How To Get Full Attention Of People Who Love Their Phone

Kumar Gauraw

How many times have your face-to-face conversations been interrupted by a phone call? Sometimes the call would have gone so long that you probably never got a chance to get back to your original conversation.

Boss on cellphone while in a meeting with coleagues

Has it happened to you that you are talking to someone and they get a call which destroys your conversation instantly because they go ahead with the call?

How many times have you taken such a call while you are still in the middle of a face-to-face conversation?

It’s Frustrating, Their Phone Keeps Ringing

A friend recently shared his story of being in such a situation and how he dealt with it. And I want to share this with you today. It was a very interesting story.

So, he works for a large steel manufacturing company where there was an accident which took the lives of a couple of workers at one of their plants.

He was given the responsibility to research the causes of the accident and produce a detailed report with his recommendations for avoiding such a situation in the future.

He worked hard, did his research on the accident and prepared his final report to present to his manager within the week. He then proceeded to present this report and luckily his manager was available in his cabin. So, he got an immediate entry.

He spread the report on his manager’s table and started to explain.

Two minutes into the presentation,  the manager got a call which he took and kept talking for 15 minutes. At the end of the call, the manager apologized and requested him to continue with the presentation

Another 3-4 minutes and the manager got another call which he took again and he was again on that call for about 15 minutes. Same thing, an apology and request to proceed further.

When the third call came again shortly, my friend knew that it wasn’t going to work and he couldn’t do much because he was in front of his boss, right?

So my friend signaled his manager (who was still on the call) that he was going to be back in 5 minutes and he came out of the cabin.

But, You Can Get Creative Too!

But my friend didn’t come out to go back. Instead, he had another interesting plan in his mind.

He watched his boss talk on that call from a distance and as soon as he saw his boss keep the cellphone down, he called on that cellphone.

His boss picked up and then my friend said, “I am in my office right now and if you still have a few minutes, can we discuss my report while we are still on this call?”

The manager agreed and they spent the next 45 minutes discussing the presentation in depth.

The moral of the story is, something that couldn’t happen face-to-face did happen on the phone because my friend understood that a phone call was more important to the manager,  so he did what was necessary to get the job done!

Later, the manager met in the cafeteria and admired my friend for his creativity and thanked him for doing that.

What Can We Learn From This Story?

There are a couple of lessons to be learnt from this story and I am only talking about what I learnt:

  • Being on the phone while sitting across with someone face-to-face is ethically wrong unless the phone call represents an emergency. It is disrespectful and a violation of the golden rule. For more on etiquette, check out my post about rules of etiquette.

  • If you have someone in your life like the manager in the story above, instead of trying to change them or fighting with them over it, get creative and adapt to their style. Be smart about dealing with them.

How About Your Thoughts?

I will love to know what are your some of the thoughts about what else can we learn from this story? Do you have a story of being in a situation (on either side of the story)? Will you care to share it with us?

I look forward to your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you kindly!

Kumar Gauraw

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Kumar Gauraw is a Personal Branding & Social Media strategist helping entrepreneurs and skilled professionals achieve personal and professional success by developing leadership and leveraging the power of the Internet, Blogging and Social Media.

39 Awesome Thoughts So Far, Add Yours Now...

  1. Hi Kumar,
    I like how creative the employee was to get his boss’ attention. He figured out his modus operandi and got to him. Very clever. It just shows how busy we have all become. It also reveals how some people manage while being so busy.

    Like the employee in your example, I understand how difficult it is to get a hold of some people. Voicemail is full. Promises to return your call and they don’t. It can be frustrating, but the key is persistence and eventually patience is rewarded.

    Best Regards,

    • Yes Bill. You are right about this friend of mine. He is very cleaver and insightful. He just came with an idea right away which really worked well. I was amazed when he heard his breakthrough in this situation πŸ™‚

      Like you said, it only shows how busy we have become while we may or may not really be productive at the same time.

