Dear Lauren,

My co-workers come to me with endless stories and complaints almost all the time. While I am happy to have friends and like to have people want to talk with me, I am having a hard time getting my work done. I don't know what to do to change this. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or to make them stop liking me.

-Frustrated Listener

Dear Frustrated Listener,

It sounds as though you are afraid of expressing your wants and needs for fear of driving away or offending a friend. Orienting your life around the real, perceived, or anticipated reactions of others is a complicated issue that may show itself in other areas of your life.

Assume that you are entitled to have wants and needs and at liberty to express yourself in order to meet those needs. Take a quick scan to examine your needs at this time. Presumably you need to get your work done in order to do a good job and maintain your job as well as in order to keep a paycheck and be the type of employee and provider you want to be. These needs are neither whimsical nor irrational.

It is easiest and most effective to express yourself in a kind and clear manner. Remember that your co-workers talk to you because they have the understanding that it is okay. They have no way of knowing that you are having a hard time getting your work done -- unless you tell them.

Try confiding in them about your concern. Let them know that you may be telling them "I can't talk now" because you need to focus and get your work done. Ask for their understanding. Consider taking the initiative to connect with them in other less intrusive ways, such as over lunch, after work, or through e-mail.

Many will probably understand and respond right away. Others will not. This process will take time, awareness, and gentle persistence. If you have trouble following through or notice that this tendency is present in other areas of your life (that is, you have trouble saying 'no'), consider seeking the help of a therapist. A therapist can help you develop awareness as well as believe in and assert your voice.

Best Regards,


About Author / Additional Info:
Lauren Trecosta is a Licensed Professional Counselor offering virtual Individual, Relationship and Group counseling through SKYPE webcam and teleconferencing. In-office counseling is available on a limited basis.