Q: My co-worker recently moved into a new subdivision in a suburb pretty far out from Boston. Every Monday, he comes in with a new story of the animal he “had” to kill. These animals have ranged from ants and mice to birds and foxes. I’m a person who prefers other options besides killing (options I’ve suggested), or just trying to live with the creatures. I’ve tried to excuse myself from these conversations, but the configuration of our desks makes it quite hard to stay out of earshot. He knows my beliefs, but truly believes what he’ doing is necessary. How do I stop him from telling me his odd tales of murder?
A: Unfortunately, the subtle approach hasn’t worked. And given your office setup, escaping doesn’t seem possible. It seems your only choice is a direct approach. That means talking to him. The most important elements of the conversation are that it be done quietly and privately. Your first goal is to remedy the situation; your second goal is not to embarrass him or put him on the defensive. Set up a time to talk, so that you’re not jumping on him at the moment he’s telling his story. Don’t make him out to be the bad guy: Simply ask him if he realizes his stories are making you very uncomfortable. By “asking,” you’re forcing him to acknowledge that his stories have upset you. Next, ask him to please stop telling them when you’re around. Again, by asking him you are putting him in a position where he has to commit to a specific action. Hopefully, given this approach, he will stop. Good luck.