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I work with a great team of people. I'm the only female, and I'm younger, while the others are middle-aged. We usually get along great, have fun, engage in ridiculous banter, and share a lot of laughs.

But there are some days (like today) where at least one of them isn't in a social mood. When you're around these people for 8 hours every day (and sharing a break room for at least half the day), you want to establish relationships. I'm thrilled that I have, and I really do like these people.

But on some days when the manager barely looks at me and only nods or grunts responses to my attempted small talk, it hurts my feelings.

Some days we will literally chat for an hour about nothing important. Although an introvert, he can be quite engaging when he has things to say. But once in a while, he just keeps to himself.

It's quite uncomfortable for me to share a break room with someone who won't engage in conversation with me. I wish to respect his space, but at the same time, I wish he would offer common courtesy.

I know it isn't personal, but I'm a friendly and engaging person by nature and I just wish that those who aren't could learn that it doesn't take much to establish a connection, and that's important every day - even if its just a small gesture.

Now, I guarantee you that tomorrow will be better; it always is, and then I wonder why I ever thought I had a problem.

But this same thing will happen a couple weeks later. It always does and I'll be back in this mindset...

How can I handle it better when this happens? Why do so many men often do this? How do people not realize how rude they are?

I think the solution is to change my attitude and remain optimistic for a better day tomorrow.

Any suggestions or better ideas?

EDIT:

Just in case I didn't make it clear, I have a good working relationship with this guy and with all the rest of them. We like each other and get along well. We poke fun and banter, which is a good sign of comfort and amiability. That's why it's strange for me on the occasions where he just didn't even care to acknowledge me.

It's not really that I need conversation so much as approval that I'm accepted "today". A smile, a greeting... something that shows connectivity. If I don't get that all day, it affects me. People generally like to feel that they're noticed, that they matter.

I work for a cleaning crew at an energy plant. Our contractor hires each employee full-time but we don't have full-time work to do. That's why there is so much down time. We aren't slackers, either. We work honestly and thoroughly.

Right now I'm hanging with the guys and we're all chilling in the break room on our phones. Each in our own world. And that's ok. But we had some laughs earlier so it balanced out.

I just have a hard time on the days where my greetings aren't acknowledged or there's not much camaraderie at ALL.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Sep 29 at 11:06
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    If you want some perspective from "the other side", see this question. Honestly, when we turn down a conversation, it is meant to avoid being rude, not the other way around. – Ramon Melo Oct 7 at 2:29

15 Answers 15

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But on some days when the manager barely looks at me and only nods or grunts responses to my attempted small talk, it hurts my feelings. [...]

I think the solution is to change my attitude and remain optimistic for a better day tomorrow.

Yup, this is the solution. It seems that you are taking it personally when you should try not to take it that way.

Perhaps you are an extrovert, but not everybody is like that, and even extroverts have not-so-talkative days... I suggest you give them some leeway.

Small talk and water-cooler moments are good in a way, to make the environment run smoothly with your coworkers, but some days when there are more tasks to finish or deadlines coming it's better to focus on the tasks at hand.

That being said, it seems that you are quite perceptive to notice the days when your coworkers are not talkative, so when you perceive that, that should be your hint to not try to force small talk and conversation with them that day, and use that time to chill on your own or work on tasks you have pending.

How can I handle it better when this happens? Why do so many men often do this? How do people not realize how rude they are?

To be honest, I don't think you are handling this badly (unless you are continuously insisting on having small talk). What you should do is to understand that they are not in a mood of small talking that day, and move on.

Also, and to be fair, I don't think this is exclusive to men only: women also have days when they don't want to engage in small talk, so don't frame this as a gender thing :)

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Sep 30 at 12:31
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You may see yourself as a friendly and engaging person. But it's also possible that some other people see you as an annoying person, whose excessive conversation kills productivity, who can't separate business from private life, etc. Or maybe someone is in the break room because they need time away from the computer to think about a complex problem. An introvert can usually socialize enough to get along, but on a stressful day (due to work issues, family problems, or even just lack of sleep), such excess chatter just becomes intolerable. There are times when chatting for an hour isn't appropriate. Learn to respect that, and you don't need to take it personally when it happens. It may be possible to gauge a co-worker's mood from non-verbal cues before launching a conversation, if you want to avoid such awkwardness altogether.

If your attempts at conversation are met with silence, a polite way to end the conversation might be, "I see that you are preoccupied at the moment. If there's anything that's on your mind, I'm here to listen." Maybe that will invite them to open up, maybe it won't. Either way is fine.

