How to Discourage Chatty Coworkers

Speech Bubble, originally uploaded to Flickr by illustir.2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to discourage chatty coworkers, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on how to deal when your assistant talks too much, or how to get your work done with a chatty boss.

Reader J wonders how to discourage a chatty coworker…

I just started as a law clerk at a state appellate court in September 2011 and work with two other lovely clerks, both of whom have been with the Judge for at least a year. One of my co-clerks is very nice, but I sense that she is sort of a lonely person outside of work, and as a result, takes many opportunities to chat with me for long periods of time. She will stop in my doorway or plop down in a chair in my office and talk for 30-45 minutes, sometimes even more than once a day. This doesn’t affect her getting her work done, because she frequently takes work home with her and comes in on the weekends. However, I like to work hard during the day and leave my work at the office. I haven’t been at my job very long and still feel like I need to prove my worth to my Judge–I would like to make this a 2-3 year clerkship. I’m worried he will hear and see us chatting and think that I’m not a hard worker. Without being rude, is there anything I can do to make sure her chat sessions don’t go on so long?

This is a great question.  I used to work with a girl who would “drop by” my office and stand in the doorway, chatting about everything from her boyfriend troubles to her work questions to her shopping adventures.  I remember sitting there feeling completely trapped and seeing the day (and work) stretch out before me the more she yammered on.  I’ve had a lot of chatty coworkers through the years, but this situation was the worst because I genuinely liked her and wanted to hear everything she was saying — just not right then.  Some of my top tricks for getting your work time and your gossip time better synchronized:

  • “Book” time with her later to show she’s important to you.  “I have so much work to do, but I really want to hear what you’re saying! Let’s [insert fun activity here — get a drink, get a manicure, go for a walk] at 5:00 today, ok?”  This will sometimes work, but what may happen is she’ll say, “Oh sure, that sounds like fun!  Like I was saying…” and continue on.
  • Get her out of your space.  Print a document to the communal printer, grab your wallet and make her run an errand with you — whatever works for you.  Just don’t bring her back to your office.  Stand in the hallway, or outside the ladies’ room, or in the elevator banks, until she accepts the fact that you can’t listen to her talk any more.
  • Be stern.  This is another option, and one that I have used a few times when there was a guy at the office who seemed to have a crush on me.  (I might also use it if I really disliked the coworker.)  Here’s what you do:  don’t smile.  Don’t raise your voice — instead, lower it so you’re speaking more quietly.  Continue what you’re doing — if you’re writing, keep your pen in your hand, or your face half-turned to your computer.  Say clearly, slowly, and quietly, “I’m really busy right now and don’t have time to talk to you.  Sorry about that.”  And then turn back to what you’re doing.  It may take a few visits of complete non-friendliness for the coworker to get the picture, but they will eventually.

Readers, what are your thoughts?  How do you discourage chatty coworkers? 

(Pictured: Speech Bubble, originally uploaded to Flickr by illustir.)

How to Discourage Chatty Coworkers


  1. Tell a joke and walk away, a la George Kostanza. (Works best away from one’s desk).

  2. Threadjack!

    A few days ago (last week?) someone mentioned Project 333, which let me to checking out the website. I’ve been trying to rationalize my wardrobe a bit and after looking at Project 333, have come to the conclusion that that might be a good way to get started in a serious manner. Have any of you tried it? How has it worked for you in a professional setting?

    • I’ve thought about it but realized that I don’t want to live with 33 items. In my own effort to downsize, I created a rule for myself: whenever I buy a new item, I have to get rid of two things. This rule reminds me to only buy and keep items that I really love.

      • Yes – the appeal of Project 333 for me is that I don’t actually have to get rid of the items, just restrict myself for a particular period of time. As well, I would follow a modified approach – e.g. it probably wouldn’t apply to shoes.

        However, I have so much stuff in my closet that I just never wear. Just last night I put 10 items in the charity box without even thinking about it. I obviously really need to re-think how many items of clothing I actually *need*.

        I have been trying to do one-in, one-out, but I am impressed at your one-in, two-out rule. That would really make me think about my purchases.

  3. Another threadjack!

    Do any of you ladies wear Tahari ASL? If so, how is the sizing? Do their dresses work on pear shapes?

    • I love Tahari ASL – it runs the same as Ann Taylor or BR for me. I’m not a pear shape so I can’t speak to that, but their items do seem to be cut for curvy bodies.

