Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Dealing With Annoying Sounds At Work

DEAR NATALIE: One of my co-workers clears her throat loudly and often; she has some acid reflux issue. Some of us have joked with her about it and asked nicely if she had seen a doctor and/or taken anything for it. She said there is not much she can do about it. But it is driving me and my co-workers crazy. We sit in close proximity of each other, in an open space, and putting earphones on usually does not help (you can only play music so loudly). I don't want her to feel bad and I don't want to go running to the boss, but this is affecting our work. -- COUGH IT UP

DEAR COUGH IT UP: I'm trying to visualize this scenario in which this woman is constantly coughing to the point where your own earphones aren't even helping and it's starting to remind me of a "Seinfeld" episode. The only thing you can do is suck it up and deal with it (after all, it doesn't sound as though she can control this situation), or go talk to your boss about moving your seat. Perhaps if you let your boss know what is going on, in a concerned way, saying something like, "While I am worried about Beverly's health, it is starting to impact our work. Is there any way we can rearrange our seats to maybe distance ourselves a bit from the unending phlegm parade?" OK, maybe not the last part, but at the end of the day, maybe invest in a good pair of noise canceling earphones, or take up yoga, which can teach you to deal with the daily distractions of life in a peaceful, nonviolent way. Namaste your way out of this.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Feeling like a lot of doors are closing in your face? A lot of people lose out on networking opportunities because they hear "no" and assume that means forever. I like to think of "no" as "try again later." Many times people can't meet up due to personal issues or timing, so circle back, be friendly, keep an open mind and stay positive.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)