Thanks for sending us our very first Ask Certain Doom question, Ben B. of Sacramento, CA. Sounds like you’ve got a serious problem here and that problem is being an unnecessary stickler for gendered singular pronouns. You’ve gotta let it go, buddy. “Their” time has come. (See what we did there? their? they’re?)
Here are some reasons:
- Like Grammarist says, English needs singular gender-neutral pronouns
- Singular they/their is already part of the common parlance; the American Dialect Society proclaimed the singular ‘they’ word of the year in 2015
- In fact, some of the English language’s greatest authors used singular ‘they’ in some of their finest works.
- With more and more folks self-identifying as gender non-binary, it’s just plain easier
- Besides, according to NPR, Everyone Uses Singular ‘They,’ Whether They Realize It Or Not
Anywho, on to your question. We think there are three clear options here:
OPTION ONE – Say It, Don’t Spray It
Tell your colleague that you’re not interested in hearing about their relationship problems. Do it politely. Say it’s nothing personal, you just try not to discuss relationship stuff at work. Your colleague will appreciate your honesty and candor and hopefully take their problems elsewhere.
OPTION TWO – Spray It
As your colleague approaches to initiate discussion, fill your mouth with whatever beverage you have handy. Do not swallow; simply hold the fluid in your mouth as inconspicuously as possible. When your colleague begins to discuss their relationship problems, stare your colleague in the eyes as you gently and dispassionately open your mouth, allowing the fluid to dribble down your chin and onto your clothes. Do not react to the spill. Continue staring. The conversation will be over.
OPTION THREE – Say It and Spray It
If neither of the above produce the desired result, try them both at once! Explain your distaste for workplace relationship chatter while holding a mouthful of a delicious beverage of your choosing. Let the fluid fly as you stress that it’s nothing about your colleague, just a matter of personal policy. If at any point your mouth runs dry, simply fill it with more fluid and continue to speak.
We hope this helps! Let us know how it goes. And, as always, have a frank and productive day.
P.S. Got a work-related question? We’ve got work-related answers! Contact us!