash of firings warrants serious rejection research.
For this, go to the source — the employers who fired you. Get a hold of each one. Do it over the phone. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you, and ask them to be honest about why you were let go. Don't defend yourself. Don't argue. Just thank them for being honest with you. Then ask if they have suggestions about what you can do to be a better employee.
Once you complete your research, ask yourself these questions: Do I need to change? If so, how can I change? Can I do it on my own? Do I need the help of others? The solution might be a work environment or job that better fits your personality, some anger-management therapy or a better, longer-lasting antiperspirant.
Dear Harlan: My dad kicked my big brother out of the house because my brother stole money from him. My brother is with a girl several years older than he is. He is never home, he is always with her, he doesn't sleep at home, he runs away in the night with one of my parents' cars, he doesn't spend time with the family at all, and he sleeps through most of the day because he comes home early in the morning.
We have all tried talking to him, but he just can't see it. He isn't speaking to any of us. I am very close to him, and I'm worried that I will never see him again.
Is there anything I can do? — Worried
Dear Worried: What makes this so frustrating is that even though you want to help, you can't provide the kind of specialized help your brother needs, nor does he seem willing to get help on his own. The stealing, the running away, the sleeping late — it could be drugs, depression or something else that's serious. He needs help, and what it's going to take for him to get it is the big question.
Three suggestions: See if your dad can get your brother the professional help. This way, your dad can get some advice on how to get through to your brother, and your brother can get help when he's ready for it.
Second, assuming that your brother comes home, tell him that you're scared for him and ask him to get the help he needs.
Third, take care of yourself. This means finding support for yourself. If your dad is too overwhelmed or too involved, turn to close friends, a teacher, a school counselor, a relative, a religious leader — someone who can be there for you.
This is too much for anyone to handle on his or her own. With the right support, you can be better equipped to help your brother and yourself.
Harlan is the author of "The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College" (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614. © Harlan Cohen 2006
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