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Ask Amy

Dinner bully creates dilemma for hostess

Q. I am a member of a dining club with hundreds of members. Two years ago I had a luncheon at my house and had a disagreement over a food-related issue. Another woman started screaming at me, ruining the mood of the luncheon. I dropped out of the luncheon group and spent the last year avoiding her. I hear that she does not think there is a problem between us, but I do.

I am still in the dinner group and am about to host an elegant dinner. That woman is now president of the club, and I expect she will attend my party.

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I don’t think I can stop this woman from coming to this event, but I am very concerned about the risk of her ruining it for me (if not for others).

I think it is OK if she attends, as long as she stays out of my way. But because each guest brings a dish, this brings her into my kitchen and I know I will need to interact with her. I don’t know how to do it graciously and most of all, safely.

Another Amy

A. Two years after the fact, it would be tough to bring up the prior incident without revealing how much power this person took from you by behaving poorly in your home.

The way to respond to her graciously is to be gracious. If possible, you could assign another guest to deal with her if she comes into the kitchen (lessening your contact). Otherwise, you should be cordial. You should assume she won’t cause a problem, but if she does, you will have to take your power back, ask her to lower her voice and (if she is in the kitchen) tell her, “I think you need to step into the dining room. I’ll take things from here.” Stay calm.

Q. Two months ago, a couple I know experienced a terrible loss -- their young son was killed in an accident.

Although there was a time when I felt close with both of the parents (the father and I spent much of our childhoods together), over the years we had drifted apart naturally, and I only got to meet their son a few times.

I want to do something for them, but because it has been about a decade since we spent any real time together, I worry that stopping by their house or pestering them with e-mails or phone calls will seem like a bother rather than a comfort.

After attending the funeral and reception, I sent an e-card to the father, letting him know he was still family to me, and that if there was a single thing I could do to make their lives easier, to please let me know. Is there anything appropriate and respectful I can do now to follow up on that? Well-Intentioned

A. Call your friend and say, “Is it OK if I swing by tonight to say hello and check in? I promise I won’t stay long if you don’t want.”

Reaching out to check in is not “pestering” unless you insist that they behave in any particular way. They may want to talk about their situation — but they may also want a break from it.

Q. The letter from the friend of the young woman who said “like” in every sentence reminded me of a wonderful act of kindness by a colleague decades ago.

After I made a presentation at a meeting, I received an audio tape from the head of the organization. The tape revealed that, in spite of my complete command of my subject, I sounded absolutely stupid because I was interjecting “um” every few words!

It is a hard habit to break, but completely worth the effort. I have been forever grateful to the person who sent me the tape, and I told him so at the time.

Kathy B

A. I “like” it!

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy.

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