    • Legally Brunette :

      LOVE Tahari ASL! It’s my favorite brand for dresses for my hourglass/pearish shape. I wear my usual dress size in the brand.

      I personally avoid the “crepe” ones because I think they look cheap, but I have a few woven dresses that look fabulous. You find them for about $40-60 at TJ Maxx, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, etc.

      • ITA re: crepe.

        It looks cheap, has no structure, is thin, and is more likely to show the outline of foundation garments, and clings to parts I’d rather the clothes not cling to.

        And yes– definitely some good Tahari ASL finds at TJ Maxx recently. (I discovered TJ Maxx rather late in the game, but they are definitely one of my go-to places now.)

    • Kay.Em.Bee :

      I believe Tahari ASL will be on RueLaLa tomorrow or later this week, just FYI

    • I’m on the larger end of the spectrum and found Tahari ASL to run narrower through the hips, ala J Crew, than regular Tahari.

  4. Following up on suggestion 3, I have found it works very well (both on the giving and receiving end) to just state that it’s not a good time to talk for X reason. (For me, it’s usually either because I don’t have much time to turn a draft of a document, or because I’m in the middle of thinking about how to address and issue and don’t want to lose it). Then I offer to stop by when it’s a better time.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I totally agree. I like suggestions 1 and 3 the best, as a person who sometimes veers into the too-chatty category (I just have many things swirling in my head that need to get out!).

      Whenever someone uses strategy 2, I’m never sure if the person really was about to get up and go to the printer or if I lingered too long. Sometimes it will happen after I’ve asked literally one work-related question, and I figure the person really did need to go to the printer. Other times, I realize after the fact that I was probably talking too much.

    • I agree with this, too. It is important to say “I will come find you” or set a specific time like Kat said in the post. Because if you leave it open for them to come back, they definitely will, and it will probably still be inconvenient. If you do like this person, you need to cultivate an attitude of friendly and nice, but very specific to preserve your work time. It takes some practice, but it’s a really good skill to develop.

    • For people I like, I tell them upfront (just because I’m not necessarily great at hinting, and I can’t count on them to be psychic or perceptive enough to take a hint) that I don’t have time to talk to them right now, and I tell them why, and make a point to catch up with them later.

      For people I don’t like, I tell them upfront (politely) that I don’t have time to talk. I most definitely do not offer a reason– unless you are my boss or my Momma, I don’t owe you a reason. If you explain yourself too much, some of these people think they somehow have power over you, which they do, because you just gave it to them. No way.

  5. PT lawyer :

    I had a coworker who used to do the same thing — plop herself down in my office at 7:30pm, just as I was trying to finish up work/leave.

    Sometimes, you just have to be firm. “Sorry, I’d love to chat, but I have a deadline/trying to get out of the office/need to leave in 10 minutes.” And then put your head down and continue working. It may take a few tries, but eventually the chatty coworker will get the idea and leave.

  6. divorce lawyer in NYC? :

    Sorry for the early threadjack but do you have any recommendations for a good divorce lawyer in NYC? Affordability is a factor because I don’t earn in 6 figures yet. Can’t believe it’s come to this and I am feeling smothered with pain and depression. I am not entirely clear on what I need to do next but am trying to put on a brave face at work and take this one small step at a time. Would welcome any recommendations. Thanks very much

    • have no lawyer recommendations but wanted to send you a virtual hug and an “it will get better”. Be kind to yourself, this is a tough time.

    • Hugs. I’m sorry, I don’t have any recs, but just take it one day at a time.

    • I don’t live in NYC so I have no practical advice; I just wanted to wish you luck and to sympathize over the “smothered with pain and depression” feeling. Hugs to you, or a firm and friendly handshake if you’re not the hugging type.

    • Anon for this :

      Margaret Donohoe, Marsh Valentine & Donohoe. Don’t know her rates but think highly of her.

      • Anon for this :

        I would add: I met with her once, for a non-divorce purpose, and found her to be kind, smart, and knowledgeable. You can tell underneath her kindness, though, that she is an excellent advocate for her clients. Sounds like you need the kindness and the advocacy. And hugs.

        • Thank you everyone – for the reco and the good vibes! I don’t have any family here and few friends outside of work so haven’t been able to talk to anyone. Am very grateful for your wishes and virtual hugs.

