I don't really like my living accommodations and have several roommates.

I was talking to my mom on my cellphone and she started asking:

Is your house any better? Are your roommates still really noisy?

The walls are paper thin and the person next to me was home (I know this because I could clearly hear every word of his Skype conversation that's been going on for the past hour). I tried to hint to my mom we should talk about something else but she didn't get it and I had to hang up.

She does this a lot. My grandma complained she doesn't get that some things shouldn't be discussed over the phone because the answer may be offensive to the other people who can overhear the conversation.

What's the best way to address this?

Hi mom. I couldn't answer your question about my house because my roommates are close by and I don't want to offend them. These situations happen quite a bit. Do you want to establish some code word for when it's not time to talk about something because people in the area may over hear it?

She has an extremely hard time understanding this.

  • Did you try texting her about it beforehand? Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


If you can't tell them directly, you need to behave in a way that makes them understand. Usually, when this happens to me, I just start answering with "yes... yes... no... not yet... yes... hm..." and so on. Short, one word, no discussion. This way, after a couple of sentences, the person on the phone will ask: "you can't talk right now ?". And you can just explain that you'll discuss this later. They'll change the topic.

Or you can also make a very weird answer: "what about your roommates? Still annoying?". And you: "sorry Mom, I can't tell you right now, I don't have the schedule of our meetings with me."

By giving weird answers, or answering to another topic, people understand that you can't answer, and they usually switch to another topic.

Keep the answer neutral at all time. Use words/sentences like: I can't tell you right now / I'll don't know yet / well, I'd rather talk about X/Y/Z. People in your room or around can't understand what you're talking about just by listening to answers.

I often do that with my GF or sister, they get the point quite quickly.

About your Mom, you have to set a "warning word". Like a secret password. Short sentence. When you say it, she knows you're stuck and can't say anything about this right now. And if she really has a hard time understanding it, keep on being nice and telling her neutral answers, or not related, until she gets it.

  • 7
    Love the “warning word”, reminds me of one of my cousins in his teenage years in the late 70ies: when on the phone with friends, each of them would name a city. If the city was behind the “iron curtain” (e.g. Soviet Union and Eastern Europe), it meant he couldn’t talk freely.
    – michi
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 15:51
  • I've had good luck with simply saying "this is not a good time to talk".
    – arp
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 19:16

This is easy. You have to be direct. Just say "can you call me at work", or "at 6:00pm (when I'll be walking to the bus (train, whatever))", or "I'll call you back" and phone her at a time when your housemates are not in earshot.

Edit for clarity

I find that people these days are often in situations where it is difficult to talk on the phone - either because of housemates, workmates, or complete strangers overhearing the conversation. Therefore it is preferable to postpone the conversation and put oneself in a comfortable situation rather than trying to "hint" at the fact that one can't talk "right now". Surely it is better to have a free flowing conversation in five or ten minutes time (or even the next day), rather than one punctuated with obfuscation and misdirection

  • 1
    Seems to me like this would end the conversation. What if OP wants to keep talking to their mother but just wants to change subjects or avoid certain questions?
    – user15922
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 13:59
  • Yes, you are right, it would be an abrupt end to the conversation but it would open up the opportunity to have a real conversation. There's nothing to stop the OP saying, can you call me in five minutes, so that he or she could to a quieter place.
    – Jak
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 14:16
  • 1
    Hi @Jak! Thanks for the answer. Could you please elaborate a bit and tell us why you think this is a good idea?
    – avazula
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 14:51

First you can tell her you're not alone and you can disguise your answer

  • MOM: Is your house any better? Are your roommates still really noisy?

  • YOU: YES, OF COURSE. Just hanging around on my apartment with my roommates.

If she doesn't get the hint. Tell something she know isn't true.

  • MOM: What are you talking about.
  • YOU: Don't worry I will take the dog/cat/horse to veterinary tomorrow.
  • 2
    I don't mean to be rude, but your answer says exactly what was answered some 20+ hours ago: ideas are similar, words slighly different...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 7:16
  • @OldPadawan Not rude at all. At contrary more nice that most comment.. Was my fault Im sure I read the answer, but must have been read it really fast because didnt understand the same ideas I can see now.. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 13:41

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