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(TNS)—Q: The friends you generously invited to spend a weekend at your lake house leave a huge mess behind. How should you handle it?

The good news is that the friendship doesn’t have to end. Rather than not saying anything, to avoid conflict or an uncomfortable conversation — a common reaction that leads to resentment — face the situation head-on by having an open, honest conversation.

If you consider them friends, you should assume the best. Perhaps there’s an understandable explanation. For example, “Hey, my picnic table was brand new, but I noticed there’s marker all over it. What happened?”

They might respond with, “Oh my goodness, our kids were doing arts and crafts on it, and we didn’t notice. We’re so sorry! We’ll get that fixed for you right away.”

If, however, their response lacks accountability and respect for your property, consider it a lesson learned. It’s time to redefine your friendship, focusing on what works (going to the movies) and eliminating what doesn’t work (handing over the keys to your lake house).

— Dana Kerford, founder of GirlPower Inc. and GoodGuys Inc., friendship programs for teens

Before making any sudden moves, like giving them a piece of your mind, ask yourself two things.

Should you give them the benefit of the doubt for any reason? Maybe they’re going through a tough time right now. Could you have done anything differently to encourage them to leave a clean house? For example, did you give them a clear set of instructions and useful supplies, like extra garbage bags?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, you may not want these particular friends staying at the house ever again.

But it may mean that you don’t need to bring up this issue with them until the next time they ask to stay there and perhaps can quietly forgive them for the one offense. If those same friends do ask again, don’t be afraid to clearly state your specific expectations and lovingly explain that they’ll have to do better than the last time.

— Fay Wolf, author of “New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (And Everyone Else)”

©2016 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.