The problem: I’m often cornered by a colleague who needs to talk. And talk. I’m a midlevel executive with a pretty busy day, but this fellow colleague corners me daily to chat. He’s an affable guy, but most of the stuff he says, frankly, isn’t very interesting. Recently, he told me about finding an old stamp collection when he was cleaning out his attic. He’s preparing to move now that his wife has passed away. What’s a diplomatic way to cut him off quickly, without flat-out lying and saying that I’m running to a meeting?

Low road: There are lots of strategies here. You can avoid eye contact or grab your phone when you see him coming. You can cut him off midsentence, politely explaining that nature calls.


High road: I hope you don’t do any of those things. I hope you take the high road and use your math skills instead.

Let’s say these daily exchanges last five minutes. That’s five minutes out of a typical 540-minute workday, which translates into less than 1 percent of your day. That’s a tiny slice of kindness to offer to a recently widowed man who could be a bit rudderless right now.

Please remember that many men have very few male friends, but that doesn’t mean they don’t crave those friendships. Their wives are typically the social planners. Now he’s on his own. Is it possible you could come into work just five minutes earlier every day so you’d have time to chat?

Maybe you could even brush up on your philatelic skills.


Gail Rosenblum is a features columnist. Please send questions about life’s little quandaries to