      Thank you for dropping by and sharing your perspective.


  2. Hello Kumar,

    I truly agree with all your points. I have also got a nice story for you.. It’s been a winter time, when my friends were celebrating my birthday & one of my friend getting calls from his office which is irritating for us. I have not started cutting cake due to my friend;’s phone.

    After an hour, he just did a nice trick.. He called his boss himself & tell him to come right now at the office. His boss told him that, He is busy, he can’t come to the office right now.. My friend said, you are busy & you are calling me again & again, you have the time to call but not to meet.

    His Boss feels sorry and tell him to meet him tomorrow at the office.. & then we finally started our party.

    • Hi Himanshu,

      Wow! Your friend must have had a much friendly relationship with his boss to be able to express his frustration in such a direct way. And, he must be your close friend too for you to wait for his calls to end so you could cut your cake πŸ™‚

      But anyway, happy ending is what matters. With that you guys could celebrate your birthday peacefully!

      Thank you for sharing your story that again shows how disruptive cellphones can be.


      • Hello,

        Thanks for your quick reply sir. You are right, He is my childhood friend (from 4th standard). We really enjoy our friendship..

  3. That was an interesting story and many people do not realize how rude it is to be on the phone There is an old expression which is there is more than one way to skin a cat. Be creative. To me nothing is there is nothing that important it can’t wait unless it is an emergency from your family.

    The way I have handle a similar situation, when I see someone that is constantly answering the phone and comments this is the important call that I have been waiting for, I will smile. When they are done, I will say, this is the important meeting I have been waiting for. Would it be more convenient to meet at another time at my office, as I have other appointments. Usually it stops them in their tracks and they apologize and say there will be no more interruptions.

    The phone has become such a crutch to so many people don’t know if they realize how rude it is. It is hard enough in this busy world we live in to get an appointment that respect should be given by all parties involved. Time is money to us all.

    • That is so awesome Arleen πŸ™‚ I like your method as well.

      And regarding phones, tell me about it!

      We all have those moments when it gets little too much to handle while. This incident reminds me to value the person in front of me as opposed to the person on phone unless it is an emergency.

      And yes, definitely there are more than just two ways to skin a cat πŸ™‚

      Have a great day!


  4. Hi Kumar,

    That was an interesting story with a very important lesson too πŸ™‚

    I think many people go through such phases when they get caught up with such phone calls and don’t know really what to do, whether they are with their clients, bosses, or even at parties or the movie theaters. It’s basic etiquette to either switch off your cell phone or have a message fed that you’d take the call up later or keep it pending for a while and excuse yourself to make the call again as and when you get time, isn’t it? People need to learn to do better than as the story suggested.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead πŸ™‚

    • Hi Harleena,

      This is something we will have to deal with because the world that we love in getting even more complex with every day passing πŸ™‚

      If we have so much problem dealing with these distractions, can you just imagine what’s coming 10 – 15 years down the line? πŸ™‚

      It is scary and the only way that be handled is by we, the adults be a great examples for our children and educate them on what’s right and what’s not.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts πŸ™‚


  5. Hi Kumar, What a great story! I admire your friend who got creative instead of angry. If we all did that, we could come up with solutions to our problems instead of ways to get back at someone.

    I am constantly amazed at people who are rude with cell phone usage. Learning to ignore calls is very important. I often see people driving or at the checkout counter while conversing on the phone. Rude and unsafe!

    The person in front of you has taken the time to be there. They deserve respect.

    • Yes Caronlyn! Thank you for pointing that out. In fact, I’ve been guilty of being on phone on checkout counters a few times, I must admit. πŸ™‚

      I will be more careful about that next time now that you pointed that out πŸ™‚

      Have a great week ahead!


  6. It’s interesting how your friend dealt with the issue (and it’s a great lesson for all of us).

    I have been in couple of these situations…My brain usually gets frustrated, but I understand. People have emergencies…and they value their time (just like I do). If they are busy, it’s best to come back later and talk to them (since waiting for them might be loss of time/effort for us).

