Prefer My Privacy

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I work at a very gossipy company. I&'m a private person and don&'t want
my business known to my coworkers. I&'d appreciate words of wisdom
for avoiding the rumor mill without coming off as a B-atch.

Prefer My Privacy

Dear Prefer My Privacy:

People tend to isolate and bear a grudge (overt or subliminal) against
those who reject their social overtures. That’s probably as true in a
synagogue as in an office, but those who don’t seem social get a
reputation of not playing well with others. That may be fine for your
personal life, but recognize it could affect your professional life too.
People want to be able to share what they did on the weekend, their
hobbies and vacations, and their home lives, whether that’s kids or
remodeling. The common pool of non-work experiences serve as a
counterpoint to what they’re actually being paid to do, but also have
some team-building value. Also, any time there’s a wall, there’s an
almost reflexive desire to look over it. A lot depends on whether you
actually have something you want to hide from your colleagues. Also
on your moral elasticity about truth and lies.

I’m not a fan of closeting one’s life but I believe everyone has the right
to decide what’s public and what’s private. Once you know where that
boundary is, it would be convenient and helpful to have a stage set of
a life that you are willing to share. Rather than the global, and off-
putting, I don’t talk about my life, perhaps some simple PR bullets:
Because of my partner’s work I don’t talk about us. That may create
curiosity but gets you past some details. But you can say: I have a
dog/cat/goldfish. I love to quilt/play piano/read novels. I
jog/swim/play tennis. Or whatever your personal details are that are
innocuous enough to offer up. These give you activities to discuss
rather than people or places.



The most important rule: If you really want to fly below their radar
and don’t want to disclose, keep to that rule with everyone, no
exceptions. Whatever you tell one person will almost inevitably get
around, and the door will be opened to further inquiry. Like the old
proverb says, what two people know is no secret.