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Arguments (11/29/06)

Dear Zelda,

A while back I got into a huge argument with a woman in my office about her political preferences on some ballot measures in our local election. The election is over, but now she won't let it go. She makes rude comments about me behind my back, calls me negative names, blames me for everything that goes wrong, and makes my days hellish. I know I should let it go, but she won't stop. Any suggestions or wisdom?

Politically Peeved

Dear Politically Peeved,

Believe it or not, this is one problem I haven't faced. Political arguments don't happen very often in the canine kingdom.  Don't blame us... we can't vote... yet. But I also do run a business here, and so I've had to learn some things about etiquette in the office environment. And I've learned that there are two things you NEVER discuss with co-workers: religion and politics. A rule I use to judge whether something is appropriate office banter is this: if it's a sensitive enough issue to have caused more than one war in the past hundred years, it's probably too touchy for the office. And it's YOUR job as a professional to keep this stuff out of the workplace. Even though your coworker may be in the wrong by constantly hound-dogging you after the fact, you bear some responsibility for setting off this bomb in the first place. This may sound like I'm just playing the old Washington blame-game all over again, but actually there's an important point here, which is that until you realize your own role in creating this situation, you're going to have a hard time forgiving her and moving forward.

Regardless of who started it and who said what, the polls have closed now, the dust has settled, and it's time for your coworker to pull her negative campaign ads. In my opinion the best way for you to solve your problem is through improved communication, and rebuilding those bridges that were burned during the campaign. There is no room in effective problem-solving for blame, name-calling or any of the other negative behaviors your co-worker has been exhibiting. Avoiding her obviously isn't working. The best way to deal with this is head-on: let her know you'd like to sit down with her for a talk. Start your discussion in a positive way. Begin by speaking for yourself, and by acknowledging your own role in the problems that have developed. Phrase your problem with a neutral statement like, "Ever since our discussions about the election I've felt that we've had problems. I realize I should've been more respectful of your opinions at the time, and we probably should've just kept our political views at home, but we didn't. That said, we need to work together, and right now your behavior toward me is making that hard to do. I'd like to put this behind us. Do you have any suggestions for what we can do to solve this so it doesn't continue to be an issue for us?" Avoid any discussion of "who was right" or "who started it." The time for partisan politics is past, and, much like our elected officials, it's now time to mend fences and work together. Yeah, I don't believe it when they say it either, but I've got more faith in you than I do in most politicians.

Now, some people will find a political argument in every bent paperclip or bright shoe color, and some people sure know how to hold a grudge. But hopefully your co-worker will come around. If not, get off the emotional merry-go-round, and don't let her bad behavior ruin your work environment. Just talk to your boss about the problem if her behavior doesn't improve. In breaking this cycle of complaint and cross-complaint, you'll show others in your office who the real winner is, and I'm sure it will be a landslide victory.


Dear Zelda,

Recently my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild. When she came home from the hospital I volunteered to help her with the baby. I run errands, stay with the baby when my daughter needs to go out, and am available whenever needed. My daughter and I have always been very close and I thought this experience would bring us even closer, but she has started arguing with me over everything from how I hold the baby, to how I'm interfering in her relationship with her husband, and how I'm always late (I never am!). Not only am I worried about her, but I'm exhausted, disappointed and my help is unappreciated. What can I do to turn this around?

Gramma Used and Abused

Dear Gramma,

Bringing a new baby into the world isn't easy for many mothers. (Imagine giving birth to a baby bulldog with a head the size of a small bowling ball. OUCH!!!)  I was surprised to learn that as many as 80% of new mothers experience a temporary condition called "baby blues," and 15% of women have even more severe reactions like postpartum depression (PPD)... remember Brooke Shields?  Even new moms who don't qualify for baby blues or PPD are under an enormous amount of stress, so hold on honey... your daughter's gloominess, irritability, and exhaustion may be beyond her control.

Childbirth affects a woman's body in chemical, physical, and hormonal ways. The arguments you've been having with your daughter are likely a product of all these changes, as well as  part of her adjustment to the new responsibilities of dirty diapers, lack of sleep, endless crying, and a new mouth to feed. Perhaps it's time for you to sit down with her and have a heart-to-heart about it. Every woman is different, but childbirth and/or postpartum depression can overwhelm even the happiest new mom. I'd suggest you start the conversation by saying something like, "Sweetheart, I know you're under a lot of stress with the new baby and you're doing a great job with all the changes.  I love you so much, but I'm concerned about how critical you've been of me recently. Are there ways I can help, or things I could do differently? Or are you trying to tell me that you just need some space from me?" If it feels right, you might even broach the subject of whether she's feeling overwhelmed or depressed. I'll bet she's aware of her condition and that she may even be feeling ashamed, scared, guilt-ridden, and overwhelmed with her mood swings. If she thinks the two of you can work out your problems, listen, be patient, and give it a try. If she says she needs some space from you, give it to her. And if she agrees that her problem might be more serious depression, volunteer to visit her doctor with her to discuss solutions and treatments.

Incidentally, there are a couple of great books that might be helpful: This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Raskin or Vicki Iovine's book, The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. This latter book is a realistic, irreverent and sassy read that ends with Iovine's discussion of postpartum depression. As you know, I believe laughter helps us heal. A third book I'd recommend for you and your daughter is Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, where she describes her postpartum experience during the first year following her son's birth. Your daughter will see she is not alone and you will laugh and cry as she shares the ups and downs of having a new baby in the house.

I'm sure your daughter thought she was bringing home a bundle of joy, and didn't anticipate the emotional rollercoaster of new motherhood. Your job, Gramma is to take care of BOTH your daughter and your grandchild as best you can, whether that means a visit to the doctor, some long talks with you, or just some space to let them figure things out for themselves. With your love and help, and your ability to listen carefully and honestly to what your daughter says, you'll get through this rough spot, and pretty soon your daughter will find that her "new arrival" really is a bundle of joy after all.


Dear Zelda,

It's the holiday season again and my husband and I can't agree on gifts for our dog Sierra. I'm sure a celebrity like you receives lots of products, so what can you recommend as the best gifts we can give Sierra this year.

Holiday Woe's-me

Dear Holiday Woe's-me,

Your letter couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Over this past year our Zelda Wisdom staff and I have been tasting, chewing, tossing, licking, drinking, and wearing many new products for our first ever "Z-List". Here are our top 20 picks for a fabulous Holiday Season (10 this week and 10 next week).

Simply click here and set your Holiday woes... free. Fetch the Z list