I have a coworker who talks to themself and is loud with food (chews on ice, smacks gum for hours on end and eats crunchy foods also, sometimes throughout the course of the day). We share an office, so it makes it hard to concentrate on work at times. How do I broach this issue with this coworker?
Wow, you just described my nightmare. I would talk about all this in the context of efficiency and focus. Tell your coworker that you need to be able to concentrate while you’re working, and random noises like eating and talking can really throw you off. I imagine that you do similar work, so they should understand and respect your need for quiet. I wouldn’t bring up the fact that these behaviors are annoying as hell, just that it impedes your productivity. I might also recommend a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, if possible, and some podcasts. This person might just be a Chatty Cathy, and all the solo conversations could be an attempt to engage you, but you don’t have to participate. Earbuds and a hard stare at your screen can do a lot to communicate the need to be left alone. Ask any woman!
Over a year ago I fully cut my ex-partner and abuser out of my life, and my mental and emotional health has much improved because of it. I still have nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety attacks, though they’re becoming less frequent as I continue to heal. Unfortunately, there’s a major problem that’s interfering with my recovery: Two of my closest friends are still friends with my abuser. I’ve expressed to them how hurtful this is, especially considering that they were the people I confided in when I was at my absolute lowest from my ex’s abuse, but, even still, their relationship with him persists.
It’s gotten to the point where seeing their interactions (though they try to keep them hidden) can send me completely spiraling, interfering with work, sleep and how I socialize with others. It’s like the wound keeps getting ripped back open over and over again, and it’s agonizing. I’ve been friends with these two for almost a decade, and thinking of letting them go is killing me, but I can’t keep going on like this. I don’t even know if it’s OK to ask that a friend cut out another friend from their life. I’m afraid it makes me a terrible person to put our friendships in that sort of hostage situation where either my abuser goes or I go.
What on Earth do I do? Do I even have the right to ask this of my friends, and if I do, how do I express this to them? Something has to give, but I’m totally at a loss. Bonita, help!
Emotionally Unstable in Eastside
Do you have a therapist? I strongly recommend you get one if you don’t have one already. Knowing that there is a person who will listen to you without judgment and will always keep your best interests at heart can be powerful and life-changing, more so than what we can just do for ourselves. I think that a therapist would agree with my feelings here, and I feel that you should dump those friends. If they’re aware of the way this person triggers trauma responses from you that can derail your life for a while, then they’re making a pretty awful choice. They know about the abuse and they know the effect it had on you, so I have an impossible time imagining how they justify being friends with this person.
Don’t think of this as an ultimatum, because I’m not saying that you should go to them and give them a choice. Make this choice yourself, and for yourself. You are on a path to healing, and these two are derailing you—simple as that. You can still call them your friends, but you are under no obligation to hang out with them or follow their social media if your abuser will be in play. Surround yourself with people who are helping to move you towards your best self. Right now, these two ain’t it. Cut them off until they cut him off, and feel great about it.
Need advice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our anonymous online form at flagpole.com/get-advice.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.