Tough Love: How To Silence Your Jabbering Coworker

Tough Love: How To Silence Your Jabbering Coworker
Facebook may have decided that you shouldn’t see the news, but we think you deserve to be in the know with Lifehacker Australia’s content. To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

You have problems, I have advice. This advice isn’t sugar-coated — in fact, it’s sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.

Image via NBC/Universal.

This week we have a guy who can’t get his annoying coworker to stop talking to him about politics during his lunch break.

Tough Love: Why You Should Never, Ever Send That Dick Pic

You have problems, I have advice. This advice isn't sugar-coated -- in fact, it's sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.

Read more

Keep in mind, I’m not a therapist or any other kind of health professional — just a guy who’s willing to tell it like it is. I simply want to give you the tools you need to enrich your damn lives. If for whatever reason you don’t like my advice, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now then, let’s get on with it.

Hi Patrick,

I’ve got this one coworker who just loves to hear himself talk, and for some reason he’s chosen me specifically to be the recipient of his blessings. He keeps coming up to me during lunch breaks wanting to talk European politics. I’m European and interested in politics so with anyone else I would usually welcome this topic; however, he isn’t actually interested in my opinion at all, he just seems to want to show off how much he knows. I know all of these things, probably better than him. But no matter how often I interjected “Yes, I know,” he just kept talking at me, getting louder and louder at every interjection, and keeping up a constant string of “umms” and “aahs” to make sure I couldn’t say anything even when he was picking his next words.

I am not very good at communicating when I’m uncomfortable in a situation, so I just sit there staring blankly at nothing while he talks in my general direction. The problem is, since he’s talking about something I actually find interesting, I do occasionally contribute something to the conversation, which obviously keeps him going.

I’m pretty sure my other coworkers (with whom I get on very well) have noticed that I am very uncomfortable when this happens, but since he is usually interested in talking to me specifically, they generally stay out of the conversation (can’t say I blame them).

How do I communicate to this guy that I don’t care about his opinions and that I don’t want him ruining my lunch breaks?


Going Deaf

Hey Going Deaf,

The first thing you need to do is stop responding to him. At all. I know it’s hard because he’s talking about something you’re actually interested in, but you absolutely cannot respond in any way — even if you have the best retort ever. If you nod and give an occasional “mmm” he’ll probably keep talking, but if you actually respond with words, he’ll ramble on ’til the end of days my friend. You probably do know more than this guy, but that does not matter to him in the slightest. He’s seeking self-affirmation by spouting off his own political knowledge and garbage opinions. It’s what makes him feel whole, so if that bugs you, there’s no way you can interact with him and expect anything less than this ancient form of verbal torture.

But not responding won’t fix the problem entirely, G-Dizzle. It’s just to keep from encouraging the bastard. Clearly your colleagues aren’t going to save you, and frankly, I wouldn’t dive on that grenade either. So, to stop it for good, you’ll need to take action. Here are a few solutions I recommend:

  • Stop him before he gets started. When you see him approach, hold your hand up like you’re a crossing guard on a hot day and say, “I really can’t chat today, I’m [insert plausible excuse here].” Or, try this alternative that’s worked for me: I close my eyes, point my finger up, and say, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to focus on something right now.” Putting on headphones and acting like you’re concentrating on a hot new audiobook or meditating to gong sounds might work as well.
  • Set a time limit for the conversation, verbally. When he approaches, immediately look at your watch or phone, so he can see it, then say, “I can chat [person’s name], but only for five minutes. What’s up?” Then listen to him without engaging or interrupting. Stop him at the time limit with a line like, “OK, I’m going to get back to this now,” or “OK, I’m going to just zone out and enjoy the rest of my lunch for a bit.” He’s more likely to stop because you gave him a reasonable expectation at the beginning of the conversation. He started talking knowing you could only spare five minutes, and that’s what he got.
  • Schedule a time outside of work to talk about politics. Say, “Hey, I’d really like to talk about all this, but I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it at work. Maybe we can grab a coffee and discuss it another time?” Then, here’s the kicker, don’t follow through. Keep putting it off and rescheduling, while being stern about not discussing it at work. Hopefully, he’ll take the hint.
  • Leave during your lunch break. Like, go outside and eat your lunch, grab lunch (and a margarita) at a nearby restaurant, sit in your car with the radio on and your windows open, anything to get away from this guy and save your sanity. Do it enough times and he might finally realise you don’t want to talk to him any more. Who knows? Maybe he’ll latch onto some other poor sap!

Hopefully one of those solutions works for you, Going Deaf. If not, you have to put on your big boy pants and stand up for your own well-being. Tell him straight up that you don’t care about his opinions and that you don’t want him ruining your lunch breaks any more.

I guess you can say it nicer, though, if you want. Something like, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to discuss this stuff with you any more. I’d appreciate it if you kept these things to yourself.” Or “I really need my personal time during my lunch breaks, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me do my own thing.” It will be uncomfortable, sorry. But what’s worse? One awkward, uncomfortable confrontation, or a lifetime of listening to his rambling? Save yourself.

How To Deal With Someone Who Constantly Rambles

A good conversation is all about the back-and-forth; both parties listening and responding. If you're with someone who tends to ramble on and on, however, that dialogue turns into a monologue. Here are a few tips for dealing with a Chatty Kathy or Mr Chatterbox.

Read more


Because I just don’t have the time or patience for all of you…

Miss Patience asks:

Hi Patrick, I am 21 years old but am afraid of losing my virginity to anyone. My relationships are ending due to this. Please advise me.

Hey MP,

First, let me say that your virginity is yours. If you don’t want to lose it, you don’t have to — ever. These people ending relationships with you because you’re not ready aren’t right for you. You need someone who understands your feelings and is willing to wait. Just make sure you tell them that when things start to get serious so they don’t feel like you’re holding out on them for other reasons.

That said, there’s a difference between not feeling ready and just being afraid of the process itself. If it’s the latter, learn about sex and arm yourself with some knowledge. Our resident “sexpert” (yup, I went there), Vanessa Marin, has covered the topic of losing your virginity as an adult very well. But if you’re not ready, MP, you’re not ready. Don’t rush something just because some jerks are mad you won’t put out.

That’s it for this week! I probably won’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. ‘Til next time, figure things out for yourself.