Waiting Room Etiquette 101

What your provider wants you to know but may not tell you

Posted Apr 01, 2014

Woman on cell phone in waiting room

Shooting the breeze in the waiting room

I may get some flack for posting this, as for many, the below will simply be common sense, and you will wonder why on earth I am bothering to post such obvious information. If so, read no further. But because we can all be in our own little worlds when in waiting rooms, here are some reminders that your provider (and others who are waiting) may want to tell you, but probably won’t.
  1. Respect the privacy of others who are waiting. This is the number one rule of therapy waiting rooms and for good reason. Definitely do not ask other people why they are there – even if they look friendly and approachable, or like everything is hunky-dory for them. Many people will respond to be polite, but that doesn’t mean they really want to chit chat or make friends before their session. Perhaps more important (definitely more important), do not ask out anyone in the waiting room, even if they are totally adorable. Just because Tony Soprano did it doesn't mean you should.
  2. Save personal phone calls for elsewhere. Your phone calls irk the others in the waiting room and can often be heard in the professional offices. Don’t do it! If you need to make a quick, urgent call, such as to a baby sitter, that’s fine as long as you keep your voice low. If the call is work-related and/or will last longer than a minute, however, please take the call outside of our office. Anything related to your social life, reality TV, or an upcoming sale – feel free to talk about it -- later.
  3. Please don’t eat your lunch in our waiting room. Most places don’t have daily cleaning services, so any crumbs you leave will either have to be cleared away by your provider or their staff, or left until the weekend person comes in. Not good.
  4. If you must eat something, please make sure it is a.) Not loud b.) Not messy (see #3), c.) Not stinky. Energy bars: good. Sardine sandwiches, nuts in the shell, or any sort of goulash, bad. We know your schedule is probably tight, and you may have to eat on the go. Please just be thoughtful about what you munch on when you’re here.
  5. Make yourself comfortable – but not too comfortable. That is, no feet on the couch or coffee table. Fine for at home but not in a shared, public space.
  6. If you bring it with you, take it when you leave. That means coffee cups, water bottles, your newspaper, fliers about special events, or the book you think others will love too. We appreciate the thought but would prefer you not add to the office décor or reading material.
  7. Don’t leave young children unattended in the waiting room. This should need no further explanation.
  8. Bring books or (silent) games to occupy young children, and remind them to use their “inside” voices. The waiting room is infinitely more boring for your toddler than it is for you. We don’t expect them to be silent little soldiers, but please help the experience to be less frustrating for them and everyone else.
  9. Go "Au Natural" - with regard to perfume. Waiting rooms can be small spaces that don't allow others to escape your aroma (wonderful though it may be). Given that others may have different tastes or be sucsceptible to migraines, etc., please save the signature scent for elsewhere.

While you are here, do allow yourself to re-center, take a well-deserved break, and perhaps think about what you’d like to cover in your session. Catch up on some reading, meditate, or even doze off for a bit. As you have probably surmised, the overall message is to have respect for others’ privacy and comfort while in the waiting room, and seize this rare opportunity to find peace in a public setting.

Be well!

About the Author

Dr. Traci Stein, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, certified clinical hypnotherapist, and health educator who integrates complementary/alternative and conventional healing approaches.

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