Q.: I went on a work trip with a friend, and it was disastrous. The organizers did a poor job, but that wasn't the worst of it. My friend is such a major complainer that rather than make the best of it, all he did was point out what was going wrong and moan about it. At every turn when there was a problem – and there were many – he blew up and made the scene worse. I know that I do not want to travel with him anymore.
I'm not making excuses for the organizers: Trust me, they got an earful from the attendees. But I do think that it matters how you deal with a situation. My friend was the you-know-what stirrer. He took the whole scene over the edge. I want to say something to him, but when I tried at the event, he blew me off and said I was making excuses for the organizers. Should I say anything else to him? I don't want to be in this situation ever again. – Out of My Control, Baltimore
A.: I agree that you always have a choice as to how you can deal with whatever comes your way. Even in the worst circumstances, it is possible to find the positive. That said, it can be incredibly difficult to remain upbeat when you are participating in a disastrous situation. Scapegoating your friend may be a bit extreme.
Instead, try talking to him again after some time has passed. Admit that the event was a mess and add that his behavior made it harder for you to manage. Tell him that you wished he had been able to enjoy time with you and your other friends and colleagues or make the best of it. If you find yourself in a similar situation with him where he starts nonstop complaining, walk away. Get out of earshot so you can keep your cool.
Q.: I used to have cable TV, but my husband and I canceled it last year. We were spending a fortune on all these channels and not paying our other bills. Plus, it was making us couch potatoes. We feel good about our choice, but just the other day we were talking to some friends who thought we were crazy to be disconnected. I felt like they were judging us about it. They have deep pockets, and I guess it's no big deal to them that they have cable and everything else. How can we get our friends to understand our position? – Disconnected, Racine, Wis.
A.: Honestly, it doesn't matter what your friends think. Believe it or not, many people do not have cable TV or satellite TV or other kinds of technology – for a host of reasons. Whether the choice is based on economics or lifestyle, not everyone is as engaged with technology as others. You do not need to feel ashamed. Instead, embrace your choices. Be confident in them. You have to make choices that are smart for you. The same is true for your friends. By the way, even people with deep pockets make choices similar to yours. Additionally, if you want to watch cable channels on occasion, chances are you can find your show of choice online. If you don't have a computer, you can watch at the library.