      • Do you have any contact information for Margaret? Their website is turning up blank for me

    • Ina Bort at Kornstein Veisz Wexler and Pollard and if you’re willing to go out to Long Island, Elena Karabatos in Garden City.

    • Good luck with all, sorry to hear you have to go through all of this.

  7. Formerly Preggo Angie :

    Another threadjack…

    Ok, ladies, I really dialed it in today. My hair is stringy, my clothes barely match, threw on flats… plus in a real low (and not in a good way) point on the post-baby weight loss. Just need to get through today but feel like hiding under my desk. It’s funny how not dressing put-together can make everything else seem the same way!

    • I’m wearing brownish pants and a green sweater today…and a few hours into the work day remembered a reference on here calling that “tree” outfit lol

    • This is why you can judge how freaked out and incompetent I am feeling by what I’m wearing: the formality and my level of confidence are inversely related. Today I am in a dark charcoal skirt suit…you get the picture.

      • I do this too! If I’m dressed up, it’s because I either feel like crud or am terrified.

    • “This is one of those days that the pages of history teach us are best spent lying in bed.” — Philadelphia Story

      I’m wearing all black today (sweater, skirt, leggings, boots) because I couldn’t be arsed to look at colors this morning.

  8. Just read the morning comments and wanted to say how much I missed my daily Corporette fix (due to mysterious tech problems). Where else can you find a discussion that includes gossip girl, abortions, nude pumps, v-cards, ponte knits, and laundry logistics? Amazing.

  9. Threadjack: I bought a standing desk from Amazon, assembled it, and it’s too short for me! Lesson that I should measure going forward. But for now, I’m trying to think of something to put under the desk to raise it up. Traditional furniture/bed risers won’t work, because they’re all cup-shaped, and the feet of the desk consist of two long metal bars.

    Any ideas for something solid to rest the desk’s legs on, that wouldn’t look ridiculous? Stacking reams of paper, although sturdy, would look ridiculous. But I can’t think of any other options. I need about 8 additional inches in height.

    • Anonymous :

      Cement blocks would be the traditional way to raise up furniture and that’d look better than reams of paper. You can buy something called furniture risers at home goods stores, but I don’t think you could get 8 inches out of those.

      • Cement blocks… like cinder blocks? How would I find those? I considered milk crates, which you can get on Amazon in different colors (I’d get black). Thoughts on those?

        • Anonymous :

          Yeah, cinder blocks. Sorry I couldn’t remember the name. You can get them at hardware stores – I have gotten them at Home Depot.

          I’d be concerned that milk crates wouldn’t hold up much weight, since they’re plastic. If you do go for milk crates check to see how much weight they can hold.

          • Ah okay. Ever since I got Amazon Prime, I’ve spoiled myself into only buying things that can be delivered to my house. You’re really expanding my horizons by suggesting I go to Home Depot! It’s a good point though. Thanks for your suggestions.

        • Any building supply place with a garden section should have something. They’re very handy. I’ve used them to protect my deck from a BBQ with too-short legs and to raise fish tanks off the floor.

      • Maybe you could do cement blocks and then wrap them in fabric or paper or something. Though that might still look kind of ridiculous….

        • Getting rid of the cement look would be good, though. Hmm…

        • I’ve seen people do this in dorms – it looks nice. She could just put patterned contact paper over them.

          Yesh, since you seem to be in DC – there’s a Home Depot right on Rhode Island Ave in the District, and one in the Seven Corners shopping center in Falls Church.

    • I used several old law textbooks to raise my tv at home. The trick is balancing the stacks. Con law and remedies on one side, torts and civ pro on the other. Totally worth the $500 I paid for them…

      • Haha, love this. The firm library is nearby, I should just check out some of those… just kidding.

      • Anonymous :

        I used to use mine to change light bulbs when I needed just a few more inches even standing on my tallest chair. By far the best use for my admin book.

    • Two-by-fours?

      That was always my mom’s solution to everything when I was growing up. Curtain rods were two-by-fours. Bookshelves were cinder blocks and two-by-fours. She built the furniture in my bedroom, out of almost all two-by-fours.

  10. Another threadjack! (Sorry to have two right in a row…)

    Any recommendations for laser hair removal in DC? Also, any general comments as to the permanence of laser hair removal? What I’ve read online about it is sort of confusing, but it seems like it’s supposed to be permanent removal for 80% of your hair. Is that right?