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    This! A lot of people are oblivious to their own attitude. Someone who perceives himself as friendly may actually be really annoying to others. I had work friends who would literally spend 1-2 hours talking continuously. – Long Sep 29 at 11:50
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    Ugh, I agree with everything in the first paragraph and totally disagree with the last paragraph. I'm somewhat an introvert, and if someone said that to me it would definitely not make me feel better - it'd either come across as passive-aggressive or condescending. When I'm having an "introvert" day, I don't want to have to manage that sort of socialization. – Joe Sep 29 at 15:13
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    That last paragraph comes across as incredibly passive aggressive. If someone said that to me my eyes would roll so hard they'd be at risk of falling out. – eps Sep 29 at 16:57
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    Concur with Joe and eps on that last paragraph. If you're being met with silence, you don't "end the conversation." It hasn't started yet, and nothing more needs to be said. – Erin Anne Sep 29 at 18:54
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    That last comment seems like the opposite of acknowledging their desire not to talk. Aside from that, nice answer. – Mad Physicist Sep 29 at 20:26
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It's quite uncomfortable for me to share a break room with someone who won't engage in conversation with me.

The point of a break is to have a break from the obligated activities of the workplace.

You might prefer to spend your break socializing, someone else might prefer to spend it quietly in their thoughts.

Ultimately this is an issue of consent.

No, it's not a capitol-C file a grievance with HR issue of consent, but the ultimate principle is actually the same one that is at the root of those issues.

  • your co-workers are employed to perform their job functions, not to provide for your extracurricular entertainment

  • your desire to socialize does not compel other employees to expend their break time making small talk with you

  • another employee's willingness to make small talk with you on one day does not remove their right to decline to do so on another

I wish to respect his space, but at the same time...

If you truly respect another person's right to self determination, then when it is clear to you that they are not in a mood to be social, you must respect their preference to have a quiet non-interactive break, generally, or on any given day.

Otherwise, no, you really are not respecting their rights; what you are doing is charging ahead even knowing that they do not consent to the interaction you are trying to force.

I wish he would offer common courtesy.

This feels innocent to you, and in the grand scheme of things it's not too serious an example. But at its root, it is still an example of exactly the same denial of other's personhood thinking as that of the man on the street demanding that the young woman passing by "smile" for his entertainment

Sure... in this case "it's just small talk"...

But the issue is the same - either when made aware of the issue you are willing to back up and revise your thinking to respect another human being's right to make their own choices, be their own person, and do their actual job... or you are not.

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To make you think from the other persons view I'm going to ask the same question from the other perspective. I'll make assumptions where I don't have enough information. I'll try to keep the writing style from the question here:

How should I deal with coworkers who won't understand I don't feel like engaging in small talk?

I work with a great team of people. We are a bunch of middle-aged men and one younger female. We usually get along great, have fun, engage in ridiculous banter, and share a lot of laughs.

But there are some days (like today) when I'm (or someone else) not in a mood for chit-chat. Most of the team understands it, but the younger female doesn't get it.

Some days we will literally chat for an hour about nothing important. She's an extrovert, and is really nice to talk to. But once in a while, I'm not in the mood for socializing, and just want to keep to myself.

But she constantly tries to talk to me. I'm making it clear that I'm not in a mood for talking, but she just continues. I really need this time for myself once in a while.

It's quite uncomfortable for me to share a break room with someone who won't understand I need to have some time for myself. I wish that I was in a better mood and felt like talking, but at the same time, I wish she would offer common courtesy.

I know it's not personal, but I need some time for myself once in a while. I guess it's easy for her to talk all the time, but for me it takes a lot of energy and effort. And when something is going on in my life I simply don't have that energy.

Now, I guarantee you that tomorrow will be better; it always is, and then I wonder why I ever thought I had a problem.

In a couple of weeks I might have an off day again. And I'll be back in this mindset...

How can I handle it better when this happens? Why do so many women often do this? How do people not realize how rude they are?

I think the solution is to change my attitude and remain optimistic for a better day tomorrow.

Any suggestions or better ideas?

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    This is an excellent answer that deserves more upvotes. – Kevin Sep 29 at 14:26
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    This was my first thought on reading the question. The OP is what I would consider "too in your face". & doesn't realise it. I put up with it most times, but today, just leave me be. I don't really have time to chat for an hour every day, I'm supposed to be working. – Tetsujin Sep 29 at 18:18
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I fit the demographic of the other people in your environment basically to a "T". I'm an introverted, middle-aged, white, male programmer. I'm also learning disabled too, which I'm personally convinced there are a lot of us who end up as programmers for a variety of reasons but I have no data to back that up. I finally found a job last year that was 100% remote and I've had the happiest year of my life, in part because I haven't had a single "break-room" moment in a year now and it is absolutely blissful.

