Annie Lane: Leaving the workplace talk in the workplace

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 5, 2020

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Dear Annie: I work a part-time job with great people who love their jobs. One of our co-workers got married and two of my co-workers and I went to the wedding together. The whole time, all they talked about was work. Periodically, I would chime in and change the subject. The other evening, we three decided to stop and grab a quick bite to eat, and the whole time, again, all they talked about was work. I enjoy their company, but I am tired of the conversations always being about work. Please help!

— Heard Enough

Dear Heard Enough: You had the right idea with gently trying to change the subject. You might try bringing attention to it next time with a lighthearted comment, like “I can’t think about the office anymore today. What’s new with you outside of work?” If they still drift back to the usual talking points, accept that your conversations might be limited, and only go out with them when you feel up for that.

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Dear Annie: My name is Barbara.

It’s NOT “Barb.” It’s not “Barbie.” It’s not “Babs.”

So, please tell me WHY when I introduce myself as Barbara, the majority of the time, people say things like, “Hi, Barb”?

Immediately, I correct them, saying, “No — it’s Barbara.” People so often become condescending after that and say things like, “Oh, right! Bar-BRA!”

And then in later encounters, when they call me Barb, I remind them again: “Please remember I prefer ‘Barbara.’” Then, during our next encounter, they say, “Hi, Barb!” Ugh!

Kathleen is seldom called “Kathy.” Nobody calls Christina “Chris.” I know men named James, who people next-to-never call Jim or Jimmy. That is, of course, unless these people choose or agree to go by those name derivatives.

It’s the individual’s preference. It’s their energetic vibration and pattern. It’s their name. Why is it so difficult or inconvenient for people to call women named Barbara by our names?

— Barbara

Dear Barbara: Not everyone loves an unsolicited nickname, and I’m happy to print your letter as a public service announcement of sorts. But the reality is that at some point you’ll probably be “Barbed” again. When that happens, remind the offender of your name, as you graciously have in the past. Then take a deep breath and remind yourself that this term of enragement is meant as a term of endearment, however misguided.

• • •

Dear Annie: I read your column where “Not Sure How to Feel” mentioned one of her exes who died recently. I am so sorry to hear that, and she has my sympathy. I did want to mention one thing about the column, though, that bothered me. “Not Sure” said, “committed suicide.” I lost my brother to suicide a little over two years ago, and I have struggled with this every day since. The word “commit” is often used to mean something bad, like committing a crime or committing a sin. However, suicide is not a sin or a crime. The word committed has a lot of stigma associated with it, and using it to discuss suicide can add to the stigma many suicide loss survivors or those who are suicidal can feel. Instead, it’s so much better to say “died by suicide,” as that helps to make it sound more like a cause of death rather than a crime. I’d really love it if you would remind your readers that, in this case, word use can matter a great deal. Also, please check out Conversations Matter: They have some great resources for how to talk about suicide.

— Grieving Sister

Dear Grieving: I am so sorry for your loss. I had never considered the stigma with which that phrase was imbued. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to