Staying in the Loop of Informal Office Chatter


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For many years I watched no TV at all. On top of that, I had (and still have) no interest in sports.

By the time I entered college, the Internet – my new-found friend – gave me no time for TV.

This went on for about six years, until I realized that those who watch limited amounts of television and have no interest in sports get left out of about 70% of workplace conversations. One of my Twitter friends says sports accounts for 60% of the conversation at his office. Depending on your workplace, these percentages do shift, but you have to admit that in most workplaces, sports, TV and movies (and the weather) rule the water cooler talk and the chatter before meetings. If you’re not interested in sports or TV, you’re just not interested, and I don’t believe in feigning interest. But there are ways to participate in these conversations even if from the sidelines. After all, you don’t want to be the one who never has anything to contribute to the conversation.

When it comes to staying in the loop, these resources are your BFFs:

  1. Google is your friend. Even if you’re not a sports junkie, you can at least find out which teams make it to the Super Bowl. Or where the Olympics are taking place. Or which sister duo has been rocking the tennis world for years. This type of information comes in handy for general conversation and can save you from embarrassment. When Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000, I thought the game was here because the Falcons were in it. I didn’t find out they weren’t in the game until I asked this guy I kinda liked: “Are you rooting for the Falcons or for the other team?” Google could have saved me from that.
  2. Twitter is your friend. If you don’t even know what to google, how can you google it, right? If you don’t even know where to begin, Twitter is a great place to start. Go there to quickly get caught up with what’s going on. By scrolling through tweets you get a quick update on political happenings, sports, and general pop culture. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they get at least some of their news online, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. And out of all the social media sites, Twitter’s users are known for sharing the fastest, most real-time information.
  3. National Public Radio is your friend. I’m not sure exactly when I started listening to NPR, but I’m sure it was one morning as I sat in traffic, bored with the talk, music and commercials of the radio stations programmed on my dials. I didn’t want to hear another raunchy song, or about which celeb was doing what, or who to call if I got into an accident. So I landed on NPR and have been a fan ever since. When I listen to my local NPR station (WABE in Atlanta! – 90.1 on the dial!) I feel smarter and have more to contribute to conversations. From quirky pop culture, to pressing political news, to stories from everyday people just like me, there’s something for everyone, and you would be doing yourself a favor tuning in sometimes. 
  4. Young folks are your friends. When I say young I mean 25 and younger. For you, younger might be a different age bracket. But whatever “young” is to you, find those people and talk to them. There’s always something to learn.

Everyone wants to “stay in the loop.” Whether it’s staying in the loop about a project or an upcoming change, no one likes to be left out. The same goes for the conversations we consider to be non-business. After all, the more connected we are, the easier it is for us to do business with each other, and the personal connections often start with the casual stuff. Your interests do not have to mirror everyone else’s (how boring would that be?) but find ways to participate as much as possible. Even if you find yourself on the sidelines of some conversations, at least you’re there, which makes it easier for you to jump into the game when an opening appears.

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