The distracting speaker phone speaker

One of my co-workers uses his speaker phone when making or answering calls. This drives me wild for two reasons. First, it is highly distracting since I can hear not only him, but the person to whom he is speaking, as well. Second, I think this is a big breach on his part, because sometimes, details of the call should just be between him and the person at the other end of the phone who may not know she is being broadcast all over the office. Can I say something?

Sure. Try saying, “You probably aren’t aware that when you are using your speakerphone, a lot of us can hear both sides of the conversation and it’s hard to concentrate on our own work. Do you think you could turn off the speaker when you’re on the phone?” Don’t express your judgment that it is inappropriate or that you find it rude; just focus on the distracting nature of the problem.

A neighbor has started sending her children (aged 4 and 6) over to my house to play. She doesn’t call first, and she doesn’t accompany them. They are very nice children, and my kids enjoy playing with them, but I feel like she considers me to be a free babysitter and it’s a lot of responsibility. How can I end this without affecting my children’s ability to have these friends to play with?

You could try this. The next time they show up, unexpected and sans their mother, take them right back home to their house. Say you were concerned that she would be worried about them since they showed up all by themselves, turn them over to her with a smile, and return home. If she says, “Oh no, I knew where they were,” it’s a great time for you to say that it is difficult for you to supervise so many children right now, but the next time she would like them to play it would be great for her to call first so you can set up a play date at a more convenient time and perhaps accompany her children so that she can help with the supervision.

We have a wonderful friend who visits often, and stays, and stays and stays, way past the time when he should go home. How do we ask him to leave without being rude or hurting his feelings?

There is nothing hurtful in saying, “Harry, can I get you one last drink or some coffee? We’re going to have to kick you out in about 15 minutes because we both have early morning meetings tomorrow.” Especially since he is a good friend who obviously enjoys your company, you should feel comfortable with expressing the truth, even simply that you are tired, without making him feel insulted. Giving him 15 minutes allows him to finish a conversation and then say thank you, but he’s got to go without feeling rushed or pushed out.

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