    • LOL – I am future you! I also have a standing desk and have gotten laser hair removal. I’d say 80% is about right – abut 20% of the hair grew back eventually, although it was only 5% for the 4-5 years after I got it done, and then when I had a baby, the other 15% came back (I think the hormone changes “woke up” some dormant follicles). Still worth it though, especially if you have dark hair and light skin like me. Not in D.C., so can’t give you any recs.

      • E Squared :

        I’m not in DC either (in LA) but I finally bit the bullet & got it– I’m still pretty hairy, but SOOOOOOO much less. My legs are neon white & my hair is black & I used to get stubbly about the same day I shaved… now I need to shave about every other week (but if I was more picky, maybe Once or Twice a week)… so it’s been awesome. I can now where skirts or shorts w/out even thinking about it. I went with Groupons, so I’ve been to 3 different places & I think places definitely vary in quality of laser machine. Some places have a thing where you pay a flat fee & can come in whenever you want for touch ups and what not for a year.

  11. I leave stacks of papers, folders etc on the extra chair in my cubicle so people have nowhere to sit.

    If its a group of people standing and I get roped in, I just walk away without comment when I want to leave. Amazingly, people don’t seem to think I’m a huge bi-otch. And, I actually get stellar remarks for things like “works well with others”, “forms good working relationships” on my reviews.

    A lot of people are sensitive to when people are busy, but for those who aren’t, just be direct and keep working. I’ve never had major problems trying to get rid of someone in my office.

    • Hah, I do the just walk away thing too, and it works great :)

    • One of the only nice things about having phone-answering as part of my 90,000 duties is that I almost always have a built in excuse to just walk away.

  12. woman lawyer :

    Before I say anything else:

    “I used to work with a girl …”

    “Girls” are females under the age of 18. “Girls” do not clerk for judges. Adult women do. I can’t believe I have to say this on a website like this. Of course, if you, like Katie Roiphe, think we’re in a honky-dory, copasetic, post-sexism age in which problems like sexual harassment or a general lack of respect for women don’t exist any longer, just keep using “girl.”


    Now for suggestions:

    If suggestions 1 and 2 don’t work, consider wearing headphones attached to an iPod with the music turned off. Or maybe you could pretend to be listening to a recording of a court proceeding or an important phone conference call if that’s applicable. Inform the judge and other staff members that you’re doing it in order to keep certain people from distracting you. Don’t rat her out, just say you need to put up a more visible “Do Not Disturb” sign.

    Most people find it much more difficult to interrupt someone who is wearing headphones.

    If that doesn’t work, consider a gentler version of 3: (With a smile, take her aside, and say something like “I really like you, but I need to get my work done during the day. Sorry.”)

    If that doesn’t work, then 3: Be Stern.

    Be calm, don’t be rude, no matter how frustrated you might be.

    • Anonymous :

      I use “girls.” I also use “boys.” I use “guys” in a non-gender specific way, and I don’t use “gals.” I use “women” and “men” in polite company. I challenge sexism when I see it, and I actively work toward a more equal world. I think there’s more to the eradication of sexism than the use (or not) of the word “girl,” don’t you? Besides, there’s a lot to be said for “taking it back.”

      • Exactly.

        I refer to myself as a girl, I refer to friends and co-workers as girls, I refer to my daughters as “my girls” and I’m sure that won’t stop on the day they each turn 18.

        Oh, and I work with all guys. The respect me for my capabilities, not because I do or do not use the word “girl.” If you want to overcome sexism, get over the semantics and prove that you can do what you do better than anyone else of either gender.

    • Thanks for the “girl” thing. It drives me crazy. People might say, “I work with this guy…” but no one ever says, “There’s this boy at work…” when referring to a grown man. If “woman” sounds overly clinical, just say “lady”. It’s not that hard not to infantilize women!

      • AnonInfinity :

        “Girl” is one of my pet peeves, too.

      • Anonymous :

        I do. I say “boys.” Also, “lady” is arguably worse, because it comes from a title originally that meant that you married well so you never did anything in your life. I’m not sure that’s less harmful.

        • This is all very contextual. In some contexts, I’ve seen it used affectionately, and in conjunction with “gentlemen” — it’s charming if it’s used inclusively, as in: all women –> called “ladies” and all men —> called “gentlemen.”

