Prying Topics from Coworkers

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Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by jcorozza on Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:40 pm

So, in the past I've had coworkers ask if I'm married, if I have kids, or if I have a boyfriend. Generally I don't mind, answer, and move on. Today, on the other hand, my co-supervisor asked if I had kids. And then spent 30 minutes telling me why I should have at least one kid naturally (I want to adopt, and I have wanted to adopt since I was a kid), and that you never know when birth control is going to work, and if it doesn't, that's God's decision, and on and on and on. I mostly just nodded and occasionally interjected, and at the end told her that I'm agnostic, and therefore God stays out of my sex life.

Anyone have any good ideas for how to deal with these situations? I have to work with this person a lot, so I can't really just ignore her. But my family planning and my religion are my own damned business. What's the diplomatic way to say that?
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Re: Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by eselle28 on Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:48 pm

Oh, geez, I'm sorry your co-supervisor was being such a weird jerk. I often go to the solution you already found, which is characterizing the conversation as being about one's sex life. I have both a sister and a friend who get prying questions about the same topic for other reasons, and they've had some luck with it too. Depending on what kind of tone can be used with her, you might be able to tease tease, "Wow, you're really interested in my sex life today. Do we get to talk about your and your husband's next?" If not, something more like, "Yeah, I'm really not comfortable talking about my sex life at work. Can we change the subject?" on autorepeat might be needed.

I would not mention religion at all. That's a completely different topic, and one you don't want to make a subject of discussion. I think shutting down the whole conversation as weird and inappropriate can sometimes hit people with the clue by four, at least if they're otherwise at least a little bit aware that it's bad to be boring/prying/creepy.

If your supervisor is generally sort of immune to the clue by four, I'd suggest coming up with an office appropriate task that always needs doing. Something like a nod and then, "That's one way of thinking about it. I'm going to go check the printer now," can sometimes work with a person who's supposed to be supervising.

As a last resort, is there HR or is the other supervisor a reasonable person? (I know that in some situations neither applies.) Oh, and also? If this happens more than once, I'm going to suggest that you start writing down accounts of exactly what was said, and when, and where. If you do end up needing to involve people other than you and her, it will be immensely helpful to have a good record of what happened.
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Re: Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by jcorozza on Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:01 pm

She is very immune to the clue-by-four, sadly. She calls me for like 30 minutes sometimes when I'm in my other office, and I will say things like, "oh, I should really write these progress notes" and she will continue to talk to me for 15 more minutes. But when we're both in the on site office, it's tiny, and there isn't really anywhere to go - it's just two desks in what's designed to be a bedroom. The second script is probably my best bet. We don't have the same sense of humor. And she wouldn't mind if I asked personal questions about her life AT ALL. Thanks!
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Re: Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by Caffeinated on Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:49 pm

This sounds like it might be a situation where's it's useful to aggressively turn the questions back to the person who asked them.

Coworker: Do you have kids?
You: Nope.
Coworker: Oh you really should because God or something.
You: How about you? How many kids do you have?
Coworker: [number of kids]
You: How old? What are their names? Tell me all the things about them at length and in great detail.
Coworker: [talks about her own kids at length]
You: (after a bit) Oh look, [work thing].
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Re: Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by jcorozza on Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:58 pm

Oh man, I really want to use the phrasing "tell me all the things about them at length and in great detail".
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Re: Prying Topics from Coworkers

Post by reboot on Thu Oct 01, 2015 12:09 am

My go to is, "Why do you ask?" After they reply, I say, "And why is that of interest?" And smile politely
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