To an introvert, particularly one who possibly has other issues like social anxiety or other cognitive impairment like I do, there is a ton of stimulus in an unknown situation like that. Anyone can walk in, and it takes a lot of mental effort for me to be able to interact. For starters, non-verbal cues are difficult for me to read. Especially if it is a social situation where I'm also expected to talk. I can't talk at the same time I read someone's face. When you're in a "break room" situation, that's basically 100% of the people unless you're scheduling your lunches with other people and then you can't eat when you're hungry, nor can the other people you are eating with, etc.

Secondly, I really like my family. When I had to physically go in to the office, if I spent time with my co-workers at lunch, it meant an extra 45-60 minutes I'd have to spend in the office. No offense to any of my previous co-workers, but I like my family more. If I'm given the choice between scarfing down my lunch in 5 minutes or making banter about people I care about less than the people I am literally giving that time up for, I'm going with my family like 95% of the time.

So put yourself in the shoes of someone who has either or both of those issues, or possibly other issues such as they have a busy day, just received bad news, had a meeting where they underperformed, etc. Is it likewise uncomfortable to share a break room with someone who requires entertainment for 60 minutes?

Perhaps he is being rude and does, literally, only grunt at you. I don't know if there's anything you can do about that. They might just be a rude person if that is really the case. But it also might be possible that when you are being more commandeering of their time than you think (e.g. "rude"). It sounds silly to someone who is extroverted, but it takes a lot of work for someone like me to engage in conversation (as noted above), it takes so much energy that I have trouble keeping track of time. And then when I use to get back to my desk, I was exhausted and had difficulty focusing on work for an hour or so.

Therefore, it might not be something that they can "learn". If there were a way to "learn" how to not be exhausted by social interactions, I would hope that I would have picked up on it by now but unfortunately, I'm not aware of any way to "learn" how to make it easier to interact with people.

I reject your idea that "many men" often do this. I've encountered plenty of women who are more like me than you and plenty of men who are the opposite. In fact, on a purely anecdotal level, I would have drawn the exact opposite conclusion about gender playing a role.

There are two potential strategies that you might be able to try, each with a slightly different outcome:

  1. When this happens again to label the situation with a closed-ended question. E.g. if he's staring into the sandwich, you might say, "Important meeting coming up this afternoon?" Doesn't matter if he does or not. It's an easy question to answer (essentially "no"), which gives a little extra time to respond. It also might get at the root of the issue and they will correct it if they feel like opening up. If you feel like prying, which I suggest treading lightly, just deflect and say something like, 'Oh, you just looked really focused I thought you might have something important on your mind.'

  2. Figure out what types of interests you have in common and as a least common dominator, use work. A lot of people like myself would be happy to talk shop and have little else to discuss. I have super niche interests personally so in addition to all of the problems I mentioned above about social problems, I also have little in common with most people. I'm a professional musician so when I'm not working at work, I'm doing my hobby which is also work. Even if things like sports interested me, I wouldn't have the time to stay up-to-date on them. This is especially true since they are your manager. If I had an employee ask me about the work I was doing or somethign that I knew how to do, I'd happily spend several hours a week talking to them about it. If they want to talk about sports or God-forbid, politics? That's going to shut me down too.

Also, I'd be remiss in not pointing out that male managers are disproportionately likely to feel uncomfortable around women employees (60% according to CNBC):

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have brought huge attention to the challenges women face at work, but a new survey finds that 60% of male managers say they’re uncomfortable participating in regular work activities with women, including mentoring, working one-on-one or socializing.

Which also may be impacting this person's attitude towards you as well. As unfortunate as that is, you might also wish to try to not engage 1:1 but be in a group during lunch. Also anecdotally, I had a co-worker in the past who did on-call work and would occasionally have to be on a conference call on the weekend. Sometimes he would be paired up with a female colleague. His spouse at the time was quite jealous of this to the point that they encouraged them to apply for a role where they weren't on calls with other women. I'm not suggesting that this is a common issue, nor certainly that this is good, but nonetheless something that may well be playing a role in this manager's attitude towards you.

Edit due to additional context:

That's very good to know about that he initiates etc. I would say that particularly because he is your manager he knows you are a bit extroverted and on the days he has energy for it initiates. Its also quite possible he enjoys the conversation and has the mental fortitude for it on that day but on others, he's too drained. I would say that I would still stand by my answer with the possible caveat that with this new context, I'd definitely suggest leaving him alone on days that he doesn't initiate. On days he does initiate, you might still consider being the one to "end" it so-to-speak. It might lead to more repeat encounters if he doesn't feel drained after every one. At the end of the day, humans are really complex and the outside world doesn't help at all. There's probably no hard and fast rule other than to simply say the premise of your question is predicated on him being mutable in ways that you want but the "best" outcome in many of these types of circumstances is being mutable in ways they prefer. By doing that, you'll probably end up with a situation where both of you have - intentionally or otherwise - compromised into a healthy, professional relationship. (Which isn't to say you have an UNhealthy relationship now, just that as time progresses, if two people act in ways the other finds amenable the relationship tends to grow closer than if the opposite were to take place.