          However, in other contexts, I’ve also seen “lady” used to mean “females who act submissive and take crap from people” in order to differentiate them from females who won’t take crap from people. Generally, the people who actively make that distinction do so because they want to identify assertive women as b*tches, and mark them out to be attacked (socially, or worse.)

      • It’s one of my pet peeves too, only thing that’s worse is “kids” when referring to fellow law students.

        • law talking girl :

          I hated that!!! Not only did my T10 law school administration call us “kids” when every single person in the class was over 21 (and the oldest person was 41), they treated us like kids too.

      • Former Clerk :

        Heh, I refer to my male peers as “boys.” I am immature, I suppose.

      • I often call men “dude” or “dudes.” “There was this dude that I was talking to yesterday in the store…” It’s kind of my catch-all for males, like “girl” is (unfortunately) for women.

        But I say “chick” too, mainly when I’m referring to my girlfriends or women my age. I realized that’s probably not a good thing to say in front of my older male colleagues, lest they start using it.

    • First, the “girl” Kat worked with is not the same clerk that Reader J has an issue with. Not that this is likely, but for all we know, the “girl” is actually a girl.

      Second, really? If we are going to be insulted by every single word, I’m going to start using “female homo sapien” and “male homo sapien.” As in, I knew this male homo sapien who used to hang out by my office and talk really loudly and it really bugged me.

      • How about “female bodied person”? (Did everyone else see that Stephen Colbert bit on the Occupy Wall Street folks?)

        • I saw that bit. I’m going to try out some of those hand signals.

        • law talking girl :

          I don’t think using “female-bodied person” or “female homo sapiens” solves the problem either, as it potentially offends transgendered people and others who don’t fit into or identify with conventional gender classifications.

    • Wow, you need to relax.

    • It bothers me, too. But I will take “girls” over “females” any day. Grrr.

    • To everyone dismissing this issue, would you say the same thing to a black man who objecting to someone referring to him as a “boy”?

      • I think the analogous comparison is calling a man a guy, not calling a black man boy. That’s more analogous to calling women c-nts.

      • OMG that is so not the same thing and if you think it is then you have a lot to learn about the difference between racism and sexism

    • When I was in my twenties, I insisted that at least managers refer to us as women. (“Gals” was my then manager’s go-to. Yuck.) I still do if I’m talking about someone in a work sense – e.g. “The new woman in marketing on the 3rd floor,” even if she’s 22. That is just basic work etiquette.

      However, when I refer to my group of friends I sometimes call us “the girls.” We’re all in our forties. I think at this point it’s ironic. :)

    • Agree – headphones work wonders!

  13. MaggieLizer :

    I have a somewhat related question – how do you discourage a guy you’re interested in from chatting too much at the office without discouraging his interest in you? Assuming company policy doesn’t forbid dating coworkers and dating the person wouldn’t really complicate your work life, how do you let him know that you would like to hang out outside of work but can’t spend time at work talking/flirting with him?

    • law talking girl :

      Say, “I have to get xyz done right now, but do you want to go out for happy hour after work?”

      • MaggieLizer :

        Yeah, I definitely think women in general should be more open to asking guys out, but I’m on a self-imposed hiatus from that right now, which I probably should have mentioned. My dating habits (being the one doing the asking) haven’t produced good results in the past, so I’m trying to switch things up and get out of my comfort zone.

        • law talking girl :

          Give him a gentle brush-off during work hours, but then organize the end of the day so you end up in the elevator and walking to the parking lot together. Make lots of eye contact and emphasize that you are very busy during the day with work.

        • Ditto. So frustrating. FWIW I haven’t had much luck trying to be more demure and let men come to me. I think, like most men are with women, I have to be the one to pick the man. I’ve been casually dating a very Type B guy and it’s going well, but not getting serious. (My mom made a random comment the other week that I can’t be with a Type A guy too.) I think the elephant in the room is that I need a law job, and while I’d like to work near him, I haven’t limited my job search to his local bc he doesn’t seem to want to get too serious! So I’m just enjoying out time together for now and it’ll come to head when I get a new job.

        • Maybe suggest getting coffee or lunch? If it’s a “I’m going out, wanna come” sort of thing, then it’s not anything like asking him out on a date, but it still should encourage him to maintain interest. And, hey, you’re probably getting up to get coffee or lunch or similar some time, anyway.