    I haven’t actually dealt with this situation, at least not that I know of (since, I don’t use my phone very much).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this awesome lesson, Kumar πŸ™‚ Appreciate it! Hope you have a great week ahead!

    • Hi Jeevan,
      Glad to know you could relate to the story and enjoyed my friend’s creativity. I complimented him too when he told this to me πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful week my friend!


  7. I vote for face-to-face interaction whenever possible, especially when one is looking right at the person. Why talk on the phone. It drives me nuts when that happens. And, we have a rule in our house – no phones at the dinner table or when we go out to eat. It’s just rude. There is a time and place for taking a call and in the middle of an important meeting or family gathering is not one of them!

    • Wow! That is an awesome rule Laurie! But very strict I must say πŸ™‚

      I probably will starve for a few days if my wife makes that rule at my home for sure until Incan self-correct. But I am careful of other people’s presence in normal situations because as many others have said, the person in front of me, needs to get that respect and that is my responsibility.

      But, not speaking on phone while on dinner table also makes sense! Hmmm… Something I should consider…

      Thank you for sharing this.


  8. Hey Kumar,

    Luckily for me I don’t have face to face meetings with anyone and I’m not in corporate America for that to continuously happen. I’ll tell you one thing though, it wouldn’t happen often with me around.

    I did have this happen though with an ex-friend of mine while she would visit me. at that time she had a very controlling boyfriend. She would take the time to come visit me yet be on the phone with him. I told her that when she’s visiting me she needs to give me her full attention unless it’s an emergency. If she couldn’t then I didn’t want her coming over anymore. She was not happy with me but I told her that my time is just as important as anyone else’s and obviously you came over because you wanted to spend it with me. So spend it with me and not on the phone casually chatting with anyone else. Her boyfriend hated me from that moment forward but I’m happy to announce she finally figured out for herself what a jerk he really was and dumped him.

    I personally think it’s rude to talk on the phone when you’re visiting with someone. Like you said, unless it’s an emergency then it can wait.

    Great share Kumar and hope you enjoy your week.


    • Hi Adriene!

      Wow! That’s a pretty strong declaration that you cleared right away with your friend and that so so like you as I can imagine πŸ™‚

      I guess I can’t carry my phone with me when I come to see you anytime in future πŸ™‚ LOL!

      But I see your point and this is how it is supposed to be whether or not the person in front of us tells us to do. They deserve some respect and by being on phone unnecessarily is just so rude and ignorant.

      Thank you for sharing your story and adding value to this post.

      Have a glorious week yourself!


  9. Hi Kumar,

    I liked the way your friend handled that situation. For me, I think there are ethics to be followed when using cell phones. Now, I don’t work for anyone but myself. But if I am with a client, my phone is shut off. Why in the world would I want to be distracted when I need to focus on another person is beyond me.

    I’ve come to depend on my IPhone for many things, but enough is enough. Even when I go out for dinner, it is turned off. There is nothing worse than being with people at the dinner table and everyone is on the phone.

    When people get together for business and even pleasure, why be so rude to keep answering that phone? I see so many people doing it, it is one of my pet peeves! Especially when people are with their children. My goodness.

    If I were in your friend’s situation, I would walk out of that office and probably do the same thing!

    Thanks for raising this issue.


    • Hi Donna,

      What my friend did was amazing to me because I wouldn’t have thought of doing so naturally.

      Probably I would have walked out and would have never come back and perhaps I would have confronted him too being a direct person πŸ™‚

      But with this story, I learnt one more way to defuse a situation.

      You are right. It’s just rude to be on phone while being with other people in meetings especially.

      Thank you for sharing some
      Insights from your end!


  10. Hello Mr. Kumar
    Very interesting story.
    I think your friend was bold enough to get the manager’s attention, but I do not think that strategy would work for everyone.

