DEAR NATALIE: I work in a government office and I have one co-worker that constantly is talking about her personal life. For example, a few weeks ago she was speaking with her divorce attorney and discussing really personal things in the work area. If it is not about that, then it’s about her oldest child whom she had to kick out of her house or her sex life and what method of birth control she is using. I have tried keeping my headphones on, but you can only turn up the music so loud. Short of going to my boss and complaining, is there any other recourse I have?
DEAR FRUSTRATED CO-WORKER: If she is this annoying, you really should just confront her. I don’t mean in a “Real Housewives” kind of way, but in a “hey, I’m concerned for you as a colleague,” way. Even if you really aren’t that concerned about her, and it’s more about getting her to stop airing out her dirty laundry, the way you present it could make all the difference. For example, you may want to pull her aside and say something like, “Is everything okay at home? You seem to be talking a lot about some really personal things that I’m assuming you don’t want everyone to know here at the office. I don’t want people to start talking about you, so maybe it would be better if you told just your close friends about things outside of work.” If she doesn’t seem to care and gives you an eye roll along with a: “If they don’t want to hear it, then they can tell me to their face!” response, your only other course of action may be to let your boss know that it is creating an uncomfortable workplace for everyone around her. But, if you cringe at the idea of bringing your boss into it, you can either try one more time and be even more upfront about your feelings, or buy bigger headphones.
DEAR NATALIE: My sister recently had a baby and now everyone is bothering me about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister and I’m totally in love with my new nephew, but I have no interest in starting a family. I’m single and really love my life. Plus, I’m pushing 38 and don’t really think it is going to happen for me. But I’m okay with that. Please explain to me why I’m okay with it but everyone else isn’t and therefore everyone else is making me feel bad and guilty for the life I’ve chosen. What is wrong with being single and child-free, anyway? --SPINSTER FOR LIFE
DEAR SPINSTER FOR LIFE: The next time someone says to you, “When are you going to have a baby?” try this as a response: “You know, it is so refreshing to hear someone finally take an interest in my life. But let’s put babies aside for a minute so I can tell you about my real passion…” Or try, “Oh, I’ve never wanted kids and don’t plan on changing my mind.” Who knows? Maybe that will shut them up. There is nothing wrong with being single and child-free. If you don’t want children, don’t have them. I never understood the obsession with people trying to encourage other people who either aren’t ready or aren’t interested in having children into having them. All children (in a perfect world) should be brought into homes full of love by parents or people who wanted them. Anything else is less than ideal.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Before you end a conversation, always ask the person if they know of other people that you should connect with. Usually, people have at least one or two others off the top of their heads that could be helpful. In turn, be prepared to do the same!
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)