    • I agree. “Hey, I can’t talk now, but wanna have a drink after work?”

  14. Rural Juror :

    I sometimes do the headphone trick on airplanes to avoid talking to people next to me. On two separate occasions I have had someone reach over and take one of the ear buds out of my ear to keep talking. So frustrating.

    • Seriously? That’s insane. I also put headphones on immediately after I get on a plane. You have to nip it in the bud, otherwise you’re in for the long haul…

    • On a plane there is NO reason you have to be anything but abrupt with people. Tell them “I’m really sorry, but I just want some quiet time” or pick up the in-flight magazine and say “I’m going to read now” or something.

      I can’t believe they pulled the ear buds out of your ear. That’s insane.

      • AnonInfinity :

        Please excuse the Ellen caps — People on planes can be SO RUDE. I actually like chatting with strangers, but I’ve sat next to enough rude strangers on planes that I always put in headphones. I’m sorry that people have invaded your space like that, Rural Juror, but unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me.

        I may have posted this before, but my tipping point was the following conversation:

        Random stranger — How did your mother die?
        Me — She was murdered.
        Random stranger — Did she deserve it?
        Me — *shocked look of horror* …….. *look down at magazine*

        • I remember your posting this before – horrifying. WTF is wrong with people? Who the hell would even ask how a perfect stranger’s mother died? My close friend’s mother died years ago, before I met my friend, and I have never once asked her how she died. I figure it’s none of my business unless she volunteers the info.

          • Heatheresq :

            I am sorry, but can you please post a link to this post. Who would ever touch someone else on a plane. A stranger?!?!?

          • AnonInfinity :

            I am used to questions about this aspect of my past because my aunt and uncle adopted me after it happened. I always refer to them as Aunt X and Uncle Y, even though they are my legal parents because it’s an awkward situation to call them Mom and Dad. It doesn’t even register to me that it’s confusing with strangers, so sometimes they’ll ask what happened to my parents. It’s happened my whole life, so I don’t mind at all. I thought I’d literally answered it all (How did it happen? Why did it happen? Did they ever catch the person? ), until that plane ride.

        • My jaw literally dropped when I read that. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

          • why did you even engage them though opening the door? ie , why did they know your mother died? just curious. my strategy on the plane is just to not share anything that opens the door to things i don’t want to talk about. or talking at all, most times.

          • AnonInfinity :

            I answered above, anon, but I’ll reply again so you’ll know that I don’t introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m AnonInfinity, my mother died.”

            My aunt and uncle adopted me after it happened. I always refer to them as Aunt X and Uncle Y, even though they are my legal parents because it’s an awkward situation to call them Mom and Dad. It doesn’t even register to me that it’s confusing with strangers, so sometimes they’ll ask what happened to my parents. It’s just how I talk about my past. Like, when you’d say, “When my mom used to tuck me in, she’d read me stories.” I’d say, “When my Aunt used to tuck me in, she’d read me stories.”

            I don’t mind talking about the death at all because it’s part of my past and nothing to be ashamed of.

      • I sleep. That usually does it. Although on one occasion someone woke me up to ask me to open the window shade (I always take the window seat) because she wanted to look out.

        I declined and went back to sleep. I don’t understand the lack of boundaries. It’s hard enough to deal with the limited space without that.

        • Was she four years old? Because otherwise – inexcusable. What is wrong with people? Only time I will wake up sleepers is if I have to use the bathroom and am trapped by the window (and I try to avoid window seats at all costs), and I usually warn them in advance that I will need to get up during the flight and offer to change seats with them.

        • Another Laura :

          My most memorable flight was one that I took when I had two small babies at home and was flying coast-to-coast at ungodly hours.

          I was asleep (reclined) when the flight attendant WOKE ME UP (sorry for the Ellen caps) and told me to move my seat forward because the guy behind me wanted me to. This was pre-9/11 but I still wonder why I complied, other than that I was so tired…too tired to argue.

          About 10 minutes later the same guy gets up and opens the overhead bin and his aluminum-sided briefcase falls out and hits me on the head, and I saw stars. May have even blacked out because I was so out of it afterward. My biggest regret is that I didn’t complain about the flight attendant. And the guy didn’t even apologize or if he did I was too concussed to remember.

          Since then I’ve become much more aware on planes.