I'd also like to say that I never intended to make you think you were a "silly chatty girl"; as I mentioned earlier, my experience has been that men are more predisposed to be chatty. That's purely anecdotal and in neither case should be taken that you are silly. Perhaps unaware, but not silly or wrong to be the way you are. My goal was only to help you to realize that "rude" or otherwise pejorative descriptors of behavior are often in the eye of the beholder. If you are like I was when I stated the workforce, I had only been really exposed to people within 1-2 years of me. People act differently at different ages, even without introducing the concept of subcultures (particularly large swaths of people of one ethnicity or another or possibly country/continent) or sub-cultures (e.g. in the US the "south" vs New England vs. West Coast etc.) As you experience more diversity, you'll likely find that there are a lot of things you might find to be acceptable, desirable, or even the "default" and that other people might find them to be unacceptable, undesirable, and the opposite to be the "default".

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    Even a simple question like "Important meeting coming up this afternoon?" could be interpreted as an attempt to engage in small talk. They have no way of telling how far you will press if they give any response, so their safest response, if they are not interested in chatting, is not to answer at all, or to make up an answer that will make you go away. – 200_success Sep 29 at 8:34
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    A lot of empathy for your situation—I eventually learned (somewhat by imitating my extroverted father) how to pass at social interaction (it’s possible I’ve even developed some small skill), but it’s exhausting and I’m not always even decent at it. It requires real effort—effort that might be better spent solving problems at or away from the keyboard, depending on the situation. Thanks for sharing. – D. Ben Knoble Sep 29 at 13:02
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    Can vouch that if someone is a nonstop talker, I'll do everything in my power not to give them an inch lest they take a mile. – Ejaz Sep 29 at 22:09
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    Randomly attempting to start a Teams/Zoom call without any preamble or even message asking if one is available is the new, remote form of walking up to one's desk and diving right into an unwanted conversation. Luckily it's easier to decline a Zoom call than extricate one from an in-person accosting. – Todd Wilcox Sep 30 at 6:54
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    The fact that they are already telling you that you talk too much even if it's couched in jest-- consider that their feedback is likely to be more apt and relevant than someone from the Internet he doesn't truly have the full picture. – Ejaz Oct 4 at 5:19
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It's not a "men" thing. I myself (female) despise small talk, as it is very tiring. Not only you have to think of things to say when it gets quiet, but you also have a restricted field of conversation, a little faux-pas and you will be seen as "weird" by your coworkers.

When I take a break, I don't want people to come and interrupt my thoughts. I have a lot of things going on in my mind. A bug I'm trying to mentally fix, a family problem... Talking to people in times like this where they are focused and most of the time stressed or angry can be really annoying.

You think that people avoiding small talk is disrespectful, but believe me, talking to people on their break and expecting them to always be cheerful and ready to engage a long conversation IS what's disrespectful. You shouldn't take things personally, and don't expect people to always act the same towards you. Some people NEED quiet time and space when they are tired/stressed, and you trying to make them talk only makes it worse.

Finally, we are all grown adults, and we can understand and respect each other. As an extrovert, you think that you don't belong inside a group of introverts and you feel like you're the only one making efforts. But the introverts we're talking about really try hard without you noticing. The fact that they talk to you sometimes says a lot, they'd rather work from home where there is nobody, and yet, there they are. You don't know the amount of energy it takes. So expecting everybody to share the same amount of enthusiasm towards small talk is a little bit selfish.

My advice is to learn to respect people's space. Everyone doesn't feel the same as you, and you shouldn't expect it either. People show interest in many different ways and people are attracted to different things. As long as no one is breaking the rules or trying to purposefully hurt you, you shouldn't take it personally. Just accept the way they are and adapt to it, just like they adapted to their extrovert society.

