Avoiding Conversation When you Need Some Alone Time

When in the office there are so many distractions. There are websites to check out, bathrooms to go to, and people to chat with, to name a few. Many of these are up to one’s decision making and how they want to manage their distractions. But chatting with your peers or friends in the office is a two-way street. You can either initiate the discussion or be approached for a conversation. These discussions, especially ones where you are approached, can be major time-sucks and keep you from focusing on what you want or need to be doing. So how can you get out of the discussions that are unwanted without being rude? There are a few ways to navigate this situation:

  1. Tell the other person: “I’m really sorry, but I don’t have time to chat right now. I’ve got to get this work done.” This is the most straightforward and honest approach. With this you are being direct and to the point. You may need to jump into the middle of their sentence and cut them off - that is OK. If you are working on something and need complete focus, than don’t let them jeopardize your time. It is, after all, your time, not theirs

  2. Wait for the person to stop talking and then get back to work. You don’t have to add anything new to the discussion. Just wait for it to naturally run its course and then start working again. The risk with this approach is they may never stop talking

  3. Look at your phone or computer screen the entire duration of the conversation. This skews more towards the “rude” end of the spectrum, but demonstrates a clear message to the person conversing with, or to, you: that you have stuff you need to get done and no time for distractions

These approaches assume that you are already in the middle of a conversation. But what are some of the best ways to avoid these conversations when you need to get some work done?

  1. Go somewhere else. Lock yourself in a conference room. Hide under your desk. Do whatever it takes, but go somewhere that does not surround yourself with other people. Having some peace and quiet will ensure others do not spark up a conversation

  2. Wear your headphones. If there isn’t an option to create physical distance between you and a Chatty Cathy, your headphones serve as a visible barrier. They make others second-guess their decision to come chat with you

While these side-conversations are excellent for building better relationships, they are, by nature, a waste of time. If you are running up against a deadline or want to get ahead of your work you need to avoid these conversations at all cost. Now you have the tools to avoid these discussions both before they happen and while they are happening.