Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I'm beginning to dread calls from a couple of my friends because I have to listen to their constant aches, pains and doctor visits. I have aches and pains, also, but I don't bombard my friends with my problems. I hate to hang up on them. Any suggestions? -- DON’T CRY TO ME, ARGENTINA

DEAR DON’T CRY TO ME, ARGENTINA: Some people are just downers. Complaining is their form of communicating, and it can be super annoying to the rest of us who choose to see the cup of life half full. If this were me, I probably would take their calls a little less often. Sometimes, when you see their name come up on your phone, it's OK not to answer if you aren't in the mood. Call them back when you feel more emotionally prepared. I used to tell my sister (back in the day when she was having a hard time in middle school) to spray imaginary "mean girl" repellent on before going to class so that the negativity would just bounce off her. Visualizations really do work! You may want to create your own ritual before chatting, such as a "Debbie-downer" repellent that you mist on yourself before entering into conversation. If that doesn't work, change the subject when things start to head toward Negative-ville, or call them out on it. Say something like, "Wow, I know you are having a rough day, but focusing on all the bad things will only make us both feel worse! Instead, why don't you tell me something nice that happened today, no matter how small it may seem?" Then watch their aches and pains of life quickly dissipate -- if only for a moment. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Heard any good gossip lately? Keep it to yourself! The more you talk negatively about people to others in your circle, the more likely people will look at you as untrustworthy, possibly pushing you out of inner circles. 

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.)

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