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  • First paragraph sums the issue nicely up. – Erik Sep 30 at 9:19
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    Thank you. I get the introverted thing. The issue isn't that I need conversation all the time. We all need quiet time here and there. But if nobody says hi, greets me, or says much of anything all day... I do think that's rude. Generally, people like to feel welcomed when they go to work. It doesn't take much. That's all I'm asking. – ellenoid Oct 1 at 14:00
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    @ellenoid I think it’s reasonable to want to be acknowledged, conversed with etc. It probably means you are wired like a normal, healthy human being. But when you say “that’s all I’m asking” that’s where your misconception about the situation begins to reveal itself, because you’re “asking” it of someone whose job duties don’t include making you feel good about your day. You can’t force your needs on someone else who has their own idea of how to stay healthy, happy and productive that conflicts with your personal needs. You can talk to your boss if you’re unhappy, or switch jobs, but ... – Dan Romik Oct 2 at 16:54
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    ... expecting someone to engage in chit-chat with you when they don’t want to is actually rude — precisely the sort of rudeness you are (unjustifiably, in my and everyone else’s opinion here) complaining about — and ultimately futile and self-defeating. – Dan Romik Oct 2 at 16:57
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It's funny when you think about it this way, but research has shown that we humans have a basic need to tell ourselves a story to explain when bad things happen to us. When someone cuts us off in traffic, or a coworker is short with us, or a friend doesn't return a phone call or text, we have this need to tell ourselves a story to explain it.

Our internal urge to have a story in place is so strong, that even when we don't actually have enough information to write an accurate story -- which is almost all the time! -- our minds revert to just making things up to fill in the blanks.

Thing is, the story we tell ourselves about what happened all too often ends up having a much greater impact on our state of mind than the original event. But if we usually have to resort to making things up to complete the story, that means we actually have much greater control over how we feel about things than maybe we realize.

Think about it. When someone cuts you off in traffic, what if you told yourself, "that guy's wife just called him and she's going into labor!" instead of "what an a-hole" or "why do I always get cut off" or whatever. There's probably a 99.99% chance you will never ever see or meet the person who cut you off, so why not make up a good story?

So, the next time a coworker does something that hurts your feelings, try to notice the story you start telling yourself about what happened, and realize that, in reality, you just don't know enough to really explain it. But since our brains are all wired to really want there to be a story, just make up the least upsetting story you can.

It's really amazing how much the quality of your life can improve when you start taking control of your internal storyteller.

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  • Creative. I get it. Thanks – ellenoid Oct 1 at 14:01
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How can I handle it better when this happens?

My suggestion is to behave as though you were on a break alone. Get out a magazine or novel and read. Go onto social media or text a friend.

Why do so many men often do this?

It's not fashionable these days to talk about the differences between men and women except when it's a criticism of men. Speaking as a man, I only ever had lasting relationships with women who didn't talk constantly. I remember spending a wonderful evening with a girlfriend. We were both reading, sitting in different armchairs and we hardly said a word the whole time. As an introvert, just having the company of a loving person was enough for me. Of course we did talk but not all the time.

So, I could reverse the question and ask, "Why do women feel the need to talk so much?" Again it's a generalisation.

I realise it's difficult to be the only woman among men but I can assure you, it is far from easy to be the only shy young man amongst older women - You will be subjected to endless teasing - they will talk about you instead of to you. I'm old now but I was once in that situation. I didn't enjoy it especially the sexual innuendo.

Since you are young and you are aware of this gender difference (a big generalisation because there are men who never stop talking and there are women who are very introverted), it will help you in any long term relationship that you may have with a man. You will not feel so bad if he doesn't fulfil the role of your women friends!


EDIT

I had some more thoughts about this today. Young people (stereotypically young women) often like to talk about trips, dating, clothes, makeup, parties, and so on. An older man is more likely to be worrying about (a) going bald (b) getting old (c) paying the mortgage (d) being able to afford their children's education (e) staying married or getting divorced (f) keeping their job, etc.

If you want to engage with someone who is being quiet, the chances are that they are worrying about one or more of these things. You could try to get closer to them by asking what's on their mind but be prepared for them not to tell you because it might be very personal. On the other hand it might be something like "We have to meet this deadline and John is sick - I'm trying to work out how to fill in for him", in which case you could just be a good listener - ask the occasional question but mainly just listen non-judgmentally. If you can master being truly non-judgemental and proving that you are not a gossip, people will often open up. However if you do gossip that person will never trust you again so respect confidences.

EDIT 2

You ask about small talk. Speaking for myself (an older man), I hate most small talk with a passion. I can sustain it for 5 minutes max and then I have to make my excuses and leave! If I can't leave then I find myself first yawning and ultimately falling asleep!

I suppose it depends what is meant by small talk though. I can talk for ages about guitars, guitar-playing, guitar sounds and so on. I think very often men will have a number of narrow interests that engage them (football or cars or computers or photography for example) and they don't like general conversation at all!

