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Talk of the Town



Bruce Rosch

A few weeks ago I was attending a luncheon. The beautifully decorated ballroom was full of important business leaders. All was going well until the award presentation started and my pesky neighbors wouldn’t quit talking. More than once I wanted to “shush” them. I could tell that those at my table wanted to do the same thing. No one did anything and they kept talking.

This has also happened in movies, theaters and concerts.

What can you do if you’re in this situation?

From an etiquette standpoint, a “shush” usually isn’t the best answer. A nonverbal “please be quiet” glance their way may work. (It didn’t work for me.) Even if they had been at my table, it wouldn’t have been easy to ask them to be quiet. It’s uncomfortable, and if it’s someone you interact with professionally it makes it even more difficult.

If you don’t know the person, it is easier to politely let them know that they can be heard but that can be risky too. People’s responses can be rude or even violent. So what can you do?

Ask for help: If the person is truly disruptive, discreetly find a manager (it’s best if you can stay anonymous). Ask the manager to approach the talker and respectfully request he or she be quiet, or if it comes to this, to leave.

Set a good example: Don’t be the one to talk during a meeting no matter how tempted you may be. It’s rude. And for other talkers, you can hope that your good behavior will influence theirs.

Practice the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If someone starts talking to you, I’d say ... “let’s continue this after the speeches.”

Count to 10: Many times in life, if you simply pause and count to 10, things will change. Perhaps the talkers will stop. It’s much better to let it go than to let yourself get caught up in a situation that could tarnish a relationship.


Suzanne Willis is the founder of Willis Consulting & Communications in Naples, which specializes in contemporary business, social and children’s etiquette.

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