    For myself, when I am with a client, I turn my phone off or put it on silent. My clients are paying for their time, so I cannot and will not use the phone while their in a session..

    The technology of the phones are great, but we should still enforce ethics, unless there is an emergency,

    Thank you Mr. Kumar and have a wonderful week.


    • Hello Ms Gladys,

      You are right about my friend’s strategy. It isn’t the intention either that everybody should follow the same technique. However, we all need to figure out a way to politely take control of the situation and get our point across so we don’t feel frustrated and ignored just because the person in front of us can’t stop talking πŸ™‚

      Turning off the phone is something I don’t do and can’t do because I will lose the ability to attend to emergencies if that happens. However, I make sure I don’t spend time talking on phone unnecessarily while I am with somebody.

      You have a wonderful week as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  11. Hey Kumar,

    Great story! I think there is a lot to be learned there – I can’t think of any personal experiences I have had that are in line with that, but it goes back to thinking outside the box and understanding who it is you are working with!

    Thanks for the great info,


    • That’s right Zach! The response you generate largely depends on who you are and then who is the other person in most circumstances. Yet, a conscious choice such as the one my friend made, is a wise move which actually is a well thought out. He definitely gets the credit for his creative way to deal with a normally frustrating situation πŸ™‚

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You might not have a story from your past. But now you know this one πŸ™‚

  12. We have a golden rule in business that all devices are shut off prior to any meetings no matter who it is that is involved. Even, over 20 plus years ago all meeting in buildings, home outside all devices are shut off. That is just how it is done around the groups I have had the pleasure of being in.

    That is unprofessional at any level. The only ones who take calls are for emergencies only and that is the one who’s office we are conducting the meeting in. When it is at my company office there is not problems all phones are shut off.

    Thank you for this T.V. moment per say. I never heard of this happening. Only on television and movies?

    • Kumar, I have to apologize for making a big thing out of not seeing this comment prior to my one I issued today. This message is just to confirm that “You Are The Man”.

      Thank you, for allowing us to voice our insight on your articles. Kumar, I look forward in interacting with you for sometime to come. Love your style!

  13. Oh yes, major hot button for me! I’ve always made it a practice to turn off my cell phone when I’m in meetings and I normally keep it on vibrate when I’m with a group of people. My last ‘boss’ before I escaped the corporate world was the absolute worst about interrupting conversations to take calls – even during performance reviews! I like your creative approach to addressing this issue Kumar.

    • Hi Marquita,

      Glad that you liked the creative approach πŸ™‚

      Also, Thank you for sharing how you handle your phone and the story of your boss who was also similar to my friend’s boss πŸ™‚

      We are often faced with similar circumstances today due to more phones than people I guess and we need to learn to deal with it.

      Have a great rest of the week!


  14. Kumar,
    I love how your friend handled that situation, I wouldn’t have thought of that. It bothers me when bosses especially do that to people. I think it’s a lack of respect. Now even more than ever people text more than talk on the phone. I wonder if that same concept would apply; someone loves to text – so send them a text instead of face to face. Hmmmm Have a great night, Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      As far as texting is concerned, I do that already and it works great. I’m not going to fight it. They won’t pickup the phone and respond to text promptly? I know what is going to work. And I will also keep them
      Engaged on text.

      In fact, with some people, texting also saves your time because they would otherwise take a lot of your time when they start talking πŸ™‚

      Glad you enjoyed the post and the creativity of my friend. Have a great rest of the week.

  15. Hey Kumar,

    I tip my hat off to your friend. That was indeed a creative way to get his managers attention and hold it. To be honest with you, I think I would’ve done the same thing.

    Sometimes instead of battling out with someone, the best thing we could do is adjust to their way of doing things. Especially if it’s going to get them to pay attention to you. So in this case, chastising wouldn’t be the best option to take, but being tactful in a way to drive their attention indirectly would always be a win/win!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s right Sherman! The more with fight, the more agonized we become and it’s not worth the fight. Somehow, this seems fashionable (and many times an unavoidable situation with some).