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  • Also, working in a primarily male environment, I've seen my fair share of very talkative men. – Captain Man Sep 29 at 14:23
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    People are different. If you don't respect that, you won't go far. Nice answer – Mad Physicist Sep 29 at 20:32
  • @Captain Man - I can't stand them either! – chasly - supports Monica Sep 29 at 21:39
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    Thanks! The bottom line is that I just want connectivity on some level. A smile, a joke, a greeting. I don't like to feel ignored or insignificant. I don't need to talk all day. Plus, despite the cracks the guys make about me being gabby, I'm actually a very good listener and try to be respectful of personal space. I don't expect to be entertained endlessly... but when there are days like that, it's hard to deal with the opppsite. – ellenoid Oct 1 at 14:06
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Maybe it's not about you, but about them. Maybe they're (more or less covertly) depressed, and are having an off day.

My advice is to simply let them be. They may reach out later on if they feel like it.

As for you, please don't feel bad about that yourself. You could even change your perspective to one where you take pride in giving them the space they seem to need.

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    There's a large number of reasons why someone might not be in a talkative mood. Maybe they're stressed out over a tight deadline or difficult problem; maybe they're exhausted from having to interact with people all morning; maybe they have relationship problems or financial problems or other worries from outside work; maybe they had a late night and are just really tired; maybe they're really looking forward to reading the next chapter of their book; maybe they need to take time to think about a problem. As this question says: maybe it's not about you! – gidds Sep 29 at 14:25
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    That's probably all it is. Thanks! Remember - most days are pretty cool. When you're used to being chatted with or playfully teased, you know there's a good sort of mutual balance and respect. I'm just trying to say that getting NOTHING when you're used to the opposite is a bit personally upsetting or unsettling. It's like, "Thought we were pals. You could at least say hello. Or respond if I try to engage." It doesn't take much – ellenoid Oct 3 at 16:19
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    @ellen perhaps it really does take much. I don't know you or your coworkers, but personally I have times where it's saying nothing lest I really open up, which would be very inappropriate. – KlaymenDK Oct 3 at 19:02
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You're an extrovert, your co-workers are introverts. You want them to behave more like you. The secret to getting this behaviour from an introvert is finding out what they are interested in.

You're already trying to do this - as an extrovert, your way of finding out more about others is by starting with small talk, and escalating to more meaningful subjects. But introverts don't have patience for small talk, which they perceive as a waste of time. You essentially have to start with the meaningful subjects... but how do you find out what those are?

The answer is listen, don't talk. Listen to what your co-workers talk about with each other. Pay attention when they become animated in their discussions (but don't eavesdrop)! Take the time to hear what they want to talk about, and you'll start to get an idea of the people behind the introverted masks.

One you have figured out what they're interested in, you should be able to map it to something you're interested in. It doesn't have to be something you're already familiar with - it can be something that you've always wanted to know more about, or that doesn't make sense to you, or just seems weird. As long as you genuinely want to share information and ideas about that subject (faking interest is a big no-no!), talking to an introvert who's passionate about said subject about that subject, is likely to result in a deluge of words. That's the ice-breaker, and once you're past that point you'll likely find that person is much more likely to try to make small talk with you.

If this is sounding like a lot of effort, that's because it is. One of my extrovert friends commented to me that getting me to open up to her was like squeezing blood from a stone, and that's a description I couldn't agree more with! But her follow-up to that remark was that the effort was very much worth it in the long run, as she values our friendship greatly and feels it is more "genuine" than many of those she has with more extroverted friends.

At the end of the day, making friends with an introvert is like finding a key for a locked treasure chest. The search can be painful, but the reward can more than make up for it.

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    +1 for "listen, don't talk" – Reversed Engineer Sep 29 at 13:11
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    Eh, I have mixed feelings with this answer. It starts with the assumption that the introvert would talk to you if you could only find the right topic of conversation, ignoring the possibility that the introvert just doesn't want to talk. – chepner Sep 29 at 15:21
  • @chepner Also mixed feelings because OP says she is an introvert which contradicts sentence one. – Michael Sep 29 at 16:23
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    @Michael. It seems that OP's entire question and explanation of how she is introverted contradicts the statement that she is introverted. – Mad Physicist Sep 29 at 20:34
  • Thanks! I actually do this... pop in when conversations are fun, learn about their interests and bring up topics based on this stuff when the opportunity arises. But sometimes this dude just doesn't want to chat. And that's ok. I just need SOME level of connectivity. A smile, a wave, a joke. Being ignored (even if intentional) is hurtful. – ellenoid Oct 1 at 14:09
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Introvert vs. extrovert may be part of it. But there are jobs that require brain power, and I can get into a mode where I totally focus on a problem to solve and anything around me is just annoying interference that I need to get rid of with the least effort possible. In that situation, if you try to talk to me, I will grunt and ignore you :-) (That said, I usually do that while walking around, not while sitting at a table). I can do things on autopilot, like making a coffee, or holding a door open, but any communication will badly interrupt what I'm doing. Speaking is actually a thing that requires more brain power than most things.

