Ask Athena: Relationships & Resolutions

Be firm when dealing with others; go easy on yourself. 

Female Trouble

Dear Athena,

I just started a job and am working with some awful coworkers. I feel like I am in an episode of Mean Girls. Please help. When I am at my desk, the ringleader sometimes stands behind me and makes faces. They say mean things to me and I can’t figure out why. There is no supervisor anywhere. I am older than they are – maybe that’s the problem. Sometimes the mean girls are nice when the Queen Bee isn’t around. I am going home most days so unhappy. I want to keep this job but I don’t want every day to be miserable. What am I going to do? Signed, Just a Janis

Dear Janis,

I am so sorry this is happening to you. In the midst of a pandemic with massive job insecurity, your coworkers are acting out their petty aggressions on you. I don’t think we need to figure out why. I would bet the source is the cost-cutting operations that puts no one in charge. And the bullies take over. So, what to do?

I would stand firm against them but not return any hostility. It will take some practice and willpower, but try to say things like, ‘’Why do you want to make faces?’’ or “What are you trying to tell me when you say…..?” Keep the questions open ended. Do not accuse; instead, be curious and non-judgmental. In pursuit of clarity, repeat their words back to them and ask if you’re reading them correctly. Whenever possible, aim for the Queen Bee in front of her subjects —  I suspect she will simmer down when she finds out that she has to do work when she is called out.

She might even give up when she sees you aren’t getting angry or mad. Or, just get bored with playing junior high when there’s work to do. The other thing I would suggest is to make good will gestures. Bring in cookies to the break room, ask them about their weekends. Do things that make people smile, especially her underlings. The more they know you, the less likely it will be that they back her up.

Twisted Sister (in Law)

Dear Athena,

My sister in law “Debbie” is a terrible pill. No matter what I say about my kids, hers are always better. Whatever is going on in my life, she has a story to top it. She is also very nosy and judgmental. Last week, I was trying to talk with my son in private, since he had come in from out of town for a family party. Debbie waltzed in and started talking with him. She insulted my son for “living in sin’’ with his girlfriend, totally ignoring the fact that her own daughter is married to a violent, abusive man. When she heard that I had given support to her daughter, she was livid that I was encouraging divorce. I actually hadn’t even suggested it. I just said to her daughter that she should think of herself. Debbie is my husband’s sister and I have to put up her for joint family vacations and holidays. Help. What can I do?  Signed Never Right

Dear Never,

Avoid and deflect. You are probably doing this anyway, but try to stay out of her way. Don’t engage her in conversations. When she is on an attack, deflect her by saying things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and “Help me understand what you mean.” Be the bigger, better one, concerned for her well-being but otherwise very remote.

You are doing the right thing by her daughter. Normally, I would say stay out of meddling in other people’s lives. But, when it comes to violence, you have to take a stand. Many victims feel alone. You are giving her support, and providing her a sounding board. Your instincts are right, it’s not your place to tell her (or anyone) to get a divorce. Seems to me you’re being a good aunt and supporting her the best you can. It doesn’t matter how mad Debbie gets, frankly. Backing up someone who faces violence is more important than keeping peace in the family. You don’t need to lecture or defend your actions. Stand firm.

Resolution Confusion

Dear Athena,

I hate the New Year. Every year, I make a resolution to lose 10 pounds and to eat more healthily. And every year I end up at the same weight or with even an extra few pounds. I just don’t like the taste of kale. How can I keep my resolutions or is the whole thing a load of BS? Signed, Can’t Stand the Losers

Dear Can’t Stand,

The statistic is that less than 10% of resolutions are met every year. That doesn’t mean throw the whole thing out, however, because for those people the life changes can be empowering and life-affirming. The real culprit here, I think, is likely your choice in goals. Best to start small — habits, the saying goes, can’t be thrown out the window but must be coaxed downstairs one step at a time.

Science supports this. Any voluntary lifestyle makeover that sticks is inevitably a process of incremental change over time. Little things really do add up! This year, aim to make your resolutions more modest and therefore more achievable. For example, pick an unhealthy behavior, like soda drinking, and limit yourself to an 8 ounce glass, instead of drinking the whole can. Or cut out dessert one night of the week. Or change out your mid-afternoon Snickers bar for an apple every other day.

You get the picture. Pick just one thing to work on. Make a resolution that is laughably easy for you to keep, and congratulate yourself every day you follow through. The real payoff though will come when you see changes in your body — and you will, because consistency brings results over time. Even better, experiencing success creates a positive feedback loop rewarding you for your efforts and motivating more healthy changes. You’ve got your whole life to work on eating better! Take your time, stay focused, and trust the process.

On the kale thing, though, please stop trying to force yourself to like it. Nothing is THAT good for you! There is a whole world of delicious, nutritious foods out there, I encourage you to explore global cuisines and experiment with new flavors and ingredients. Changing your diet will feel like less of a loss with every new favorite dish you discover. Good luck!

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
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Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 46 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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