      If I need to get somebody to do something for me and they love being on phone, this is what I should be doing. Pickup that phone and talk to them. Best way to testify the famous – “In Rome, do as Romans do”

      However, the lesson is, avoid being in chair of the person who love their phone. I do not ever want to become that person. I will rather talk to people I am sitting face-to-face with than being on phone.

      Thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.


  16. Hi Kumar,

    Nice Situation Handling by your friend. Brilliant Move.

    Actually i didn’t face this kind of situation like your. Because i do like this for others(like Manager), because am a CEO of RAAM IT Solutions, then Principal of Sri Durgaa Vidhyalayam, Madurai, then Son of Headmistress Mrs. M.Nagalakshmi, then Son of Correspondent Mr.M.K.Mariselvam, then husband of “Fashion Designing” Mrs. N.Sivapriya and finally as a blogger, trainer (me) for my students conducting online training for “How to make money from online” etc….

    When there is a call for me, i don’t bother about the situation and others. Just i attend the call, because daily am getting more calls from my customers, students, etc… It’s my responsibility to reply to my customers and all. But i will not miss to ask excuse to others. Here, I must have to follow the “Golden Rule”. It’s also a story of mine.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hello Nirmal,

      I appreciate you for taking time and sharing your situation with us and describing yourself being like the manager in the story. What I understand from your comment is – you need to be on phone call for you have many important calls to attend.

      And, what I didn’t understand from your comment was – are you justifying that being on phone while being face-to-face with somebody is okay because you have more than business to take care of?

      And, since I that is not clear, here is what I have to say:

      If you know that you can’t keep yourself away from phone, you should avoid setting up face-to-face meetings with people who respect their time. It’s okay to be on phone but it’s NOT okay to keep somebody waiting. Being on phone is not bad but being rude to others is. And being on phone while making someone sit in front of you and wait, is definitely rude.

      And when you do it, its rude. When Bill Gates does it, it’s rude. When Mukesh Ambani does it, it’s still rude.

      Hope it clarifies the intent of the post.


      • Hi Gaurav,

        That’s what i told in my comment, Here, I must have to follow the β€œGolden Rule”. I have to respect others, while setting face to face meeting, it’s the point i have learned from your post.

        • Aha! Get it now πŸ™‚
          Thanks for clarifying Nirmal.

  17. I have to give it to this guy, he was indeed very creative and had what it took to catch the attention of his manager. Great job. I would like to say though that for those who can’t seem to let go of their phones, oh get a life! There are certain etiquettes that one needs to follow and just be respectful of the person you are speaking to and don’t answer that call!

  18. Kumar, this is my second time on this article and I do not see my first comment? I was not to happy in making this one without the first. However, your share has a huge funny catch where I live.

    We have so much technology everywhere in Massachusetts. The capital, Boston is known for hot-spots and key locations that have futuristic things to use. Everywhere you can see, are people on blue-tooth technology.

    I conduct lots of meetings, onsite and off site. This has been one of our concerns until someone just suggested to have everyone required to turn off all electronics. That has been working even when we do webinars. It is a great thing when we all can work together.

    Kumar, you have been a huge driving force, within our family. I wanted to tell you how much I personally, appreciate your support services.

  19. What a creative topic for writing.. πŸ™‚ In similiar case i would have said got hell to next person rather then making an attempt to grab his or her attention… πŸ™‚

  20. Hi Kumar,

    This is not an isolated case. It’s a common phenomenon even in worship places.I believe why we have silent and vibrate options on our phones. It doesn’t auger well when your phone rings in a general meeting.Some ring tones are so awkward. I believe our phones should not offend others.Keep your phone in silent or vibration when in a meeting .You can also switch it off.I’m glad you shared this.
    Thank you.

Please Note: My goal is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. Therefore, I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.