Cutting through the noise

I work in an open-plan office and a lot of people wear headphones, probably to drown out the noise around them. When I need to speak with people it seems that I am always startling them because they jump or actually scream when I tap them on the shoulder. What am I supposed to do get their attention in order to conduct business face-to-face?

Well, because of the headphones, they don’t hear you coming. It would make sense to approach them by walking in their sight line, not from behind. Better yet, send them an email or text or G-chat or whatever internal communication form you use in the office asking if you can stop by in a couple of minutes to speak with them about . . . whatever.


The trash cans my neighbor puts out on collection day are heaped with garbage and she has no lids on her cans. Every pick-up day a good amount of it blows around the neighborhood and she does nothing about it. Is there a way I can bring this to her attention without being offensive?

You can be direct without being offensive. Call her on trash day and let her know that because of the wind, her garbage has landed in a lot of other yards, and you thought she would want to know. You can suggest that she get a can with a lid or at least invest in industrial strength trash bags and bag and tie her garbage in the future, but be understanding. You can say you used to have the same problem, but luckily there is the easy fix of a lid or sturdy bags so this doesn’t keep happening for her.


One of my pet peeves is getting grocery carts filled with things like shopping lists or empty plastic bags or tissues or other trash. Whose job is it to throw that stuff out?

The same golden rule that says clean up after yourself applies at the grocery store, too. The person who uses the cart should clean it out before returning it to the cart corral.


My grandmother has been great about sending me care packages at college, mostly snacks, cookies she bakes, and other food. I have recently changed to a vegan diet, something she is not going to understand. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, because she has been wonderful with what she has sent, but she’s not going to understand this. What do I do?

Don’t underestimate your grandma. When you see her, give her a huge hug and thank her again for all her care packages, and then tell her that you have made a change in the way you eat and show her some recipes of things she could make for you, or possible snacks she could buy, for next semester, if she still wants to send you gifts. Her goal is to support you and send you some love and happiness, not to control the way you eat.

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