By Dr. Perry, PhD
“If my headphone are in, I am probably trying to do some work.” ~Anonymous
I was in an office setting this past week. As I spoke to the receptionist her co-worker was loudly sharing a personal story. I could tell the receptionist was uncomfortable and was trying to get her co-worker to stop talking. I found myself not only listening to very personal details of someone’s life but incredibly I was also being asked to partake in the conversation. To state it simply this person would not stop talking.
In every office, there is usually one person who feels the need to fill in everyone around them with the latest details of their life and day. No matter how minor the detail may be the office overtalker must share it. We do our best to avoid them but they often hover over our workstation or walk uninvited into our office to chat. Trying to complete your work for the day you may try to avoid eye contact but that doesn’t help. I believe we all have had encounters with a co-worker who either does not recognize social cues or chooses to be inconsiderate and disregard them.
It is appropriate to have some light conversation during work hours but it is important to recognize that you are being paid to work and not to socialize at the workplace. Conversations that require a person to stop working for an extended period of time while at work are a no go. Further, I recommend avoiding discussing your personal life during work. A conversation regarding work matters is fine as long as it does not distract you from work. As my Mother says, “You work with your hands, not with your mouth.” I realize that often times friendships and work may overlap. We can always have lengthier personal conversations during breaks, lunch or after work.
Perhaps, the first time this happened you allowed yourself to become engaged in the personal conversation and now every time they see you they have the need to ramble on about their life or day. So how do you handle that co-worker who sees the office as a place to share their personal life and thoughts, who constantly talk over you, dismisses what you say or fails to follow social etiquette?
Here are some tips on how to handle the office compulsive overtalker:
1. Try to ignore them by not encouraging the conversation
Don’t give the overtalker your full attention. Continue doing your work and when the person begins to overshare try to remain unresponsive to their story. Often time the overtalker is seeking attention and validation. If they see that you are not a source of either they will eventually move on to someone else.
2. Confront it head on
No one wants to participate in office drama but you may need to confront this head on. In a non-confrontational manner bring the focus to your needs. Speak up and explain that it is difficult for you to work when there are many distractions in the office. You need to set this boundary early and stick to it.
3. Offer alternatives
Stop them by saying something like, “Let’s talk after work” or “Why don’t we discuss this later? I really have a lot of work to catch up on.”
4. Do not disturb sign
If management approves, put up a “Do not disturb” sign at your desk. By doing this you are not singling out one person and can inform all co-workers you need to focus and concentrate on your work.
5. Switch it up and talk about work only
If the office overtalker continues to seek your attention try to switch the conversation back to work matters. Every time they approach you with a personal story, talk about work and seek their advice on work matters. Do not discuss anything personal. Over time, the overtalker may learn to avoid you since they will not want to talk about work.
6. Leave your work area
At times, in order to get the person to stop talking you may need to get up and leave your work area. By walking out of your office you will at the very least get the person out of your work area. The person may get the hint to stop talking.
7. Wear earplugs
If your work permits, speak to management and explain you need fewer distractions in order to concentrate at work and get approval to wear earplugs to silence out noise or earbuds to listen to music while you work. By wearing earplugs while working the over-talker should get the point that you are trying to work.
8. If all else fails, speak to the supervisor!
If you find that you have tried everything and this person still does not respond to appropriate social cues and does not respect your boundaries speak to your supervisor.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your experiences with an overly talkative co-worker and how you dealt deal with the situation?
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