My chatty coworker is driving me nuts! I work in a relatively secluded part of my office, with only one other person, and he won’t shut the heck up! Every moment he catches me without a pair of headphones clamped over my ears and unbroken eye contact with my computer screen, he takes it as a full invitation to tell me about the weather, the news, something he saw on Instagram, what he cooked for dinner, who said what to who in the break room, and I just don’t care! There’s only so many times I can gesture back to my screen and tell him that I need to get back to work, and sometimes, I need a few moments (of QUIET!!!) without my nose pressed to the grindstone to collect my thoughts! How do I get this guy to understand that I’m here to work, not entertain him?

Whoever assigned you your working arrangement really dropped the ball…the chatty Persuader you’re stuck with is almost certainly just as unhappy about it as you are. I’m sure there’s only so much sympathy you can muster when you’re at the receiving end of his full attention, but he likely is bored and uninspired by being relegated to a back room with someone who barely wants to give him the time of day.

However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make things a little more habitable for the both of you. First of all, most Persuaders know they like to talk (a lot) and that some people don’t, so he probably won’t be surprised if you gently let him know (might take a few times) that you need more quiet time. Just make sure you make it about your needs, not about what he’s doing “wrong”.

Also, it can help if you make a little time to actually chat with him in your schedule so he’s not catching you in Work Mode. Maybe just between morning coffee and responding to emails, or maybe just after lunch before you’ve gotten back into a rhythm. Dedicate 15 minutes or so to really listen and reply, then segue out and let him know you need to get back to work. Try thinking of it like watering a plant, or logging into a mobile game to keep your streak going. A little bit per day can go a long way. By doing this it’s quite possible that, without your even telling him, he will pick up the cues on when it’s time to talk with you and when you want to be left alone.

As for the conversation itself, I’ll grant you, it seems a bit self-centered. However, Persuaders love to pick up what you’re putting out, so try to turn the topic to things that genuinely interest you until you figure out something you have in common. Maybe there’s a sport or TV show you both like to watch, or a hobby it turns out you both enjoy. He might not share any of your interests but will be happy to hear your opinions about them. Or if you would rather not get that personal, tell him more about what you’re doing that takes up so much of your work energy. A Persuader in your corner, who’s willing to talk up your accomplishments to everyone else in the breakroom, can be a powerful ally. Also, try to keep in touch with your own emotions here. You can tell what’s a minor annoyance and what’s a real problem that needs addressing. Step away from your desk for a few moments if you’re getting irritated, keep sight of your own boundaries, and try to be kind. In all likelihood, this guy isn’t going out of his way to bother you, and while a lack of ill-intentions doesn’t mean he gets to monopolize your time, it also doesn’t mean you should treat him like he’s an unforgivable boor for socializing at the office. Our jobs are rarely JUST pure unadulterated work. They’re also the relationships we have with our coworkers, who are fellow humans who notice when we’re overwhelmed, who cover for us when we’re sick or need to attend to life events, who share in our victories and salvage what they can from our defeats. Reframe your idea of what your job entails with that in mind.

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