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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Misery loves company

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Dear Ella,

My workplace has become a very depressing place to go every day. From the moment I walk in to the moment I leave, I am constantly bombarded with stories about illnesses, bodily functions and miracle cures.

If it’s not the employees, it’s the clients who feed off the conversations the employees start. The biggest topics of the month were the cold that never left, the thyroid demon and let’s not forget the biggest culprit of all – gluten intolerance.

I’m at the end of my rope! I feel like standing on a table and screaming “Shut up!” Doesn’t anybody discuss movies or travel, or even politics and religion, anymore?

It’s not like I work at a medical facility, so this topic should not be front and centre. I, too, have had my share of health issues, but I don’t have the need to run every drug or treatment by everyone who will listen.

Believe it or not, I love my job and I care about these people, but I get sucked into this warped world of hypochondria, which makes me feel awful by the end of the day.

Is there anything I can say to politely get the point across that this is not normal?

Sick of the Sickies

Dear Sick of the Sickies,

The constant bombardment of health issues can be overwhelming, but it’s not uncommon especially at this time of year – cold and flu season. Working in an environment where the discussions are constantly negative can affect your own mood, by actually leading you to feel the effects physically.

It’s natural that when people are feeling off, they need reassurance, as well as a little sympathy, and perhaps empathy. For instance, when a client first arrives, chances are they will greet you by asking, “How are you?” That leaves the door wide open for the toxic conversation to begin.

You’ve heard the saying “Misery loves company,” right? You may not be the type that likes to share, but some people like to “compare notes,” and they take comfort in knowing they’re not alone in their health challenges. Even if they’re not sick, most people feel good about supporting someone who is. Others, like yourself, prefer to be private about personal health matters.

When you work in an environment with people, you must be tolerant of many different personalities. Often you spend more time with your colleagues than with your own family. Chances are you’re not going to change your colleagues, but what you can do is try to change the subject. Health is universal, and anyone can identify with the topic. That’s why people talk about it.

Before anyone has a chance, steer the conversation to something that others can relate to. There are lots of interesting subjects to discuss, such as news events, family, vacations, sports, hobbies etc. As long as your conversation is enticing and the topic broad enough, others can identify with it and join in.

This is not going away. You need to change the way you internalize these conversations. Either join in, change the subject or find a way to access your happy place.

 

Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: ellacjn@gmail.com. But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

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