Author Topic: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you  (Read 5747 times)

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EMuir

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Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« on: October 15, 2012, 05:18:56 PM »
I was sitting in my cubicle this morning.  There are three other desks in my office, and an open area between two of them.  My manager came in and was chatting about non-work stuff with those two coworkers.   All of these people know of my involvement with local animal anti-cruelty organizations.  I was separated from the conversation by a cubicle wall.

They started discussing living on farms, and then went on to discuss pets vs cats on farms and how feral farm cats overbred and became pests, and violent ways of how to deal with having too many.  Then they discussed cats and their tendencies to get into car engines in the winter, there was also a comment by one of them on how funny it was that their farm dogs chased the cats.

I was sitting there silently horrified.  I didn't know what to say that would not make me look bad in front of my manager, yet keep them from discussing that kind of stuff in front of me. 

Later when I was invited to coffee with them I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying "No thanks, I've had enough discussion of animal cruelty today". 

What to say? 

blueyzca01

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2012, 05:28:57 PM »
i dont care who was talking about it.  If someone is making you uncomfortable, you're uncomfortable.  You just need to be polite when you ask someone to tone it down.

If my boss was saying something I felt queasy about, I'd pop my head up from my desk and say, "Hey guys/gals, do you think you could tone down the conversation a little?  just hearing about kitties makes me sad, and I don't want to start crying here at work!"**

**I really don't, but I think it's best to make it about you, rather than them. 

No one ever says, "Why me?!?!" when something good happens.

Only me

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2012, 06:05:44 PM »
I think this depends on the conversation. Plus could they have considered you easdropping?

I think if I were in this situation i would have done as blueyzca01 mentioned and just said something like "hey I'm hear can you keep down the conversation please".

NotTheNarcissist

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2012, 06:25:47 PM »
Typical office politics could make this one a little hairy. I mean if they knew your background then this begs the question of why did they even go there?

Its difficult to know for 100% sure, but I think if it were me and if I felt like they could handle the honesty I would ask them something along the lines of if you know I am active in the nonprofit animal kindness society why would you discuss animal cruelty in front of me.

A lot of people  cant handle that directness. That is what makes it touchy.

Should the situation occur again, you could say if you guys insist on discussing a situation that you know is near to my heart can you at least do it in the hallway or break room so I can continue to work? As it is, it's pretty disruptive.

This is touchy & I will keep pondering on this in case I come up with anything else. Hopefully someone else will pipe up with better responses.

As a fellow animal lover I am so sorry to hear you are having to endure this.

Hillia

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2012, 08:11:36 PM »
I think if you approach it in a 'this is a sensitive topic for me, could you please hold it down?' rather than confrontational/accusatory 'how dare you talk about this!' most people would quiet down or move the conversation.

As is often said, make it about you, not them.

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Venus193

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2012, 08:45:42 PM »
This kind of thing upsets me, too, but since I'm used to playing by men's rules in the office I'd say "Could you please take this conversation elsewhere?  I will be on a conference call in a few minutes."

Never even hint that anything makes you cry.

Roe

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2012, 08:51:40 PM »
Headphones?

Docslady21

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2012, 08:51:49 PM »
I was sitting in my cubicle this morning.  There are three other desks in my office, and an open area between two of them.  My manager came in and was chatting about non-work stuff with those two coworkers.   All of these people know of my involvement with local animal anti-cruelty organizations.  I was separated from the conversation by a cubicle wall.

They started discussing living on farms, and then went on to discuss pets vs cats on farms and how feral farm cats overbred and became pests, and violent ways of how to deal with having too many.  Then they discussed cats and their tendencies to get into car engines in the winter, there was also a comment by one of them on how funny it was that their farm dogs chased the cats.

I was sitting there silently horrified.  I didn't know what to say that would not make me look bad in front of my manager, yet keep them from discussing that kind of stuff in front of me. 

Later when I was invited to coffee with them I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying "No thanks, I've had enough discussion of animal cruelty today". 

What to say?

