Once we returned to the office, I typed up a quick thank you note for the meeting.

My coworker had attended with me, arriving late and full of extraneous information and stories. She rattled an empty Starbucks cup back and forth as an endless flow of words gushed from her mouth. I focused on controlling the furrowing of my brow and the contorting of my mouth, forcing my face into a mask of pleasantness.

Inside, I begged and screamed for her silence but would settle for any amount of professionalism. Why are we talking about your retirement plan 20 years from now?

Yet, on she went oversharing and underlistening.  

As I was about to curb her enthusiasm, our host began to follow in the same pattern, explaining her life course and interests and hobbies. They clicked in a soulmate kind of way that left me behind on a different plane of existence.

Within a few minutes of sending the thank you email, our original host responded with a request for my coworker’s email and for what I am sure to follow will be a lifelong friendship, job offer or invite to dinner and drinks.

I have been ruminating over this interaction and found the following things to be true.

Meetings start late here. They require small talk to move forward. Professionalism is optional. And perhaps most interesting, I was envious for my colleague’s ease in quickly slipping from a professional to a personal relationship, and making a real connection, while I remained buttoned up, sharing and receiving next to nothing.

Was this style of communication living fearlessly or recklessly?

There is a thin line between the personal and professional world, separated by carefully curated boundaries, meant to protect and support those of us who must go back and forth between the two.

For me, it is a thin line that I am not ready to start straddling.

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