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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Friend excluded when you talk shop

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I went to college with two friends who are now a couple. I currently work with the boyfriend while his girlfriend works down the street from us.

When the three of us get together, the topic of work inevitably comes up, including some inside jokes. This is perfectly natural!

But I think the work talk makes the girlfriend jealous. On a couple of occasions, the boyfriend has asked me not to talk about work when his girlfriend is with us, and recently when I talked about work he kept explaining to her what I was talking about.

I feel like she is talking about me behind my back to her boyfriend, and I’ve noticed she’s been rather cold to me.

What can I do to convince her I’m just making conversation?

– Anonymous

You can start “just making conversation” that includes her, instead of excluding her and defending it as “perfectly natural!”

That means you stop talking shop when you’re seeing these two socially, because, besides the fact that you risk boring even colleagues to tears, it’s plain rude to hold a conversation that denies entry to others.

The inside jokes, meanwhile, may come up organically, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also a toxic combination of topically and emotionally exclusive. You might as well just say out loud to the girlfriend, “See? We share an intimacy that you and he don’t.” Cut it out.

Even better, recognize that your friend is doing the right thing by providing explanations to his girlfriend. Not only does that (somewhat) alleviate the problem of her exclusion, but it also serves as a clear, polite hint to you that you’re being serially rude. When he jumps in to explain something you said, treat it as your conversational two-minute warning: Wrap it up and start a new topic that’s inclusive.

Or, get used to her being rather cold to you. That’s what people do when you repeatedly leave them out.