Q: You’re at lunch with a group of friends, but one won’t get off her phone. She seems uninterested and disengaged, and it feels rude. Should you ask her to put the phone away?
A: Yes, you most certainly should ask her to put down the phone. But do it in a way that will not come across as embarrassing for her. That should never be your goal, even as annoyed as you might be.
First of all, make sure your phone is neatly tucked away. You can’t ask for her full attention if you aren’t giving yours. Then, say something like, “I’ve been looking forward to catching up with you face-to-face!”
If she isn’t taking the hint, try a more direct, but still gracious, approach. Say, “I can tell you are tied up with something on your phone right now. Is everything OK, or would it be better if we reschedule for another time? It’s truly no problem.”
Phones don’t belong at the table. If you must use it, politely excuse yourself, and make it brief. Those at the table should be the priority, not the phone.
COURTNEY FADLER, founder of CF Etiquette
A: Give your friend the benefit of the doubt, especially if this isn’t typical behavior for her. Without overtly listening in on the conversation, see if you can find out if she is dealing with a crisis and has to be on her phone. If not, then make eye contact with her and politely ask when she will be done with the call.
Once she’s off the phone, inquire if her there’s a problem she’s facing and, if so, express sympathy and ask if it would help her to share it. Snapping at her before you know the facts can backfire big time if, for instance, the call turns out to be from her mother who has just learned that she faces a serious health problem.
On the other hand, if she’s chatting with another friend about going shopping later, it’s totally appropriate to ask your friend to put her phone away. Let her know how her actions are affecting everyone around her; she may be oblivious that her behavior is rude. If she’s aware, hopefully she’ll stop.
NICOLE SBORDONE, author of “Surviving Female Friendships”