Dear Amy: My partner and I are currently house and dog sitting for my parents. We asked our friend to watch our own house while we are gone.
We just moved into this house. We managed to clean up and make it presentable, except for the kitchen. We ran out of time and left clean dishes in the dishwasher and some dirty dishes in the sink.
Our trash can was also full (trash day was the day after we left), so there were two bags of nonfood trash by the back door.
Obviously, we've come to realize that we are the jerks here. We know we should have left a clean house.
Our friend is absolutely livid. She went off on my partner via text. I followed up a couple of days later with an apology and an offer to pay her for her time.
I said I was aware that paying her wasn't going to fix the problem, and the offer of payment was to be in addition to the face-to-face conversation she requested when we return.
It was clear by her response that she was still super-angry.
Personally, I think that being this angry about some dirty dishes after a week might be overreacting.
I don't know what this face-to-face conversation is going to look like. If she intends to chew us out, I might dissociate and look like I don't care.
How do I ask her to keep her temper down?
Amy says: I'm not sure why you are waiting for this face-to-face showdown, rather than continuing to communicate in order to try to repair things now.
I take it that your friend has unloaded via text, and you have responded in kind, but an actual phone (or Skype) call is less passive (read: chicken), and you and your partner would be able to both talk and listen, rather than merely respond to her venting.
Tell her, "We appreciate what you are doing and we feel terrible about the condition of the house. Everything got away from us at the last minute and we're so sorry. How are things going now? Do you have any questions?"
If you have already offered to pay her, follow through. A gift box of goodies sent to her attention and delivered to the house might go the rest of the way to respond to her disappointment.
After this effort, you should assume that you have cleaned up your mess from a distance. She will either accept this, forgive you, and move on — or she won't. She doesn't get to hold you hostage over this mistake.
"Dissociating" during a conversation should not be an option for you. That's what toddlers do.
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