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Waiting Room Etiquette 101

Updated on August 24, 2014
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over 8 years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.


The Wait is Over!

Yes, it is time for yet another etiquette hub. It has been some time since I've writing a hub about etiquette. The wait is over now! You may even have to use your best manners in a waiting room while reading this hub. Wow, how great is that? Well, probably not, but at least maybe I can entertain you for a while with some waiting room etiquette.

We've all been there. Sometimes a person must wait a painfully long time in a waiting room. Often, the experience would not be that bad if other people in the room were not so obnoxious. Trust me, I feel your pain. This is why I am writing this hub. It is full of helpful hints on waiting room etiquette.

Aside from waiting rooms, these rules can be applied to any situation with a lot of people waiting a long time... the train station or airport, lobbies at offices, restaurants before you are seated, etc. Sometimes we are just stuck with a group of people waiting a long time. Here are some tips on how to make the experience pleasant for everyone.

Don't Stare

I can't tell you how many times I have been sitting in a waiting room and some creep across the room is staring at me. The only time that person stops the death stare is me giving a good, nasty glare back. Even then, some people still don't get it.

Look, it is rude to stare. I don't care where you are or what you are doing. Stop staring! Even if I am in the waiting room at the hospital and a knife is sticking out of my head, don't stare at me. Offer me a bandage or something, but stop looking at me. Chances are, I am probably already self-conscious about it and in a great deal of pain. I am in no mood for stares.

Keep Your Conversation Down

I can't stand it if I am just waiting in a lobby to be pulled into some office for bad news or even worse... a job interview. I don't need your loud, obnoxious conversation ruining my vibe. Sometimes I need to focus on filling out paperwork. Loud conversations about Uncle Bubba's visit to jail, or your dog Cookie and her constipation problems are not helping me focus. Please let me focus.

For that matter, don't try to have loud conversations with the hopes that others will join in. I do not want to be a part of your conversation. Yes, I know it is has been rainy lately. I don't care. Let me watch the crappy soap opera on the lobby TV and leave me alone. If I look slightly interested, well OK, maybe you can continue. If everyone looks incredibly uncomfortable and they are desperately trying to avoid eye contact, keep your voice down.

Please Leave the Unruly Children at Home

I do realize sometimes you have to take the little munchkins out in public. What a shame. If you have to take your kids with you to offices, please keep in mind not everyone is going to find them adorable. I do understand sometimes your children are sick and you are in the waiting room at a doctor's office for their appointment. Yeah, everyone gets that and most people are pretty sympathetic towards an ill child. However, some of you are bringing in kids when they clearly need to go somewhere else (but not a hot car!!!) and you need to keep them calm.

Here are some things I have seen children do in lobbies and they should have been reprimanded at the time:

  • Throw toys or magazines around
  • Jump on and off the furniture
  • Kick other people in the waiting room
  • Yell and fight with each other
  • Sneeze and ooze snot all over the entire sitting area
  • Run around like maniacs
  • Throw terrible temper tantrums.

I do understand no one has perfect kids. Maybe your children are having a bad day. OK, tell the person at the front desk you need to be excused for a few moments and drag Screaming Sally and Jumpy Johnny out of there for a bit. Once everyone is back to acting reasonably, bring the child back into the office. Don't make the rest of us suffer.

Be Nice to the Staff

I've been noticing something a lot of people are lacking lately: being nice. Yes, it seems pretty simple, but a lot of people seem to think the world revolves around them now. I have dealt with some nasty, rude, impatient, needy, and just generally unpleasant people lately. It is not just me either. I've witnessed front desk attendants dealing with people that have definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Stop it.

Did you realize you are not the only person on the planet today? Yes! Other people have appointments. Some of those appointments might even be before your appointment. Other people have emergencies, too. Plenty of people are on strict timelines. A lot of us are busy... including that front desk attendant that does not have time for your sob story.

Instead of going off on some poor innocent person, take a few moments to think about your situation. Is it really that dire? Are you really going to embarrass yourself right now? Is this moment going to seem important to you tomorrow or next week? If not, just calm down and let it go. If you really have a legitimate complaint, you can still take a few minutes to calm down and be reasonable when you do approach someone. The world would be a better place if we all did this.


Don't Take Up the Whole Lobby

Lobbies and waiting rooms are not your living room. I am sure the staff wants you to be comfortable, but not too comfy. Kicking off your shoes and laying down on the couch that is supposed to seat 3 people is a bad idea. This is especially the case if the room has limited space and a lot of people need to sit.

If you are going to an office, there is really no need to bring all your buddies and family members with you. Please consider other people exist (yes, this also goes along with the whole "the world does not revolve around you" thing) and don't take up every seat. Also, don't have you and your crew spread out leaving empty seats here and there, and then carry on conversations. Sit together if you can and don't make it awkward for the rest of us.

Wait Your Turn!

