Don't go away mad (but please go away! for a few minutes! so I can work!)
July 14, 2011 3:34 PM Subscribe
Is there a technique / piece of ancient wisdom / secret phrase that (a) will get overzealous office conversationalists to back off, and (b) won't leave them mortally offended (or that at least will help me avoid Things Getting Weird in the workplace or elsewhere I have to interact with the same people regularly)?
posted by aecorwin to Human Relations (36 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Certain tasks I am apt to perform now and then require a fairly high degree of concentration (e.g., delicate hand-soldering). I am fine doing them alone, but often that isn't really feasible in, say, the workplace. And while I can totally understand people being curious about what I'm doing (meddling with electronic thingies does look interesting sometimes!), it is really detrimental to my concentration (and hence my task performance) to be constantly interrupted, asked questions, etc., while I am working.
Now, most people I am liable to be around when doing tricky/focusy work are totally fine with letting me be once I tell them I am trying to concentrate, etc.
But there always seems to be one or two people (usually of the strongly extroverted personality type) who simply cannot understand what I am on about when I tell them to please hold their questions until I am done with [fiddly thing]. My exchanges with such persons tend to go something like this:
Me: [working quietly on thing]
Extroverted Colleague: "Blah! Blah blah. Blah?"
Me: "Do you need something?"
EC: "Oh no, just seeing what you were doing. That's a long piece of wire you've got there! Who are you going to vote for in the next election? Did you know that soldering irons are hot? Also, dinosaurs!"
Me: "Um, I really need to concentrate on this, can you maybe not talk to me until I'm done?"
EC: "Okay, but I didn't realize you needed me to GO AWAY COMPLETELY AND NEVER TALK TO YOU EVER AND NOT EVEN BE ANYWHERE YOU COULD POTENTIALLY SEE ME in order to do your job!"
Me: . . .
Hopefully you get the idea. Primarily, I am looking for practical ways to avoid ending up in this weird dynamic where it seems like no matter what I do or say it gets taken as me being:
- some sort of prima-donna OR,
- some fragile little flower who obviously needs a litany of pep talks (because obviously the only reason I could possibly need uninterrupted work time is because I "lack self-confidence", and if I REALLY REALLY TRIED, I could become the kind of person who can walk, talk, and juggle bowling pins all at once, so therefore my rejection of their conversational overtures must be an indication that I "want to live in my comfort zone rather than trying to improve myself").
I really don't think wanting quiet (TEMPORARY quiet, at that) to work on tricky tasks is in any way strange, bizarre, or otherwise snowflakey. In my experience it's an extremely common, garden-variety thing for engineers and the like to request. But how do I convince my extroverted colleagues and compatriots of this? I feel like any kind of request on my part for ANY change to their behavior is getting twisted around by them and turned weirdly into an opportunity for them to (condescendingly) accuse me of weakness or specialness-seeking. I don't understand this, and obviously I don't like it (even though I generally get along with the people doing it in more casual situations). Halp?