Interruption Etiquette


You’re meeting a potential new client at your local coffee shop. A friend walks in the door, sees you and wanders over to your small gathering of two. She proceeds to ask about your weekend, also adding details of her crazy morning.

You introduce the two parties, particularly emphasizing “We’re meeting about doing business together”  (COUGH,COUGH. HINT, HINT),  yet her feet remain planted on the ground in front of you and she continues talking.

Your business meeting has been hijacked!

How do you politely ask your friend to move on…so your meeting can get back on track?meeting

Here are a few suggestions:

Hi Kim! Ben and I are meeting about business. After I’m done, I’ll be sure to swing by your table for a  quick hello.

I’d love to chat with you, but need to focus on my conversation with Ben right now. Can I call you later?

Your tone of voice will account for large portion of the message you send. If you’re worried about offending your friend, make sure your tone is friendly.

To perhaps avoid this situation in the future,  your body language should say “business meeting.”  When you see an acquaintance, don’t give off the “Hey!  Come on over here and say hi” message with your body, eyes and facial expressions. I’m not suggesting you  ignore your friend, but usually a quick glance, smile and wave before immediately refocusing your eyes back on your client gets the message across. Usually.

If you were interrupted by a long-winded friend, once your friend moves on, briefly apologize to the client…..without throwing your friend under the bus by calling her Cathy Chatterbox.

How we treat all people in various situations says a lot about who we are. If I’m the client, and you didn’t handle this situation with respect & courtesy to both parties, I’ll think less of you.

And if you  see what looks to be a  meeting in progress at your local coffee shop, give a friendly smile and hello, but save the conversation until later.

One last thought. With so many people working all over the place and also out of their home offices, meetings  will be held in public places. When you schedule your meeting for Starbucks, don’t be frustrated when you are interrupted. It’s part of the territory.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you been in this situation? How did you handle it? Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Mind Your Manners,


  1. Kelly, your suggestions are great. Body language can communicate a lot. I might add in my comments to my friend: “…and we’ve got some time constraints…” if that is true (which it usually is.) It also demonstrates that you are respectful of your client’s time, (if that is true, which I hope it is!)

    • Kelly

      Perfect add-on Jean! Thank you. It DOES send a message of respect to mention the time constraints. Thank you for always reading and sharing your thoughts Jean! You are a faithful supporter and I greatly appreciate it!

  2. Thank you, Kelly. Your advice is very helpful. I agree that planning ahead usually prevents the problem. It’s what we teach our children, right?

  3. Very helpful! Thanks!Interruption Etiquette starts at home the way we raise our loved ones as they grow they adopt to what they have been taught.

  4. In relaxed every day conversations my boyfriend gets totally bent out of shape when I begin to speak or add conjecture to his statement (not intending to derail his conversation) just to experss my excitement or “understanding” of what he is talking about. He also gets totally bent out of shape if I begin to guess about what he is about to say, or interject with any words at all. Am I wrong to be a bit peeved for him correcting my relaxed and playful style of conversation. I feel as though I have to behave as though I am in a courtroom when I am with him. After 5 years of this I am not enjoying his company any more. Am I wrong to feel this way?

    • Kelly

      That sounds like a frustrating situation Betty…especially since it’s been occurring for five years. Have you expressed your concern directly to him – during a safe time? If not, I would and then go from there. You mentioned that you’re not enjoying his company anymore…and you deserve to feel great about relationships, yourself and your playfulness conversation! Good luck to you Betty!

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