      • Cleocatra :

        The “ear bud plucking” happened to me on the tube in London just last week … a tourist (we were on the line in from the airport) was blatantly reading my newspaper over my shoulder and took it upon herself to remove my earbud in order to ask me the name of the newspaper so she could buy a copy later. Not content with prodding me with a finger and plucking out my earbud, she also reached over and flipped the paper to the front page so that she could see the name of it for herself.

        I have NEVER felt more English in my life …

    • A few years ago, I sat next to an unaccompanied minor on the return flight to SF from a day trip to Portland OR. The kid was about 8 years old.

      He told me he was flying to visit his father, then he asked why I was flying to San Francisco. I said, “I live in San Francisco. I just came up to Portland this morning for a lunch meeting.”

      He stared at me for a moment and then said, “People don’t take airplanes to LUNCH!”

      I am so glad I didn’t have headphones in!

      • I was on a business trip yesterday and sat in front of a 4 year old girl who had never been on a plane before. Her mom explained what was happening the entire time, and the girl was so amazed and excited. It was the best plane ride ever. :)

  15. Some of you sound so unfriendly and to live such sheltered lives. Sometimes having to stay an extra 10 minues at work to possibly make a lifelong friend is worth it, at least to me. The same goes for taking off your earbuds to say hi to a fellow traveller on a plane.

    • Sometimes you know the chatty co-worker is never going to be a lifelong friend.

      • exactly. you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your co-workers…

    • Just because you are willing to spend time talking to coworkers on the chance that you make a friend, or entertain your fellow airplane traveler doesn’t mean others have to make the same choice.

      Stop pushing your choice on other people and then slamming them for being “unfriendly” and sheltered.

      If you want to go down that route, I’m more than happy to tell you that you’re sheltered if you know what’s good for others. Also, I’m willing to bet some $$ that you are one of those annoying airplane talkers, ear-bud-pullers, because you think you are so special and god’s gift to humanity, that others have to entertain you by displaying their life story for your amusement and nosiness, or to listen to you blather about your (non)special life.

  16. I am dealing with this issue now. I am a new associate at a mid-size firm. One of the other first years is entirely too chatty. He stops by my office throughout the day, walks to my window to look out of it, and talks about inane topics about which I simply do not care. If he only stopped by once per day, it would be fine, but he is really cutting into my billable time because he gets up and walks around the office every hour. I have tried to ignore him, but he just doesn’t get the hint, and since we work in the same group, I have to be nice. Sigh.

    • same as i said above, don’t let this go on. I’m sure others would invoke NGDGTCO at this point, I haven’t read it. But this is a good opportunity to practice being polite but firm and professional. It’s hard at first, I know, I still get a knot in my stomach when I have to be firm. But it gets easier with practice.

      Just say: “Hey, it’s always nice to chat, but I’m running short on time to get my work done lately, and when you drop by to chat it’s hard for me to get back on track. Can we catch up tomorrow?”

      or give other time slots, the point is to try to stretch out the time between chat sessions as much as possible, but do it with a smile on your face and a light tone in your voice. Practice in front of a mirror ahead of time, it really helps.

    • Cats Ahoy! :

      I’m not a lawyer so my situation is a little different, but I do have regular deadlines that I need to meet. I work from home once a week so I can get some actual work done. At the office, there is a constant parade of people coming into my workspace.

  17. I had a coworker once who was so oblivious to her intrusions that she kept talked once, when I turned my back to her and started composing an e-mail. No amount of dissuading would get this woman out of my office. She even once even blew off a polite request to leave.

    Another friend/coworker and I eventually came up with a system to send each other a short e-mail saying simply “911” or “rescue” when we saw her coming. It was easy to do. The receipient would then call the trapped sender with an “emergency” that required a meeting in another office. The clueless wonder would sometimes start to follow, but eventually peeled off.

    It was kind of sad that it came to that. But it worked.

    • How are people like this employed, when there are so many hardworking, motivated people un/under employed? boggles my mind.

      • law talking girl :

        In my office, the chatty and unproductive person is still employed because she is 2 years from retirement and it is far more of a hassle to fire her than it is to wait her out.

        She plucks her chin hairs at her desk, which is a cubicle in the center of the office. She even brought in one of those magnifying mirrors specifically to assist herself at this task. Hee hee!!!

        • you have got to be kidding – does she think no one notices??