Are you allowed to wear headphones? Because I would put those on.

I think if you say anything, it's going to get touchy. Everyone but you was okay with the conversation (even if it was wrong), so you would be seen as being "sensitive", especially considering the nature of the conversation and your diametrically opposing viewpoints. There's nothing wrong with being blunt, but if you want to avoid icky office wars you could:

Say you're on the phone, please quiet down.
Say you can't concentrate, could they move their conversation?
Put on headphones.
Say you're trying to eat and the convo is ruining your appetite.
Um, guys? The wall here isn't doing much to block your conversation. Can you move it somewhere? I need to be at my desk and I'm having a little trouble concentrating.


cheyne

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 09:20:26 PM »
This kind of thing upsets me, too, but since I'm used to playing by men's rules in the office I'd say "Could you please take this conversation elsewhere?  I will be on a conference call in a few minutes."

Never even hint that anything makes you cry.

Venus speaks words of wisdom all women in the workplace should heed.  Do not say their conversation upsets you.  Use the conference call or phone conversation tactic (bonus points if you do have a call to make). 

kareng57

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2012, 01:48:51 AM »
I too would agree with the headphones-recommendation.

However, I wouldn't think that these people were necessarily having an animal-cruelty conversation in your presence just to upset you.  Were they perhaps either current or former farm-kids?  If so, perhaps, they were just talking about stuff that happens on a farm.  There are barn-cats -they serve a purpose even when many city-suburban cat owners would never dream of letting their cats outside.  And farm dogs are also usually there for a purpose - including chasing away the cats, when necessary.

lovepickles

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2012, 02:08:29 AM »
I used to work in a seriously inappropriate and juvenile office setting so I took on the innocent little sister role and frequently said things like:

"No! Stop! I'll have nightmares!" Then I'd cover my ears or put my head on my desk.
"I'm telling." Sometimes accompanied with an "ooh" before hand.
"Eeek!"
"This isn't PG!"

Also if someone was being nasty and sarcastic I would just raise my hand and ask if this was an example of sarcasm. After awhile I would just have to raise my hand and someone would apologize or clarify what they should have said.

It became a bit of a joke but eventually my peers got the message that I really didn't want to hear it. They would make some jokes about my delicate ears but in the long run they actually treated me with more consideration and it got the office running a bit more respectfully, at least when I was in earshot.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2012, 02:32:27 AM by lovepickles »

Iris

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2012, 02:23:05 AM »
This kind of thing upsets me, too, but since I'm used to playing by men's rules in the office I'd say "Could you please take this conversation elsewhere?  I will be on a conference call in a few minutes."

Never even hint that anything makes you cry.

This.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

Miss Unleaded

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2012, 02:53:06 AM »
This kind of thing upsets me, too, but since I'm used to playing by men's rules in the office I'd say "Could you please take this conversation elsewhere?  I will be on a conference call in a few minutes."

Never even hint that anything makes you cry.

I totally agree. 

I actually think that if you have a cordial relationship with your coworkers it's ok to ask them to switch the subject.  Just say something like 'Hi guys.  Could you please switch the subject?  I find it distracting to listen to.'  If you think this wouldn't go down well, then headphones are a good option as well.

lovepickles

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2012, 03:22:21 AM »
I've got to disagree with the whole "mans world" mentality of hiding your feelings and not crying. Be honest. You spend 8-10 waking hours a day around these people and if they knew you better as a person I doubt they would purposefully say upsetting things if they could comprehend that they bothered you. Give people a chance. You'll get a lot farther than the stone cold routine. 

Venus193

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Re: Getting people to stop an upsetting conversation near you
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2012, 03:37:43 AM »
I disagree.   I worked for nine years at the same company and was once at lunch with my boss and some magazine people.  One of them began talking about something involving animal cruelty that he witnessed while traveling on business and my boss must have known that this disgusted me.  He said nothing to stop this although he could easily have made that person think he was risking the loss of a major deal.

I kept my mouth shut so as not to make a scene in public.  Losing one's cool at work can be career suicide.