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AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda


Email Error

In an attempt to be funny with some of my work friends, I inadvertently included a supervisor’s email on one I intended to send only to a select group. The content of my message wasn’t terrible, just an inside joke between me and my friends, but it’s still embarrassing and doesn’t make me look that great. What should I do? Should I write an email of apology? Play dumb and act like this never happened?

Cyber Snafu     

Ahhhh! That’s one of my worst fears. Sometimes I enter the correct addresses in the “to” field, then delete and re-enter them for fear that the wrong person has somehow snuck onto the message. Then I do it again. 

If the content of your message wasn’t terrible, I think you can safely do one of two things. You can send a short email to your supervisor acknowledging what happened. If you do this, keep it brief and casual, so as not to draw additional attention or give undue weight to the situation.

You could also let it fade from memory without saying anything. People working in an office receive upwards of one billion emails each day. A lot of those messages are just cc’s or don’t require any action or attention. There’s a fair chance your supervisor read this email and immediately forgot about it, particularly if the inside joke didn’t have much meaning to him.

I favor the first option; make brief mention of it, then let it lie. In emailing the wrong person, you made a minor, understandable mistake. The professional thing to do is address it briefly and move on. Then, resolve to quadruple-check future emails and to have compassion when someone inadvertently includes you on an email.


Closed In
So, I moved home a year ago. I’m almost 25, and while I love my parents and appreciate them letting me live with them rent-free, I just don’t have any freedom. They always need to know where I am, even though I frequent the same two bars with my same five friends in our extremely tiny town. They make me check in with them and come in their room when I get home at night and demand to know whether or not I’ll be out late by midnight each night. 

I have no privacy: They’ve looked through my computer (and have made fun of its contents) and are constantly in my room when I’m not there. I’m not even allowed to shut the door to my room without telling them what I’m doing. Add to that, they decided to gut my bathroom so if I need to shower or go to the bathroom I have to go into their room and use their bathroom. They try to have a conversation with me through the door if they aren’t trying to barge in and talk to me in person! 

If I lock a door or need time alone, they get insanely offended and take it incredibly personally. I can’t handle it, but I feel obligated to stay because they depend on me for errands and chores that they otherwise constantly argue about. I also work close to home, so moving for my work would seem to be a pointless endeavor. Also, the closest place to our little town is a big, expensive city, and I would feel like a dunce spending crazy rent money and driving back over here for work and to hang out with my friends. I have a super supportive group of friends, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on spontaneous fun, either.

I mentioned the possibility of moving out to the city to my mom, and she looked at me as if I had committed murder. I appreciate and love my family, and I’m not interested in abandoning them, but I don’t know how I’ll ever make the transition back into adulthood. (Before this, I went to grad school in another state.) I don’t want to be lonely, broke and far away, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. Did I mention that I smoke and drink almost every day with my friends in order to deal with this? Dramatic, I know. It’s not healthy, but I don’t really know what to do. I’ve joined a gym and I journal, but I always come home at the end of the day.

Trapped

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Your parents seem to have zero boundaries, Trapped. Based on what you’ve said, they’re being intrusive, overbearing and stifling. They could never rent your room out to a tenant and act this way. To some extent, they’re still regarding you as their young child—by expecting you to account for where you’re going, with whom and for how long—rather than their adult child. But going through your room and computer is intrusive, no matter what your age.

Unfortunately, they are not going to change their behavior on their own. You will have to set up and enforce boundaries. As I see it, you have two options, one much harder to implement but with a greater chance of success.

Option I: You continue to live at home but try to set boundaries around your life, privacy and space. This option avoids the confrontation that will come with your moving out and saves you rent money but will almost certainly not yield the best results.

If you elect to continue living at home, you must pay rent. You don’t have to pay market rate, but you must pay something. Pay it on the first every month. Paying rent marks you as an adult and formalizes the living arrangement. Landlords and tenants have different expectations of each other than parents and children do. Your parents may protest and say you don’t need to pay rent. They may not cash your checks. Write them anyway.

Once you’re paying rent, tell your parents that you need to count on your room being private. Lay out what that means: They don’t go in there when you’re not there, they knock before coming in, etc. They may scoff at this or resist. Don’t compromise on this point; if they can’t guarantee you some privacy, you’ll need to find somewhere else to live.

If you pursue this option, set a six-week deadline in your head. Those six weeks are the parental training period. During that time, you kindly, firmly and consistently remind them of your boundaries: “Mom, remember that I asked you not to come into my room when I’m not there.” Tell them that you won’t be reporting where you’re going and when you’ll be home. Very importantly, do not allow yourself to show anger or frustration with them during this training period. They will need time to get used to these new limits; they won’t observe them perfectly at first, but you should see improvement. If you don’t see improvement, proceed to Option II. 

Option II: You move out. The biggest obstacle to your moving out is your own feeling that you can’t, that you need some legitimate reason to move out. I’m here to tell you that wanting your own space, wanting more privacy and wanting to move out are all reason enough. Find a small apartment or room for rent in your town. This will keep you close to your job, friends and parents, so you can continue to work, play, and help with errands, but you’ll also have your own place to go home to. 

Find a place to live, sign an agreement, pay a deposit and then tell your parents. This will help you when they try to argue or negotiate with you: “Why are you moving out? We’ll stay out of your room if you want us to.” Etc., etc. Tell them you’ll still come over to help with errands but that it’s time for you to move out. And remember, it is up to you to determine what your boundaries are and to maintain them.