How to Persuade Someone to Stop Using Their Cellphone During Lunch With You
Whether you're meeting a friend for a casual lunch or you’ve booked time with a work colleague, being completely present and engaged throughout the lunch is the courteous and respectful way to behave. Unfortunately, during this time of technology and easy distraction, some people will take and even make calls on their cellphone, despite the fact they're having lunch with you. Although in some circumstances, accepting a call should be allowed (for emergencies like the arrival of your organ transplant), calling friends to gossip or discuss what was on TV last night is in poor taste, as are interminable business conversations.
Although you would hope that your lunch date realizes that talking on the phone is rude during lunch with a face-to-face person, it doesn't always play out this way. Internalized excuses for phone answering during dinner dates are abundant even though they're misplaced rationales. Yet, there are a few steps you can take to let your lunch date know you mean business about enforcing some courtesy!
Be aware of the etiquette standards regarding cellphone use in public.Apart from keeping cellphone discussions quiet so that nobody else hears the cellphone owner's personal life history, it is polite to turn off the cellphone at any dining table. The other form of politeness involves exceptions––any cellphone user must explain in advance of the meal why they may need to answer the cellphone during the meal andapologizein advance for this possibility. However, use of an exception is not an open invitation to gossip and chat away; it is for short, to-the-point confirmation or updating of mostly emergency or time-pressed issues.
- Acceptable reasons for an exception include: A doctor on call (or any other vital job on call), receiving news of progress on a sick child or relative, being called up for emergency surgery such as a transplant, etc. It is not appropriate to take appointments for a tree clipping or plumbing business during a lunch date, nor is it appropriate to catch up with someone not spoken to for a few days. Voicemail exists for a sensible purpose.
Set a tight schedule.If this person is notorious for talking on his or her cellphone during lunch, set aside only 30 minutes (or even less) for lunch. That way he or she won’t think that you have all the time in the world and can wait as they talk on the phone.
- Let the other person know that you're extremely busy and must stay on schedule due to meetings or appointments. Hopefully your lunch date will get the message and won’t squander your time together.
- If you suspect that they'll assume that cutting into your short time by answering their phone is acceptable, you have every right to insist that given the short amount of time you have, that it'd best if both phones were turned off. At least this way, you're participating in the "no-phone" pact. Turning off cellphones at the beginning of a meal is proper etiquette.
- Suggest that both you and your lunch date remove the phone from the table and put it away in a pocket or bag. Perhaps if the phone isn’t visible, your lunch date won’t feel as compelled to use it during dinner.
Select a loud location.While dining in a noisy environment may not always be pleasant, it certainly isn’t conducive for cellphone conversations either. Try to find a cafe or restaurant which has a buzz level of noise that is pleasant and uplifting for you as diners but is likely to make phone conversations unpleasant.
- Another response is to find a cafe or restaurant that isn't afraid to have a "no cellphones" policy. In response the many frustrated diners, more and more of these exist and if they're good enforcers of the policy, you're off the hook. All you need to say is something like: "Sorry Aunt Beryl, they have a no cellphones policy here and they ask that you take your calls outside. But if you do go outside, your meal's going to get cold and I'm going to get lonesome here."
Engage the other person in conversation.Take control of the conversation and keep your lunch date engaged and on topic. If you're in the middle of a compelling discussion, he or she may be more inclined to hit the “go to voicemail” button if a call comes in.
- Don't be shy to cut in while the phone is ringing and ask them "Oh can't you let that go to voicemail please? We haven't finished our chat yet." Or, try a simple act of placing your hand gently over their phone and shaking your head softly, while making eye contact. It's hard to ignore such a gesture.
- If you want to inject a little science into a gentle dig at your lunch partner to stop playing with the cellphone, tell them about Dr. Mark Lieberman's research. A linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, he has researched into distraction and found that hearing other people's conversation on a cellphone distracts us as we try, without even wanting to, to fill in the unheard side of the conversation. In other words, the non-cellphone talking table partner grows ever more curious, while the whole relationship between the two face-to-face diners is totally consumed by the phone call.
Ask the other person if he or she would like to reschedule lunch.People know (or should know) when they are being rude due to too much cell phone interaction. If you’ve been at the table for more than a few minutes and your lunch date seems set on having a full conversation on the phone, don't be afraid to ask him or her if you should reschedule. It'll clarify that enough is enough and that you consider your time is being wasted.
