DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a counselor, and I have become very successful at it. My problem is that my friends believe that I should be their counselor, too. On a regular basis, I get calls from people I’m close to – and people I know peripherally – asking me to help them handle their personal and professional crises. Because of the way they start in, I don’t always realize that it’s happening. We could be in the middle of a conversation, and then suddenly they ask my opinion about several things. Then I realize they are actually trying to get me to coach them. This has become overwhelming for me in several ways, not the least being that since I am not officially their counselor I am not approaching the encounter as I would with a client. How can I get these people to either hire me for my services and make proper appointments or back off entirely? I do not feel like I am doing things properly now, and it makes me uncomfortable. – Uncounsel, Pittsburgh

DEAR UNCOUNSEL: Be very professional when you speak to these friends and associates. Tell them that you feel uncomfortable providing them with counseling for their various challenges, because this is not the professional way to do this. As a professional, you feel obligated to work with them in a formal way – that includes making appointments, establishing a plan of action and charging for your services. If they are unwilling to do that, tell them that’s fine, but you are unwilling to continue with the ad hoc consulting. You will have to listen better to figure out when a friendly chat turns into an appeal for your professional services.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: I come from a small family. Most of us are close. But one of my siblings has kept her distance for most of my adult life. She is very condescending in her tone and acts like she doesn’t like me and my other siblings much. It’s more like she tolerates us. We all live in different cities, so the only way to communicate is by calling, texting or emailing. I have stopped calling her because she rarely calls me, and when I do get her on the phone, we barely have anything to say. I fear that we will lose touch altogether when our mother dies. She is the glue keeping us connected now. Should I feel bad about that? I have tried for years to forge a bond with my sister, but it really isn’t working. – Estranged, New Haven, Connecticut

DEAR ESTRANGED: You could put it all on the line to her as you have done with me. Tell her of your fears. Implore her to make an effort to keep a connection with you and your siblings. Acknowledge that you feel like it’s a one-way effort to date and that you would appreciate her choosing to stay close to you as well. Then see what happens. Be prepared for her to have little or no reaction, given your history. If that ends up being the case, at least you will have made the effort.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.