I hate talking about work. I also listening about work. I don’t exactly enjoy my job, so I try not to waste my free time thinking about work, talking about work or, heaven forbid, doing something for work. However, my friends talk about their jobs all the time and it’s painful to listen to.
I told them as much, but the topic keeps popping up. I’m just not that invested in the specifics and minutia of their workday. I either lack the knowledge to understand their work process or, more often than not, just don’t care. That is, unless something bad happened and they want to vent, I’m okay with that. But I still get looks, as if I should be interested about their job. Which, I’m sorry, I’m just not.
Am I being unreasonable in trying to steer the conversation into a topic that isn’t work-related?
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Exactly. Whenever work comes up as topic (which is painfully often), I start wondering if work is just their personality now. Because these people actually do have hobbies and interests, and I will gladly talk to them about those, but for some reason, they talk about work more often then they do about their hobbies. And I don’t understand why that is more interesting to them.
Their hobbies likely aren’t causing them to have negative feelings, whereas their work more likely is. Humans are somewhat biased towards needing to vent and talk about issues which cause them negative feelings that they have to do.
People also talk about work for a variety of social reasons. Most importantly, perhaps, is that people often measure social standing by their work. Where they work, what jobs they have, how much money they make, and other characteristics of work are important for many human social evaluations. Because this is important, it becomes socialized as something that you should discuss, and thus becomes a common topic of conversation. People then internalize it as something they should talk about, or is interesting to talk about. It’s a self sustaining model built upon the foundations of social worth and evaluation, supported by the emotional needs of humans.
Interestingly you’ll see that in certain circles where social worth is not derived from your work (minorities in which upwards mobility or potential jobs are limited often talk less about work) but from other aspects of your life (talking about children is a favorite for those who have them and artists love to talk about their creative pursuits) that you’ll find conversation drifting towards different topics instead.
I think the best thing you can do, if you find this boring, is to attempt to redirect conversation away from work and towards something you’d rather talk about. People will naturally drift back towards conversation that they find useful, interesting, or have been socialized to do and ultimately you may need to tolerate this or find a group of friends less interested in talking about their career. I’ve generally found that quips which highlight it’s silly to be talking about work away from work (such as when participating in work offsite trips) or highlight how work is just a means to make money and I’m disinterested in talking about capitalism and would rather know the person and what they find interesting tend to work well to divert conversation away from chatting about work.
Having some light-hearted quips ready to steer the conversation away from work sounds like a good idea. I’ll try that next time, thank you!