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I'm also a female who typically works with all men. My first advice to you would be to consider whether you are adhering to workplace social norms. Whatever they are, they haven't changed this guy, so it's likely that either the culture is such that everyone is collectively letting him be, or the culture is the opposite of your ideal chatty case. I'm wondering if the gender gap may exacerbate this difference in expectations (since you do mention it).

You say you want to build relationships-- but suppose that this guy decides to try to tolerate this thing that makes him uncomfortable and do this for your pleasure/comfort. Is that going to build a personal relationship, if he associates you with nonconsent and displeasure? I encourage you to make analogies to situations where you do not want the interaction that someone else wants.

Tl;dr I'm concerned you're shooting yourself in the foot (and also consent is a thing).

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    We have already built relationships. We all get along great and mess around a lot on MOST days. I'm not talking about always trying to fill the silence. We all need quiet time. But we're around each other a lot, so it's important to get along and have fun. – ellenoid Oct 1 at 14:14
  • I don't understand, I thought the premise of the post is that you are trying to build a relationship through this interaction. You mess around with the person you are describing on most days? Or you just mean everyone else? Bc I am talking about the person you made the post about. – Ejaz Oct 2 at 16:08
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    @ellenoid correction, it's important that both of you are feeling good about the situation. You continue to problematically view this through the lens of your own desires only, without considering the clearly apparent difference of the other person's needs on the days they are less willing. In a modern society, when people disagree if they wish to engage in a joint social interaction, the person who does not want to participate is the one who gets their way, as the opposite of forcing undesired interaction on someone is simply not acceptable. – Chris Stratton Oct 2 at 19:59
  • The person I made the post about is usually fun and playful with me. We have been "relationship building." Of course there are quieter moments and tired days. I'm just saying that usually things are a lot of fun. That's the personality I'm used to with him. But sometimes there are days where little interaction is made. And if I try to engage even minimally, I don't get much back. And that can be very awkward. It is absolutely NOT that he doesn't like me or "associates me with displeasure." I'm not trying to force anything. – ellenoid Oct 3 at 16:15
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    He's already giving you what you want. It's completely unreasonable to expect it from him literally every day. It sounds like you want to go beyond just team building type of stuff to where everyone in the workplace is on good terms and actively want entertainment of you to be a regular, core part of his job. It is unreasonable and you need to let go of it. – Ejaz Oct 4 at 5:15
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Thats just how workplace is. Everyone gets tired and wants to move on as fast as possible, having spare time and energy for a chit-chat can quickly become luxury after a long, tiring workday. Its not rude or personal, just a simple reality of working. Just don't hold it against them, as you grow older you'll understand how small can your "energy tank" get.

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Many good answers have been given, but this seems like the kind of question that deserves some diversity in reality checks, and right now, I'm all up for giving unpopular opinions.

sharing a break room for at least half the day

I'm not familiar with many workplaces where people will use a break room for that long. I understand this to be some resting place where people go when they're not expected to do actual work. To my knowledge, only some very physically and mentally demanding blue collar jobs have this characteristic. And if you perform mentally demanding work, you should understand that there people around you who are likely mentally exhausted. Compound this to the fact mentioned by others that for introverts, socializing can be further exhausting, and I believe you have plenty of reasons why some people may not engage in small talk every day.

"Some days we will literally chat for an hour about nothing important."

If that applies during breakroom/lunch time, then fine. But to my standards, something is quite wrong with people who engage with non-work chat for more than 30min per session, especially if this is a recurrent rather than an extraordinaire event (but I have 1 hour lunch and 5min coffee breaks in general). When this is commonplace, I generally think that at least one party in the conversation needs more work to do, and I hope the other party is not sacrificing his own social life by staying late on work after losing one hour in a non-important conversation, and god forbid the company is paying overtime to people who engage in useless small talk for that long very often.

That being said, it seems like the problem is mostly related to the relationship you'd like to build with this person.

Probably, you should start promoting out-of-workplace events, to create situations were people are supposed to socialize rather than doing actual work. You'd be amazed at how much some people change when they are wearing shorts and slippers rather than a business suit and because there is a beer on their hands. This generally helps people being more at ease between them. You may still have issues with the non-drinkers, or people who never happen to be available, but it's worth a few shots here.

