You don’t need to be an award-winning actor to pretend to care about your coworkers. Do you really care that Debbie’s daughter married a woman covered in tattoos and didn’t graduate middle school? No, you don’t. However, what you do care about is Debbie coming to work to cover her shift so you can go home to sleep off your hangover. Pretending to care is all about helping yourself, not helping your coworkers. Here are some tips on how to pretend to care without actually caring at all.
1. Make yourself appear interested at first
You don’t want to come on too strong, however. When Debbie goes off about her daughter’s grand slam on the grand pony ride down to St. Louis, the worst you do is nod and laugh when she pauses for a breath. You’ve done that in similar situations with people you actually care about; you can do it here. Just limit your nods and laughs to when no one else is looking.
2. Talk about yourself
Spend as much time talking about yourself as you can. Do you love barbecue and the Smurfs? Talk about that. Did you get your motorcycle license? Tell everyone about that. Did you get tickets to the Hamlet all-star production? Tell them about that. Mention yourself once every 3 minutes or so, but don’t go over that limit.
3. Feel free to go off on tangents
Pretending to care about your coworkers is much like a conversation with a four-year-old. If you want to talk about ponies, then talk about ponies. The more you can keep the focus off of them and onto yourself, the better.
4. Wrap up the conversation quickly
Once you’ve gotten your fix of talking about yourself, wrap it up quickly. You don’t want to get into your favorite mock turtle soup recipe. You are there to pretend to care, not get into the details.
5. Make promises you can’t keep
While you are talking about yourself, make sure you include some hugely personal promises. For example, if Debbie’s daughter wants to be a country singer, tell her that you’ll get her in touch with your cousin who owns a recording studio in Nashville.
6. Remember the importance of body language
Use your body language to show that you are actually being supportive. While you are talking about yourself, nod your head and lean into the conversation. Do the same thing when you wrap up the conversation.
7. Be ultra-polite
Pretending to care requires that you be polite, even when you probably don’t want to. Don’t roll your eyes, even when you probably want to.
8. Be careful with humor
Funny people are often also the most sarcastic. If your dry sarcasm comes off wrong, you might find yourself in hot water with your boss. If you’re not entirely sure that your humor will come off well, don’t try it.
9. Don’t overdo it
A little bit of faking goes a long way when you are pretending to care about your coworkers. If you find yourself copying down the recipe for mock turtle soup as Debbie tells you about how her daughter’s tomahawk chops got “swole” at camp, then it’s time to end the conversation.
10. Don’t talk to them unless you have to
Once you’ve given your all and convinced yourself that you’re interested in the conversation, then you can relax and talk to them. However, don’t go too far. Don’t start asking them things about their lives that you wouldn’t ask a person you don’t care about. If you do, then your coworkers will see through you, and the whole thing will fall apart.
Above all else, don’t let Debbie get on your nerves
Debbie has a way of pushing all of your buttons. She loves to talk at the water cooler, doesn’t let anyone else get a word in edge-wise, and she’s always friendly. If you don’t want to talk to Debbie, then it won’t be easy to make the smile feel natural.
Debbie sucks. Plain and simple. The problem is, you can’t do anything about Debbie. So, unless you feel like getting her daughter’s tattoo-covered wife angry at you, it’s best to pretend that you care about what’s going on in her life and the lives of your coworkers.
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