Whether you work at a coffee shop, a library or in an open office plan, you're bound to have people talking to you from time to time. Some chattiness among strangers and casual acquaintances can be fun -- and is even good for you.
However, when you're trying to work, too much of it can be downright annoying. This can especially be the case if you're an entrepreneur or solopreneur. Generally speaking, when you run your own business, if you don't work, you don't make money. Plus, the boss isn't going to come by to shut down the chitchat.
So what's a solo worker with a well-meaning-but-work-inhibiting coworker to do while remaining polite, or even friendly with the chatty person? We have four tips to get this done, so you can have your neighbor and keep your sanity, too.
If you've had a previous conversation or two with the loquacious person in question, discourage the small talk from starting up again by being unavailable for listening from the start. Don easily visible earphones or headphones, preferably before the talker arrives at work, and simply smile and wave at them when they do show up. Only the truly obtuse would attempt to shout pleasantries at someone so clearly unavailable.
Be (a little) disingenuous
If you're not an ear- or headphone wearer (or you simply would rather not use a prop to get out of long conversations with a work acquaintance), just speak up. Tell your desk neighbor that while you'd love to hear more about her new diet or her niece's baptism, you're slammed and really have to get X or Y finished. What you say need not be a total fabrication; after all, you are at your coworking space or cafe with your laptop and other business-related accessories to work. You wouldn't be there if you weren't. Most reasonable people, even the garrulous ones, will know to take this information as a polite signal to button up.
Perhaps ear accouterments and white lies about looming work deadlines bought you a few weeks of peace, but your long-winded fellow solopreneur is back at the conversation starting with a vengeance, trying to gossip with you like you two are pals at happy hour.
If that's the case, you may need to bring on the stronger stuff: honesty, or at least a polite version of it. Gather your courage and kindly but firmly say something like, "I've really enjoyed getting to know you and would love to keep chatting, but starting my own business/going out on my own has been way more work than I anticipated, and these days I am swamped. Maybe we can have lunch someday soon so we can catch up."
If none of these subtler moves have done the trick and you're still finding yourself on the receiving end of far too much prattle (or you're just tired of having your AirPods in), consider flexible office space or getting yourself a private office. At Metro Offices, our private, lockable, customizable workspaces start at $800 a month (and that includes use of our business address and mail services). You'll still have access to all of our amenities -- shared kitchen, cafe and other common areas, state-of-the-art fitness center, free coffee, tea, and filtered water, to name just a few -- but you'll get privacy (and quiet) when you work.
Go with Metro
Don't go into the red for a long-term office lease you can't afford. Get a private office with Metro Offices instead. Click here to compare what it costs to run your own office with simply letting Metro Offices do the work for you.
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