As I previously mentioned, although many people seem to think they are the only people on the planet now, there is actually millions and millions of us! When waiting in a lobby, it is good to keep in mind, "I should wait my turn." If you see someone got there before you, don't be sad when that person gets waiting on first. If someone gets there after you, yet goes back first, don't freak out. Who knows what the situation could be with that person?

Eventually, everyone gets their turn in life. Sometimes it takes a little longer than expected, but patience always helps. If you don't have much patience (like me), waiting around a while can sometimes help you with that matter. Read some magazines or brochures while you wait. Clean out your purse or your wallet while you have this opportunity. Take some time to check some old text messages you've been neglecting.

The wait is basically over for you right now. We are at the end of this hub and you are free to go on with your life. Of course, you are also free to read more hubs, too. It is time for you to get out there, be patient, and have the best waiting room etiquette in the whole office.

Copyright ©2014 Jeannieinabottle


Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I think you are right about playing mellow music in the background. One of my doctors plays talk shows on the TV in her lobby, and there are a lot of fights and negativity on those shows. I don't think it does anything for the patients' attitudes in the waiting room. People seem crankier because of it.

  • kj force profile image


    5 years ago from Florida

    Jeannieinabottle.... Rude appears to be the new " It's ALL about me "..

    Being retired from the Medical Profession, your article subject was the biggest complaint of our Clinic. On the other hand, when people don't feel well ( and levels of tolerance do vary ) there is a side of humanity that is not pretty. Soft music playing in the background can mello the aura...and a large sign NO CELL PHONES works also..thanks for the underlying humor..well written...

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    DzyMsLizzy, I think all insurance companies are a pain. If you are happy, that is all that matters!

    FlourishAnyway, I am the same way. I am practically at death's door before I will go to the doctor. And thanks!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    For all the reasons you describe, I try to stay as far away from waiting rooms as possible. I need to be nearly dead before I go. Then, I do have to put up with the staring. Funny hub, Jeannie. Yet again!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    No matter--at this point, we'd have to make $10K more a year just to be AT the federal poverty we have in addition to Medicare, also a state supplement, so we do get our carefree. And while hubby likes to complain about Kaiser and some of their's pretty much the same anywhere--if you need certain specialty treatments, you're going to get sent to other locations than your local facility. All in all, I have no complaints with Kaiser--they did a great job with my new knee! ;)

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    It is a shame you don't have those clinics near you. We even have a few others like Doctor's Express and Target's clinic. They are great because you don't need an appointment. The drawback is sometimes you wait a long time and you don't usually get the same nurse or doctor each time.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    LOL--I 'freaked out' on them alright! I was still with my ex, then. Now that I'm a senior and have Medicare, I have Kaiser. Appointments are not always instant--depending upon the department, but they are very good with having advice nurses by phone, and you can get a telephone appointment with a doctor as well; and a refill via that rounte. All good alternatives to the emergency room. We don't have those kinds of clinics you describe around here.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    randomcreative, I am glad you agree as well. People need help!

    RTalloni, thanks for sharing my hub! I rarely use Pinterest, but that sounds like a cool place to pin it.

    DzyMsLizzy, sometimes a person does need to freak out a time or two. They should have simply asked the doctor if you could have the prescription and then phoned it in for you. I hate doctor's offices! Now when I am sick, I go to the Minute Clinic or Patient First. I hate appointments... as if I can predict when I am going to be sick! Also, I've noticed the Minute Clinic at CVS is very generous with prescriptions... probably because it just gives them more business. I don't care the reason though... sometimes I need to be full of allergy medicine just to function. ;-)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Oh, yes, how true. I have run across the loud conversations people plenty of times...and sometimes, the other end of the conversation is on a damned cell phone!! Please, folks...a waiting room is no place to carry on a lengthy phone call....even if you are a business person, such as, say, a real-estate agent. You need to do your office business in your OWN office, or in your car (while parked), but not in a public waiting room. Nor does anyone want to hear your end of a conversation about the latest break-up with the latest boyfriend. STFU, turn the phone OFF, and put it in your purse or pocket!

    I will admit that one time, I was impatient, and told the receptionist off big time, and demanded to be seen by the doctor RIGHT NOW.

    But--it was their own fault. I was very sick with bronchitis; I called for a refill of my cough syrup; they would not let me speak to the doc (who knew me/my history) and would have okayed it; they insisted I HAD TO BE SEEN. Then they offered me an appointment for the following week! I said, "No, I need this refill TODAY!" They were uncooperative.

    I was so sick, I should not even have been driving, but, I went to the office, approached the desk, and when they asked if I had an appointment, my response, in as much of a creaky, whispered YELL as my bronchitis would allow, was as follows:

    "No I don't have an appointment. I TOLD you on the phone that I needed a refill TODAY, not next week! I'm sick, YOU insisted I had to be seen, so here I am, and I DON'T CARE IF GOD WALKS THROUGH THAT DOOR--I'M NEXT!"

