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Ask Dave

To be unclear is to be unkind

Alice's roommate says she's broke, and this has caused her to fall behind paying her half of the bills. Dave says Alice can offer to help her friend manage money better, but he advises Alice to be firm about the situation.

QUESTION: Alice asks Dave for advice on approaching her roommate, who is broke, about her tardiness in paying her half of the bills. As you might expect, Dave favors the direct approach. He also explains, both in a personal and professional sense, that being unclear is unkind.

ANSWER: You approach her directly, often, and bluntly. Sit down, turn off the television, and have a direct and firm — but kind and calm — conversation. Let her know this roommate thing is not working; it’s not working because she’s not paying your bills on time.

Try EveryDollar. It’s a free budgeting app for your iPhone or Android, and when you put that on there you’ll have a budget in about 10 minutes. Let her know that the two of you are not going to be able to stay here together anymore, unless she starts paying on time. Let her know that she’s straining your relationship and taking advantage of it.

Really, Alice. You’re being too nice. I know you think that by being subtle you’re being nice, but you’re not. You’re being passive-aggressive. To be unclear is to be unkind. Be very clear. You don’t have to be mean, and you don’t have to cuss and scream. That’s not what I’m talking about. You just have to smile and say, “This is not going to happen anymore. You are going to get your act together, and you are going to pay on time. It’s called adulting, and we’re going to do this together.”

Is that tough love? No, it’s just love.