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updated: 3/15/2013 5:23 PM

What to say to friends who complain about their weight?

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Q. How should I respond when svelte friends pat their (small or nonexistent) bellies and announce they're dieting to get rid of their "belly pooch"?

I'm an average-size, 30-something woman with a normal post-baby-not-fat-but-certainly-not-flat tummy, and happy with myself the way I am. So not only is it annoying to have to listen to my smart, awesome gal pals hate on themselves, it's insulting: If they're calling themselves fat, they're calling me and others fat, too. How can I put a kibosh on the self-hate conversations?

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Body Hate

A. So many ways to approach this.

There's concern: "Why the self-hate? How 'bout we just not pick at our looks."

Humor: "Yes, good, I was going to say something."

The verbal forehead-flick: "Perhaps you should look at your audience before you call that thing a 'pooch.'"

Eye-rolling all of these into one: "Oh, brother."

And this, one of my favorites:

(No, that's not a mistake.)

And, there's the big picture: Are these smart, awesome people rife with self-doubt, or did you look so hard for smarts and awesomeness that you missed the vanity?

Whether any of these amounts to a "kibosh" is mostly up to your friends, but expressing yourself clearly on a matter of principle is almost as rewarding as a flat tummy. (Ka-chow.)

Q. While talking to a friend, he might mention he has a home-based business. When I ask what he does, I get evasive answers like "Let me come over and tell you about it," "Let's go to lunch and I'll explain it," "I'll show you a video," etc. Sometimes I get drawn into setting a date.

By the time I realize he wants to sell me something, I'm deep into excuses about why there isn't a good time to meet with him. I'd like a suggestion for what to say the next time this happens. I don't want to be rude; but I don't want to waste my time either.

Tired of Sales Spiels

A. There is nothing wrong with saying no to a sales pitch. Ever. It may be harder among friends, but the friendship confers no special obligation.

In response to one of those vague, "I'll show you a video" answers: "Oh, that's not necessary, thanks." Optional: " though I'd love to have lunch for the sake of lunch."

If the friend presses, or if you've already been trapped into meeting with him: "Oops, I didn't realize what this was about I'm sorry, I don't do business with friends."

This kind of clarity isn't rude, it's a show of respect. If a friend presses you to the point that you're uncomfortable, that is rude.

Q. I have a former client who I have just learned has mid-stage Alzheimer's. I worked for him and his extended family for over 20 years. We parted on friendly terms. I would love to see him and his family again, but I don't want to be an added burden on his wife. What should I do?

Anonymous

A. Send the wife a note or, even better given the ease of responding, an email. Such low-obligation contact is an emotional lifesaver for people dealing with a major illness. Plus, her response will likely tell you whether a visit would be a blessing or a chore.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

2013 The Washington Post

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