My partner and I were in a very casual restaurant (self seating, buffet style) with another couple who we were still getting to know. As we were about to eat, a good friend of the couple (but unknown to us) came over, and without excusing himself for interrupting or even so much as a glance in our direction, proceeded to discuss a matter in a very loud and animated manner with our new friends. Then, after about 12 -15 minutes, the person departed, again without a glance or word to us.

I was flabbergasted. It felt awkward to eat in silence (or even at all, since the other couple were not eating), and it would have been nice had the couple interrupted their conversation to introduce us, or excused themselves for "a moment" to discuss a matter totally foreign to us, but that didn't happen.

I would have considered introducing myself to the newcomer if there had been a break in the conversation, but there wasn't.

Other than that, what I was feeling (and still feel) was "How incredibly rude that guy is!"

My question: Is there any courteous way to interrupt the "intruder" and prevent being treated as if we did not exist? What is the best way to handle such an event?

I'm not looking for how to handle our new friends so much as the intruder.

  • 5
    This is a tough nut to crack with a guy ignoring your very existence and no break in their discussion for 12-15 min. I can't think of any way to get his/their attention without rather crude means (like addressing them in a very loud voice or collapsing to the ground - even though he may well have ignored you even then). Really no opportunity to interfere, not even asking the other couple something akin to "Don't you want to introduce your friend to us?"? Oct 30 '17 at 18:56
  • 1
    How rude can you afford to be considering the status of your relationship with the other couple?
    – user2135
    Oct 30 '17 at 19:21
  • 1
    I mean, are you walking on eggs (ie, one of them is your boss, or you're gonna negociate a deal, whatever) or are you in a casual, relaxed situation? Please elaborate.
    – user2135
    Oct 30 '17 at 19:35
  • 1
    Why do you even want to get involved with a rude person? I would have just eaten my meal.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 30 '17 at 21:12
  • 1
    @AnneDaunted I would upvote if this were an answer
    – user510
    Oct 31 '17 at 8:18

Introduce yourself.

Yes, you say that you didn't have a chance... but you have to make one. Interrupt them and introduce yourself. These sorts of situations can be pretty annoying and, hopefully if you're in the opposite position you'll interrupt your friend at an opportune moment and introduce the unknown party to them but, failing that (as in your situation), you should do this yourself.

Hi, friend! I'm anongoodnurse and this is partner. How are you doing this evening? How do you know [friend couple]? [Optional: We were just having a nice discussion of {discussion topic}. Would you care to join us?]

Usually making yourself a part of the situation will bring you to their attention as not being willing to sit idly by during a lengthy conversation, which is incredibly rude of them. A quick "hi" and "bye" is one thing and many people don't interrupt with the intention of a long conversation but by adding yourself to the equation, you make them less likely to ignore you.

This will also hopefully give your friends the chance to do their job of saying:

"It's really great to see you but this isn't the best time as we're dining with anongoodnurse and spouse. Let's catch up some other time."

... which, as I said, is what the friends should have done in the first place and what we should all try to do if in this situation.

Hopefully by being active they'll realize that they're interrupting, which is why the optional part is in there - to make them aware that they've interrupted a conversation - and passively encourage them to realize that they're being rude. This may not work every time but once you've added yourself to the conversation, you can gradually become more pointed in your interruptions encouraging them to move along.

Sadly, some people simply can't take a hint and will keep going until they're done regardless. If you feel like you're in this situation because they show no indication of stopping after you introduce yourself, you can use a variation of what your friends should have said to hopefully get them to move on. Yes, it's a bit rude to go this route but sometimes when they're refusing to accept the subtle hints, you've got to either be the carpet for them to walk on or pull it out from under them.

I'm sorry to interrupt, friend, but is your interruption going to last much longer? We're trying to have a conversation over dinner but you've been here chatting for five/ten/fifteen minutes now. Would it be possible for you to catch up at some other time?

  • Thanks! As I mentioned in a comment, it was kind of a "business" conversation (the intruder is an elder in my friends' church, which I don't attend.) There was nothing I could say. Just interrupting and saying, "Would you care to join us" would have been a really good move. It's polite and gives me a reason to interrupt/be noticed. I'll definitely use this next time. Oct 30 '17 at 21:29

I've been known to be guilty of this kind of intrusion. I have a bad habit of only talking to people I'm closely acquainted with and tend to not address people I don't know well unless they've spoken to me first. In my case I think it may be something of an aspie problem, but I think more introverted people may fall afoul of this kind of behavior.

It's probably best to address these situations when they first pop-up, as in when the person fist approaches, with the usual:

Hi, I'm SoAndSo

addressing the intruder, or

Who's your friend?

addressing the people you were sitting with.

Granted it is rude to bench the other people at the table because someone intruded on a meal, but chances are pretty good that it was unintentional and that the people you were eating with probably didn't expect a 15 minute conversation. I would guess that they were expecting a much shorter "Hey funny running into you here, good to see you." sort of thing.

Given that this was at a buffet style restaurant, I'm assuming a more casual enviroment, so it probably wouldn't have been rude to continue eating or indulging in an unrelated conversation with your partner.

As far as interrupting the intruder goes... I'm also thinking that this could be an option, assuming an informal setting. Obviously better done at the beginning of the conversation, but like most informal conversations, if there's anything that you pick up on that you can add to, relate to, or generally comment on, feel free to interject. Once you've squeezed a word in edge wise the conversation is a little more likely to open up to the entire table.

Again while the intruder is being rude, it's probably unintentional and just a symptom of poor social skills. Think, socially inept, more than deliberately rude.

  • It was not a conversation I could contribute to in any way. The intruder is an elder in my friends' church, which I don't attend. I don't think he was deliberately rude, as in, "Hey, I think I'll make these people feel unvalued!", but I thought it was incredibly rude. You make a great point that perhaps no one intended for it to go on as long as it did. :) Oct 30 '17 at 21:25
  • "like most informal conversations, if there's anything that you pick up on that you can add to, relate to, or generally comment on, feel free to interject. Once you've squeezed a word in edge wise the conversation is a little more likely to open up to the entire table." __ good suggestion @apaul! Oct 31 '17 at 6:46

I'll give three options...

Interrupt and introduce

Address the intruder. "Sir. Sir! My name is OP and this is my partner OP's Partner. Please, what is your name?" At this point, most people will either decamp or make the conversation more general, which is not a bad thing.

Excuse yourselves

Assume one of the new friends is Mark. "Mark. Mark! OP's Partner and I are going to step outside for a moment. We'll be right back." Then you and OP's Partner get up and enjoy a quick stroll around the block, unless (likely) Mark and Mark's Friend come to their senses and either chase Intruder away or make the introductions.

Show you're annoyed

Now be warned, this advice is skirting the very edge of what could be considered gentlemanly, but it's what I would do. How do I know? Because I have...

Again assume one of new friends is called Mark. "Mark. Mark! Is this a bad time?"

Wrap it up...

Note all three options include you doing something, because Mark and Mark's Friend are not stepping up. I'd be a little disappointed in them, but who knows their circumstances, right? Perhaps they're shy.

  • "Interrupt and introduce (...) At this point, most people will either decamp or make the conversation more general, which is not a bad thing." __ yes, it is a socially acceptable way to insist on asserting our presence @akaioi. Oct 31 '17 at 6:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.