Advice on manners and morals.
Feb. 7 1998 3:30 AM

Dear Readers,


Prudence is greatly pleased at the confidence so many of you have shown in her by asking her advice. Sadly she must, however, return to her needlework now. Some answers to questions previously posed to her will be posted here in the next few weeks, but she will be unable to answer any questions received after this date.

In leaving, Prudence would like to offer this last piece of advice:

Except in a very few instances, Prudence is neither better informed nor wiser than the persons who write to her. She is able to offer helpful advice only because the problems described are not hers; she is not emotionally involved in them and can consider them objectively. So her advice has two parts: First, when you are greatly troubled with a problem you should write it down in the form of a letter--which you may, if you wish, address to Prudence. The act of translating the problem into written words, rather than brooding over it endlessly and incoherently, will itself be helpful. It will enable you to see the problem in its true dimensions. Second, you should not mail the letter but should read it over to yourself and imagine what Prudence would say. You will find--not always, but often--that you know the answer. As Prudence read the letters she received, she often felt that the writer knew the answer but only wanted some confirmation. Try it seriously for yourself.

--Prudence, fondly bidding you farewell

Dear Prudence,

I am a woman with a "strong personality." As evidence, my boss has said that I'm intimidating and, at times, pompous--but then, he has the IQ of a brine shrimp. Now, I would never be foolish enough to say to anyone in my workplace that he is a simp (and a mental shrimp), but I think that I somehow broadcast these kinds of messages.

Well, my goal is to pull it back a notch. I want to seem less threatening. When I announced my goal to present myself as a more middle-of-the-road type of person, several people were up in arms. "You can't change who you are!" was the most common line.

Now, Prudence, I have no intention of changing who I am. I just want to change the window dressing. Can I pull it back a notch, or am I doomed to come off as a scary bitch?

--Strident From Detroit