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Dear Abby 11/28
Constant complainer drags her entire office down in the dumps
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    DEAR ABBY: I have a great job, get along with everyone I work with and go home at night happy, even when things get a little hectic. I love my job — except for one thing.
    A woman who works here is a constant downer. She constantly talks about how fat she is (she's overweight, and so am I), how ugly she is (she's not), how horrible her marriage is, how she won't live past 38, how her son won't live to be 18, and other negative things. In fact, all she has to say are negative things.
    Whenever I try to interject something positive, she finds a way to turn it into a negative. We work with the public a lot, and she has run so many customers off with her negativity that we are losing money. No one will fire her because there is no one to replace her in our small town, but everyone is at their wit's end. We have all tried talking to her about it. What else can we do? -- READY TO EXPLODE IN WYOMING
    DEAR READY: Aside from slipping "happy pills" into her morning coffee, nothing. (Only joking!) People sometimes call themselves fat, ugly, etc., because they hope the person they're talking to will contradict them and say, "No, you're not." In this case, your co-worker appears to be very depressed — and with good reason.
    I do have a suggestion, however, for the next time she makes a negative comment. Instead of trying to turn it around, agree with her. Say, "Yes, isn't it sad?" or "You're a saint," then change the subject. That may stop her.

    DEAR ABBY: My family and I just moved to a new town. Our dogs bark at night to warn us that there are people sneaking around our property.
    The neighbors complained to our landlord, and now we have to move again. Shouldn't the neighbors have talked to us first, and then complained if we did nothing about our dogs' behavior? -- CAROLYN IN OAKTOWN, IND.
    DEAR CAROLYN: Yes, they should have. And you should have made sure there was a clause in your lease that entitled you to have pets on the property. And if you were aware that your dogs barked at night, you should have taken them into the house so they wouldn't disturb your neighbors.
    DEAR ABBY: Is it all right for a family member to eavesdrop on a conversation on the extension line? The other day, my husband and I picked up the phone at the same time. It was my mother calling to chat and to ask a question. Although the call was clearly for me, my husband remained on the line because, he said, he had a question for her when I was done with the conversation.
    I contend that this was rude, as I didn't know he hadn't hung up the other phone. He contends that he had a right to listen because it is his house, and he can listen in if he wants.
    Although nothing of a personal nature was discussed, I still think he should have given me my privacy and asked me to let him know when Mom and I were done talking so he could ask his question. This has caused a major rift in our family. Please respond. -- NANCY IN BELMONT, CALIF.
    DEAR NANCY: When a spouse starts using the old "I can do it if I want because it's my house" line, it's usually because he/she knows he/she is wrong. I don't know whether your husband is a bully or simply has no life of his own, but eavesdropping is a very unpleasant trait. And in the interest of family harmony, he should cut it out.
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