Do You Talk Shop?

This entry was cross-posted to The Network Buzz

A few years ago, a few of us in the office had a weekly habit… a Thursday Night Drinking Club if you will, where we’d go out for a beer after work to catch up, chat, and just generally hang out.

There was only one rule: you could not talk about work or EWB, or follow up on an earlier conversation or to-do.  The only exception was to tell a funny story that just happened to have taken place at work.  But in general, no talking shop.

In an environment where many of my friends are also my colleagues, the line between work and social can blur sometimes.  And in an EWB environment, talking about EWB and social change and development isn’t just work-talk, but it comes from a place of interest and passion.

It can still be a strange balance, though.  Sometimes I’ll have a great time with EWBers where we don’t even mention EWB once.  And other times I’ve experienced that elephant in the room, where I’m talking to someone I know through EWB and we dance around the topic… trying to make an awkward conversation happen while consciously ignoring and avoiding the biggest thing we have in common – our EWB involvement.

Context matters, of course.  Bringing up EWB outside of an EWB context can elicit groans … but avoiding EWB in an EWB context can leave an odd gap in the conversation.  And I find some of my most awkward conversations come when context and content are mismatched. (to be fair, that has also lead to some wonderfully surprising and interesting conversations, but it’s usually quite a toss-up)

On the other hand, some of my most memorable and engaging out-of-office conversations with EWBers come when we flow in and out of EWB topics; where we may start talking about something EWB and then drift off in five different directions, then return to something EWB-related, then drift again, and back, and again… when EWB doesn’t dominate the discussion – but where we aren’t actively trying to avoid talking shop either.

Because, when talking shop is talking about something you care about and are interested in,  and you’re in the company of people who share those values and aspirations and vision, why avoid it?