You can hear his voice all the way from the elevator bay three floors below your office. And you know that based on your previous history with this person that he’ll be stopping by your desk at least 35 times this afternoon to chat you up about the latest in reality television, the shirt he just bought, and a cocktail he “discovered” last night. This chatty co-worker means well, and you know it. After all, he is just trying to be friendly. Except you’re just trying to get a few things done before the entire day flies by.
As much as this guy likes to talk, there are a few things he won’t say aloud that he’ll want you know about him. I know because I used to be him—and here’s what I could’ve told all my co-workers—before I got the office chatterbox reputation.
1. We’re Really Excited to Talk to You Because We Enjoy Your Company
I’m sure that plenty of my former colleagues would tell you that I could talk until I’m blue in the face. But here’s the thing—I’ve also worked with people who would say, “Rich? That guy only spoke when he needed to get by me.” The truth is that if I’m talking to you, it’s because I actually like you.
Here’s a fun fact: Some of my closest friends are people I’ve worked with at some point or another. And I sometimes need the reminder that even though we are friends, when we’re at the office, I need to be a little bit more in work mode.
2. You Can Tell Us to Go Away
I know—it can seem like an impossible task to get the office talker to let you get back to what you’re working on sometimes. And trust me, I’ve been the one who’s made it difficult for someone else to end a friendly conversation in the office kitchen.
But because I’ve been “that guy,” I’m sure of one thing: If you really need to get back to doing something, don’t be afraid to say (nicely) that you have to step away because you have a lot to get done before the end of the day. Unless the person is nothing but a big bag of wind, the odds are that he will totally understand.
In fact, if you find a nice way to let the person down, you might also be doing her a favor. After all, she probably has a long to-do list of her own waiting for her.
3. Sometimes We Keep Talking Because We’re Trying to Impress You
This is one of the hardest confessions I’ll make. Sometimes I would get caught up in the fact that I worked with some really incredible people. And because those people were smart, talented, and incredibly nice to hang out with, I wanted to make sure that I was pulling my weight in the conversation.
The need to do that leads people like me to be overly nice chatty or extra ambitious in trying to prove that we know what we’re doing. And ultimately, that means our gears spin in endless circles until everyone is exhausted and looking for an excuse to do anything but talk to us. And as annoyed as you probably are by this, we all wish you knew how agonizing this was for the people-pleaser in all of us.
It would be easy to look at someone with a big mouth at the office and think they’re in love with the sound of their own voice. But there are very real challenges to being a talker, especially when it’s not part of your job. And on behalf of that person everywhere, I hope that knowing why it’s not easy for us either will help you have a little more tolerance for those times when we simply cannot stop talking about the dessert we had last night.
Photo of loud-mouthed person courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.