DURING A WORKDAY SIMILAR TO MANY OTHERS, I DECIDED TO JOIN A FEW COWORKERS FOR A MID-AFTERNOON CHAT SESSION.
Entering the conversation midway, I didn’t initially know the topic at hand. But, as I’m sure we can all agree, getting a few minutes away from your computer screen is always welcome during a long day at work.
It didn’t take long for me to regret my decision. The conversation included mentions of everything from post-work dinner plans to upcoming vacation getaways—the usual after hours topics. But there was one common theme throughout: a significant other.
It was at this exact moment when I realized something I hadn’t really noticed before at work: I was single as hell.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience (or two). And, honestly, being the single one in the office shouldn't mean you feel left out. After all, we should all be keeping it strictly professional, right?
But given that you probably have more social face time with your coworkers than, say, your own mother, the feeling that you can't relate to them can cause awkwardness bordering on tension. Even when it comes to such a personal element, approaching office dialogs when you feel like an outsider weighs on you. It doesn’t mean that you have to avoid certain group conversations once they veer into romantic territory. Instead, it gives you the opportunity to add a different perspective to these conversations and still feel like you're part of the office camaraderie.
Below are a few things to keep in mind anytime you feel like your single status taking its toll on you at the workplace.
YOU DO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER—ACTUALLY, YOU HAVE LOTS OF THEM
You may not have a “significant other” in your life at the moment, but, hopefully, you’re already surrounded by so many other significant people. While a romantic dinner followed by a movie with a partner is nice, a night in with good food (read: junk food), movies, and unfiltered conversations with your squad is just as enjoyable.
In the event that you find yourself attending a work function where you know your colleagues will bring husbands and wives (or boyfriends and girlfriends), don't feel obligated to go alone. Ask if you can bring a friend as your "date," or if you feel uncomfortable, ask another one of your single office friends to go with you. The upshot of not having at-home obligations? The two of you can plan on going out to dinner first or drinks after without having to worry about getting home to relieve a babysitter.
In the end, you don’t need a significant other— you already have some pretty great people in your life to spend time with and brag about at work.
Being single gives you the opportunity to bring a different perspective to conversations and still feel a part of the office camaraderie.
YOU HAVE YOUR OWN INTERESTS, HOBBIES, AND TO-DOS (AND THAT'S FEMINISM AT ITS FINEST)
Doesn’t it seem like some people in relationships do everything with their significant others? The gist of conversations with them always involve doing some type of activity in tandem with their partners. While nothing is wrong with this per se, it doesn't have to be your ideal.
When some of your coworkers bring up the exciting new things that they’re up to with their partners, remember that it’s okay to share what you’re up to as well. The next time one of them mentions an upcoming romantic getaway, share your own travel to-dos (which may even include traveling alone someday).
If discussing weekend plans seems awkward unless you're one of the "settled down" crew, that's even more reason to offer your own experiences. To use the almost cliché mantra: lean in. Remind your peers that there are other perspectives, experiences, and approaches to the world outside the office.
If you feel like your single life has gotten stagnant, consider investing your time in hobbies over Tinder. We featured Skillcrush as one of our favorite sites to help you build your personal brand. Learn new skills by taking a digital class, then share what you’re up to with your coworkers (and maybe show off your new skills, too).
Too often, we gossip about our own lives and the lives of others in conversation, but don't really challenge each other intellectually. Acquiring new skills is a great way to boost your professional abilities and expand office conversation in thought-provoking ways.
While saving for a new house or starting a family may be high on your coworkers’ priority lists, there’s nothing wrong with taking a different direction with your own.
YOU HAVE DIFFERENT PRIORITIES — AND THAT'S OK
True story: I once returned to work after a lonely weekend of watching rom-coms on Netflix and indulging in a carton (or two) of ice cream to the news that a coworker recently got engaged. Sweet? Yes. The highlight of my Monday morning? Not at all.
As actress Amy Poehler would say, “Good for her, not for me.” While engaged or coupled-up coworkers may have wedding plans, date nights, and whatever other activities couples do on their brains, the same doesn’t have to apply to you. You have your own priorities whether you’re in a relationship or not. While saving for a new house or starting a family may be high on some of your coworkers’ lists, there’s nothing wrong with taking a different direction when outlining your own.
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to work on your health and fitness? Focus on putting together a new workout routine, then share it with your coworkers to see if they’d maybe like to join you or use the routine themselves. Would you like to land a promotion this year? Turn the conversation to asking senior colleagues for some advice about how you can improve.
Think of your contribution to these common office conversations as an unlikely and fresh perspective. That's not a bad place to be.
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Have you ever been the single one in the office? Tell us your suggestions for coping in the comments!