Q: My roommate is great overall, but has a foul mouth. We’re women in our 20s and I’m not a prude, but the way that she talks leaves me disgusted several times a week. I know how hard it is to find someone that you live with well. I’ve had terrible roommates in the past. So I wish I could let this one thing go, and I don’t want to ruin a good thing. But I also feel like I need to say something because it is so not OK.
A: I appreciate your wanting to endure this in silence as a courtesy. And as someone whose own language can get salty, I like that you’re not condemning her character.
Still, you have to speak up; it’s not fair to you that she’s making your living space uncomfortable, and it’s not fair to her that you’re breeding resentment about something she has no clue about. Tell her how much you like living with her and how you even hesitated to bring it up. Make it clear that you’re only asking for her to tone it down, not complete censorship. I don’t know whether this is a few “flying figs” or super-graphic prose, but the more extreme her language, the more you’ll be doing her a favor.
Q: I work with a bunch of jerks and idiots. There, I said it. How do people keep their cool when they have to spend the majority of waking hours in the company of people that make them want to scream?
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A: Of course, there are two sides to every “idiot” accusation. But you wrote to me, so you win: Your colleagues sound terrible!
This seemingly amorphous blob of a problem can best be managed by breaking it down – first, by the day, and then by the interaction. You’ve got to start with a clean slate each morning, and react to each interaction individually, rather than carrying the baggage of their jerkdom around and letting it compound. Deep breaths and mantras (even silly ones just to distract yourself) will help you press the reset button. Within your workday, build in breaks every hour if need be – a walk, some visualizations, meditation, music.
And, of course, presuming that you see yourself getting a different job, work on networking and resume-sending. By maximizing your autonomy within the things you can control, you’ll help lessen the stress of the things you can’t.