How can I handle it better when this happens? Why do so many men often do this? How do people not realize how rude they are?

Let me give my standard reference again, so each person can think what is correct or appropriate in each person's culture. If I go grab a coffee at a break room, I should greet everyone there with some simple words, like "hey, how are you?". And I should respond to any person that directs me their word, which does not mean engaging in conversation. If someone asks me "how was your weekend", a simple "it was fine" is enough courtesy talk. Though I can and sometimes will engage in telling my awesome weekend adventures and misfortunes, that will depend on the relationship I have with the asker, and how much work I am supposed to to that day, and how generally busy I believe the asker to be. Body language clues are often a good giveaway here: People pointing their feet to the exit of the coffee room are not the ones I'm expecting to hijack for a conversation. Likewise, I've been known to always be walking comically fast on the company's corridors (it's my common walk speed and I am generally very busy).

So, if this standard fits your complaint, please understand my opinion that I don't think people are being rude. They can and perhaps should be friendlier though, but that is a different matter.

If it helps copying with the situation, try being more understanding. In general, think that it is not about you. Everyone has a struggle you may know nothing about. These middle-age colleagues of yours may be stressing over their hair loss (which in turn brings more stress), or their nagging wives that complain about their hair loss or their kids who don't believe they need passing grades at school because they want to be game streamers. All of this is out of your control and causes them to have difficult days, when they simply can't take their minds out of their problems to engage in chit chatting with you.

In some cases, you may start to worry: If someone is just never in the mood, he may be suffering from some kind of depression, so inform yourself and keep alert for signs of it. Maybe ask HR to make a "general survey" on the mental health of all people in the company, they should know how to find but not expose those who indeed need help.

I think the solution is to change my attitude and remain optimistic for a better day tomorrow.

No. I don't think your attitude needs to change, you are correct in being friendly and talkative, though others are not wrong to not meeting your socializing quota.

Also, no. Don't be "optimistic for a better tomorrow". This is creating unrealistic expectations for your workplace, and unrealistic expectations are a sure path to the frustration you are reporting. Try to be understanding of other people so when they behave normally (and up to my standards, their behavior seems normal) but "in a bad day normally", you should be able not to take offense or emotional suffering from it. Hence, by adjusting your expectations and empathy, this should cease to disturb you.

Maybe one day you'll be in a magic place with all the friends you love at your workplace with long several hours breaks filled with enthralling conversations that happen every day and every time. But some people follow the 3 stages of growing up from the Spongebob show. You can and should do everything to avoid reaching the third stage, but over time, everyone has their Squidward days, just don't let they take you down. It is just neither their intention nor worth your sleep hours.

All that being said, you might happen to be in a situation where someone in the company dislikes you as a person or some stances you take in your conversations. People who talk a lot often make disaffections along the way. Honestly, it's a small price to pay for being yourself and satisfying your socializing needs. There shouldn't be anyone who hates you, but there might be a person who simply disagrees with everything you may have to say about some sensitive subject. Pundits are the extreme example: Some people love hearing them talk, and they amass large audiences in their social media, but lots of common folks would be disgusted if they needed to engage in a conversation with one of these every day. In a personal example, I myself get annoyed with people who always talk about sports (none of which I'm interested) or video games I don't play. People who talk about their bad airport experiences may also sound elitist for people who never get to travel, and people with pets are extremely annoying for people who hate animals (and they do exist). So maybe just take note if some subject plucks a string on some people and avoid these topics to prevent grunt-based responses.

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  • Love this. Thank you! – ellenoid Oct 3 at 16:23
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I think that a lot of people make very good points, but I'd like to add something.

I think it's wrong to focus entirely on "I'm a comparatively junior member of the staff" or "I'm a woman amongst a bigger group of men". You should also look at "I'm younger, I'm fitter, I don't have as many divorces in my background, I don't have troublesome teenage children, and dagnabbit I quite simply don't ache so much in the morning!".

Whatever happens remain courteous, and remember that an even temperament is a valuable survival characteristic. Greet people quietly at the start of the day, and be prepared for anything from an exuberant response to being totally ignored (and never, ever, keep greeting them until you get the response you think you're entitled to). Be prepared to listen if somebody does want to talk, even- up to a point- if the conversation is a one-sided "my wife doesn't understand me".

You will occasionally find a coworker shunned for no obvious reason: if they start talking be cautious until you are absolutely certain they're being treated unfairly (example: the stunning Swede that all the men avoid on the assumption that she's a libertine).

And you will occasionally find somebody shunned because it is universally agreed that he's untrustworthy, that anything you say to him will become public knowledge, and who is likely to leak bits of his history to you with the expectation that you'll repeat them. Run.

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