- Wait an appropriate amount of time before requesting that lunch be rescheduled. If your lunch date is trying to firm up a few meeting dates with a boss or speaking with a teacher from his or her child’s school, allow a few minutes to pass first, as the call may be important. However, if your date is gabbing away about what was eaten for dinner last night or is simply gossiping, give it a few minutes and then bounce.
- Tell the person you want to reschedule. Vocalize how you feel, over the other person’s conversation to get his or her attention. State that it's clear to you they have a very important conversation to deal with and that you are available to reschedule the lunch tomorrow (or whenever). This will let them quickly understand that your time is valuable.
- Be clear about your intention to reschedule the lunch date. Get up from the table and gesture that you are going to leave. If needed, write down on a piece of paper or a napkin that you're going to dash and state something like: "let's reschedule lunch for when you're free; I'm free X date and time." Your date may have no idea that he or she is being rude but you can clear up the confusion at a later date.
- Silently get up and leave. Let your lunch date try to figure out why you haven’t returned from the bathroom. You are basically showing your lunch date the same courtesy he or she is showing you. This is a fairly confronting move, so don't do it to someone unless you believe they deserve it and will bounce back from it (nor if they're the person about to give you a job offer).
- Text the other person a goodbye. You could either send a text message from the table or you could combine the silent departure with a text and text him or her once you're back at your office.
Take the phone from them during mid-conversation.This guerrilla-approach may not work with some people, but if it’s your spouse or children, by all means swipe the phone.
- Tell them you’ll return the phone once lunch is over. Once again, your co-worker may not find this technique very desirable but if it’s a family member, especially your child, this may be the best way to stop the cell phone conversation and be used as a teachable moment.
- Make a pointed comment such as: "Do you think you're Clark Kent?" The answer will be "No, why?." Your response will be: "Because you're treating this café like a phone booth."
Call your lunch date’s cellphone.If your lunch partner is gabbing away while you silently sip your iced tea, waiting for them to finish, don’t put up with being completely blown off. Call them! Let your call interrupt the conversation they're having, so they know you're done having lunch alone.
- Call them from a payphone or the restaurant's phone for anonymity. They may be perplexed when they see an unknown number, answer the phone only to find it’s you calling them from the restaurant bathroom.
- Send them a text message. Many phones will sound an audio alert when a text message comes in. Your lunch date will momentarily glance at your message and read, “Please put down the phone and have lunch with me!”
- Call them openly from your cell phone. While staring directly into their eyes, dial your lunch partner’s cell number and watch for their reaction as they bumble to read who else is calling them.
Get tough if the occasion calls for it.Suggest that your cellphone gabbing lunch date leave the table if they're intent on phone chatting. Why should you leave, especially if he or she starts talking when your delicious lunch has arrived? If your date is going to be rude, he or she should be the one to leave.
- Tell your date to take it outside. Explain that the restaurant has a "no cellphone policy" (even if they don’t, just say it anyway) and that they will need to go outside if they're going to keep talking. Ask them if the cold meal is worth the call.
- Stare at your date until he or she catches your glance and then point or nod to the exit. Sometimes you can say so much more without ever saying a word.
Deal with the permanently distracted cellphone player.The previous steps have all dealt with cellphone conversations. There are so many things a person can do on a phone now that you may be confronted with any number of distracting activities from a cellphone user, including updating their Twitter or Facebook accounts, harvesting their crops on a simulation game, texting their pals, checking the weather and, most irritating of all, stopping your conversation every few minutes to "check the facts" on the internet!
Bet on it.Put your phone on the table and ask that others with you do the same. The first person to touch their phone before the end of the meal gets to pay.
- Let your lunch partner know that many restaurants prohibit cell phone use in the dining room.
- Start reading out loud. Pull out your current read and start reading it out loud at the table. Your lunch date will be perplexed and will either get the pointed message that it's annoying to have another person focused on an activity that distracts and takes them away from the central purpose of being at lunch, or they'll at least stop their chatting and ask you some questions about your behavior!
- If it appears that your lunch date is tying up a few loose ends, why not use the time to your advantage and send a few texts––obviously your lunch partner won’t mind.
- Before you become completely exasperated, make sure that your lunch date isn’t taking a serious or life threatening call. Calls that surround a health emergency or death in the family should be allowed.
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