It’s Not Always Good to Talk!

The Office Chatterbox

On a recent course I was asked by a participant, ‘How can you politely get away from people at work who keep talking at you?’ There was much laughter as each one of us immediately brought to mind people we knew who button hole us and whom we can’t seem to get away from!

It is a serious point though. Most of the time at work we want to maintain an ongoing, amicable and professional relationship with work colleagues. We don’t want to hurt their feelings and create a bad atmosphere.

A Couple of Tips

One tip is to get in first. As you see them bearing down on you say, ‘Hi, I’ve got five minutes before I must get on with …whatever.’ Then pay them really good attention for those 5 minutes and in 4 minutes glance at your watch. If they don’t take the hint you may have to bring your assertiveness skills into play.

Appearance Is Key

Use their name to get their attention: tell them it’s been good to have a break from your work but now you must get back to it. Remember that in terms of how messages are received the actual words you use are not that important. In fact they account for about 7% of the total. Your tone of voice is important too but a whopping 55% is all about your appearance and body language. So don’t act as if you are doing something wrong or behave too apologetically. It’s perfectly reasonable to get on with your work. You don’t want to be rude but neither do you want to feel that your time is not your own.

If you are sitting, stand. You may break eye contact as you look towards your desk. Direct eye contact is often seen as an invitation to speak. Slightly turn your body in the direction in which you want to go. Put your hand on your watch, subtly drawing attention to the time. Try only to look at it when you are speaking so it appears as if it’s your time to speak you are curtailing, not theirs.

If you really find it difficult to get away without hurting their feelings you may have to have a conversation with yourself about the value of your time, and maybe how much you value yourself. If you are in an open plan office you maybe could initiate a general discussion about how people indicate to others they are happy to be interrupted. And, more importantly, when they don’t want to be!

And eventually, if all else fails, you may just have to be fairly blunt and say you find it distracting and could they please stop!


Posted on March 23rd, 2009 by

One Response to “It’s Not Always Good to Talk!”

  1. Motivational says:

    And if being nice doesn’t work, just be straight forward. Your goals are more important than some useless chat about unimportant topics anyway.

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