Dear Annie: I've played basketball with an informal team of women for well over 10 years. We've now celebrated most of our 40th birthdays together, and though some in the group of 20 or so have come and gone, we've been a pretty close and supportive cluster of friends. We play b-ball twice a week, go for coffee after morning games and occasionally go out for a drink after evening ones.
About six months ago, a new player joined our ranks. She loves being part of the group and is a great player. But frankly, she is a loudmouth and huge drinker. Though I haven't heard direct complaints about her -- because my friends are too kind to talk behind her back -- I can see it on their faces. It's a pained expression. It's downright embarrassing when she's drunk and yelling insults about any one of us at a bar or restaurant.
This isn't the kind of team that members get kicked out of. My friends are too gracious for that. But at the same time, she's ruining the dynamics of the group. I don't feel close enough to her to suggest getting help for her drinking problem. Besides, she flaunts it and does not appear to want to change. Any suggestions? -- Troubled in Toledo
Dear Troubled: Alcohol abuse ruins lives. The kindest thing you and your teammates could do for this heavy-drinking "loudmouth" is not to refer to her as that! The only way to get closer to her and be kind to her is to have a frank conversation with her about the effects her drinking is having on the team. If your teammates are truly as kind as you say they are, you should tell her the truth.
Dear Annie: If you want to find yourself, do something for others. One of your readers said she was annoyed that a friend would call her twice a week to talk. It invaded her time for herself.
Listening is a gift, and most of us are not good at it. As a spouse, I am a terrible listener. I am trying to do a better job. But I do know that sometimes people just want to vent, and some of us can't help but want to fix what we hear.
I think ladies have their nails done so they will have someone listen to them. Ladies pay $25 for a half-hour of talking, and they end up with shiny fingernails to boot. And they vent and often solve their own concerns.
What a gift it is to listen to others. Guys, are you listening? -- Husband for 42 Years
Dear Husband: Interesting notion about the nail salons. Whether or not that hypothesis is correct, you're right that to listen to someone is to give him or her a gift. A few thoughts on "venting": When one partner just wants to vent, I've found it's helpful when the venter states upfront that he or she is just looking to vent and not soliciting advice. But one should also be careful not to make complaining a primary pastime.
We should all be mindful that when we blow off steam by venting, the listener absorbs some of the heat. Be sure to express gratitude.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.