The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 40s. I have no idea how to deal with a colleague, who is always boasting about her child.
This colleague also works part-time, and her child is apparently affiliated with an elite sports team. The colleague informs us of the progress of her child during work hours. As a mother, I understand her pride. But in all honesty, I’m not interested in hearing that her child made a long trip for a game or qualified for a tournament. I simply feel unimpressed and struggle to respond appropriately.
This may stem from my unhappiness that she asked our boss to raise only her pay because she needs money for her child to do the sport. I feel I am unkind to her by not joining in with the other employees who flatter her by saying, “That’s great!,” and also by not sharing her happiness. I also feel the people around me might disapprove of my attitude.
Should I just joyfully congratulate her along with the others? Should I be an adult and say, “That’s great!,” even though I don’t feel that way?
K, Hiroshima Prefecture
Dear Ms. K:
Many people tend to care only about themselves or fail to give any consideration to how those around may feel about their behavior, either because this is their nature or because of some particular situation or context. Your colleague sounds like one of them.
Nevertheless, we should be wary of giving careless advice to these people on such delicate matters as their behavior, because this can easily lead to problems. We risk their complete misapprehension, angry glares and prolonged feelings of enmity, should we touch a nerve.
That said, certain people can be unusually adept at giving advice in a way that provides these people with insight into the problematic nature of their behavior, without causing offense. This is, however, very difficult for the average person.
Perhaps it is best to turn a philosophic eye toward her behavior.
You could choose to socialize as little as possible with her, or you could simply go along with her while understanding the motivations behind her behavior. Or you could patiently wait for her to realize and correct her problem.
I must express some small amount of concern about you. Why are you so annoyed by her? Why can’t you calmly play along like all your other colleagues, who also probably understand her true nature? Do you have something personal against her? It might do you some good to consider these questions first.
Taku Mayumura, writer