          • law talking girl :

            She does not mind that people see her doing that. Our office is not very formal. Nevertheless, most people leave the personal grooming chores at home. She is a very sweet woman and a cheerful presence in the office. I think that after 30 years of office work she just does not care.

      • Anonymous :

        Because the kibble-brains in HR hire them instead of the hard-workers.

        • Chatty people aren’t necessarily less productive. They may just be, for whatever reason, willing to spend more time in the office and insensitive to the fact that others have different priorities.

          I cringe when I think back to a job I had in my mid-twenties, when I used to chat away to a coworker, a mom with two kids who pretty much always looked like she was running on four hours sleep. Now that I’m in that situation, constantly rushing to get things done so I can leave at a reasonable hour, get to the daycare on time, etc., I know how I must have driven that poor woman insane.

  18. Not a big deal at all, there’s nothing wrong with interrupting someone’s story and saying “Hey, I”m SO sorry, I”m REALLY busy right now, can I talk to you at lunch?” She’ll probably say “Oh, yeah, sorry, sure!” and then you can apologize again and say “I honestly want to hear what you’re saying I’m just really swamped.”

    I encourage people to say this to me, as I’m often chatty. I usually stop and ask them if they’re too busy to talk, and sometimes they say “actually yeah, sorry!” and I go “Oh ok no problem sorry!” NP.

  19. Can anyone tell me how Kate Spade shoes run? I’d like to buy a pair I like online, but I’ve never bought that brand before and I don’t know of a place near me where I can try some on. Thanks in advance.

    • If you vary between sizes in different brands, I’d say to choose the larger size. I’m consistently a 7 (except 7.5 in Ferragamo) and the KS 7’s fit me nicely.

    • I’m between a 7.5-8, and I usually buy an 8.

  20. If I can’t get someone out of my office, I generally say, “Sorry, I have a conference call in 10 minutes that I need to prepare for” or something like that. Works every time.

  21. I am in a similiar situation, but the person who is chatty is MY BOSS! She is my direct supervisor and can talk anywhere for 30min to an hour even if we have deadlines. Since she’s my supervisor, should I listen? Or, do I walk away because I want to make her imposed deadline? Every day, I’m distraught over whether to appease her and listen to her personal stories or finish the work (and avoid her wrath).

  22. I have an office full of chatters, including my boss. I finally decided that if I can get past their rude intrusions, they can get past the fact that I keep working while they’re talking. I continue to write e-mails, print documents, and answer phone calls mid-conversation. I tried to leave papers on my extra chair so my boss couldn’t sit down for long chats, but he literally SAT ON MY DOCUMENTS. When I’m trying to get out of his office, I end the conversation by saying, “Do you want the door open or closed?” and making my exit. Sometimes I hear him still talking to me when I’m halfway down the hall.

  23. seffaf platform :

    forced to listen to

  24. I get up from my desk and walk around the office making the person realize they are following me around if they talk too long. I tried everything else, not making eye contact, continuing to work/type. I tried being “stern” and saying I am really busy but that just seemed to open more conversation doors. Luckily she has a new chat buddy. But I do not have 45 minutes twice a day for anyone, let alone chatting.

  25. I take issue with characterizing the coworker as being “lonely” merely because she’s chatty. Maybe she’s just talkative and friendly. That might not help the writer in resolving her problem with the coworker. Jumping to the conclusion that the coworker is lonely, however, is unnecessary to solve the writer’s dilemma. People might characterize the writer as being uncollegial, which might not be a positive trait for career advancement.

    • I’m the original poster. I only that the chattiness was related to the loneliness because my coworker herself, many times, told me that she is lonely. I just figured that that feeling was causing the chattiness.

      Since I wrote this I’ve 1) felt more secure in my job, and thus, less guilty about taking chat breaks with coworkers such as this one, and 2) become friends with the coworker. I now feel like I’m more equipped to handle the situation when I don’t want to talk. I also now make time either during lunch or when I don’t have a lot of time to chat.

  26. Gosh, I had a coworker once who was actually the H.R. contact and she talked beyond WORDS. Each and every single time she passed by she HAD to say something. My final straw was when she informed myself and another coworker that she didn’t wear underwear. This woman was over 50 years old. Clueless and gross. She actually was a pivotal reason I left that job. You can’t always make nice; people have undiagnosed mental illness, etc.