Your Office Coach | To decrease your awareness of these sounds, focus on your work, soft music, white noise or anything that helps.

Share story

Q: The co-worker who sits next to me makes huffing noises and says, “Oh crap,” all day long. This drives me absolutely crazy. Yesterday morning, she actually huffed 35 times in three hours.

When I ask if she’s having a bad day, she always replies “No, I’m fine.” Should I tell her how much this bugs me or just let it go?

A: I assume that “huffing” means an exasperated sigh, sort of like a nonverbal “oh crap.” If so, this is probably just her automatic response to frustration. And I expect you already know that complaining about it will not be helpful. After all, if saying “your noises drive me crazy” was a comfortable thing to do, you would have already done it.

You may not realize, however, that you are actually exacerbating your own problem. Counting and commenting will only increase your awareness of these sounds, which is the exact opposite of what you want. So instead of resentfully awaiting the next huff, practice shifting your attention. Focus on your work, soft music, white noise or anything that helps. And if moving your desk ever becomes an option, go for it.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.