    Guess what--the doctor saw me within minutes, and I got my refill. He was not pleased when I told him of my experience with his staff.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Good stuff worth sharing. Pinning to Solve It: Community board.

  • randomcreative profile image

    Rose Clearfield 

    5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    It's sad how many people need these basic tips...Right on target as always, Jeannie!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    lambservant, I wonder what happened to the ticket agent that did that at the airport. I always feel like I have to bite my tongue with nasty customers... sometimes I think I am going to bite it off! I hope all went well with the agent. Thanks for the story!

    Jodah, thanks for the votes! I can't stand waiting at the doctor's office... I always think I am too sick to wait. ;-)

    PaisleeGal, thanks for the comment and the vote up. I will check out you hub.

    bravewarrior, you are right. Sometimes the wait in the exam room is actually worse. I find myself thinking no one is ever going to come in the room and I will be waiting in a paper gown all day.

    Kaili Bisson, I know what you mean! Kids and annoying conversations are the worst!

    oldiesmusic, I think you are right. People will do anything not to be bored. It is a shame some people can't just sit there and be fine without needing to bother others.

    sheilamyers, I do try to bring a book with me, too. Even if I don't, I am pretty easily amused. Actually, the wackos in the waiting room are my entertainment sometimes. ;-)

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Great hub! I wish everyone was required to read this one and they'd actually do exactly what you said. I know ... keep dreaming, right? Usually I take a book or my Kindle if I know I'll have to wait. It works for me because, when I'm reading, I can block out everything around me. Well, maybe not the screaming and kicking kids, but I'm not afraid to tell the parents to do something about it.

  • oldiesmusic profile image


    5 years ago from United States

    Some people do these things out of boredom waiting, so they do these kind of things to "bide their time." I also hate loud voices whenever they talk to their cellphones as if they own the whole room with no one else in. Nice work you've done

  • Kaili Bisson profile image

    Kaili Bisson 

    5 years ago from Canada

    leave the kiddies at home if they can't sit still and turn your phone off...nobody wants to hear your conversation with your boyfriend :-)

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    5 years ago from Central Florida

    I always bring a book with me when I know I'm going to have to wait. Even after your long wait, you get sent into a room, told to take off your clothes and put on a paper garment (in a freezing room no less) and have to wait some more. And some more. Then the nurse comes in, takes your stats, asks questions and leaves with "the doctor will be right with you". What does that term mean? Usually it means I have time to read 3 or 4 more chapters in my book while my lips turn blue from the cold!

  • PaisleeGal profile image

    Pat Materna 

    5 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

    Jeannie ... another good and necessary article and done with humor. I think at my point in life I've seen all the situations you mentioned at least once... while I was "Waiting-On-Life". Check out my about hub about the subject of "waiting".

    Voted Up!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    5 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Very good hub jeannie. I hate doctor's and hospital waiting rooms especially. Great tips here and these are real scenarios. I have seen most of these people. Funny too...voted up.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

    How about the person that sneezes into his hand and picks up a magazine? Ew. I 've seen this many times. I bring my own reading material.

    As to being nice, I heard a true story (I don't remember who told it) where an airline ticket agent had a long line of customers. There had been a problem and a customer, way back towards the end of the line was upset he'd missed his plane. At one point he stormed up to the agent, butting the front person out of the way and started demanding the agent fix his problem. The agent said "Sir, I will be happy to assist you, but there are many others before you in line." This person was well known, or thought he should have been well known and slammed his hand on the counter and said "Do you know who I am?" The agent got on the loudspeaker and said, "Attention (name of airline) personnel, we have a customer here who doesn't know who he is."

    Brilliant, don't you think?

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie Marie 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    PegCole17, I wish I could post this in some offices. My mother said she did go in a doctor's office once that had a sign saying if you have any complaints or you want to be rude, you can just leave. I guess you have to be a pretty confident doctor for that.

    heidithorne, oh yes, the cell phone conversations. I am so tired of cell phones being everywhere I go. I am so tired of hearing other people's conversations. Sometimes I just start a really loud, obnoxious conversation beside that person until he or she gets the hint. Thanks for the votes!

  • heidithorne profile image

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    Further on the loud conversations, keep the cell phone conversations to a minimum. Ack! It is so annoying and we're not impressed that you're sooooo busy that you can't put your cell phone away for your doctor or dentist appointment. Unplug, please!

    Great hub about a subject we all are acutely aware of, but rarely address. Voted up and funny (though it's kind sad really)! Have a great week that, we hope, is not filled with waiting rooms. :)

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    You've done it again, Jeannie. Taking a normal everyday occurrence, you've brought some sense to it along with the funny. How many times I've wished I could say some of this to my companions in waiting rooms? About a zillion.


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