Etiquette of conversing in doctors' waiting rooms.

This afternoon, I and a friend went with a third friend to be supportive during some medical testing (she may have cancer.)
Friend A was called in for her tests, leaving friend B and myself in the waiting room. There were about a dozen other people there, some by themselves and some with a companion. Nobody was talking much except for a little murmuring here and there. There wasn’t even a TV in the waiting room, nor piped music. And the office staff were all behind sliding glass partition so no noise from those quarters either. So it was quiet.

Friend B resumes a conversation we’d been having on the drive there, involving a somewhat complicated and lengthy family situation she was embroiled in. Thing is, with everyone else being pretty quiet, her rehashing to me of grievances and who said what to whom was ringingly audible to everyone else in the room, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

I felt uncomfortable because I thought it was somehow inappropriate. Especially since this was a pulmonary oncology center, so patients are dealing with some pretty serious shit, most likely. It’s not like waiting to buy concert tickets, or in an airport lounge or something. I ended up making some sort of excuse to go out to my van so she would stop with the long story because I couldn’t think of a way to hush her without making the situation more uncomfortable.

So, basically, is this rude and inappropriate behaviour, or is it just me, and for all I know the other people waiting were enjoying the diversion?

Waiting rooms (at least for the doctor) seem to have this sort of social climate. Its like no one is talking but you can cut the tension with a knife, right?

All I can say is that I know what you are talking about. I don’t know what the answer is, but I doubt what your friend was talking about could be viewed as ‘immoral.’ It could maybe be viewed as annoying to others, but in that case it seems to largely come down to your own comfort level.

If that rings true to you, then you should probably look at it in that light. Like, “do I want to work on expanding my comfort zone right now or see if I can get the conversation to stop.” If someone gets on your case though that is a different story… I would suggest you listen to the reason to why they would be upset with overhearing a person talk and if it seems rude to you then you can stop and have learned something. Perhaps easier said then done though.

So, those are my thoughts. :smiley: Hope they were helpful.

I understand your discomfort, but waiting rooms are filled with mundane “fluff”. At my old neurologist’s office, the waiting room had a big TV that seem to show nothing but the very worse shows of HDTV. I’m sure people in that waiting room had much weightier matters on their mind than the virtues of granite table tops and bonus rooms.

Then there are the magazines. Back issues of Reader’s Digest and Highlights, anyone?

All silly mundane crap. But you know what? If you’re waiting an hour to see the doctor it took your three months to get an appointment with and you don’t know what you’re going to do if he tells you you’ve got X, Y, Z, you need something to divert your attention. Even if it’s a New Yorker cartoon that goes right over your head. Otherwise, you’ll go crazy sitting in that room, all alone with your thoughts.

I’m sure at least one of those patients was grateful ya’ll were talking. Sometimes hearing mindless chitter-chatter brings a sense of normalcy to a serious situation.

I would think if you were not talking about things that could be offensive, and you were speaking in “library tones” I think you were fine. I would not have had a problem telling friend “shhh” if I felt he/she was being too loud.

I’m a private person so I would not engage in personal conversation where everyone can overhear me. If someone I am with attempts to bring me into such a conversation I would be very uncomfortable. I always leave the room when answering my phone too.

I would have directed the conversation away from that topic and said ‘we can talk about this later’.

Well I am glad to see that my discomfort was not universal, and oddly enough I’m generally a sort of extroverted person who is very comfortable with prattling away with complete strangers, wherever. But I also think the prevailing ambiance ought to be somewhat of a guide to one’s social behaviour.

Friend B is actually a very compassionate and kind person with mostly excellent social skills, but she tends to dominate conversations with her personal on-goings, often rather loudly, at times when I don’t think it’s appropriate. I have in the past told her nicely to “hush” but I didn’t this time because I felt as if we were in an audible fishbowl. One of the women sitting alone in the waiting room looked to me like she was trying hard to hold back tears, and I kept thinking that if I were she, I’d feel somewhat stabby about some stranger loudly prattling on about he said and she said and then mundane stuff.

While I am really quite outgoing, I, too, tend to keep personal stuff personal, take phone calls outside (or turn off my phone) and generally avoid discussing personal matters, or other people’s drama to a smaller, more discrete audience.

Oh, and monstro - good points. However, the difference between three-month-old Redbook or Golf Digest magazines, or a TV screen*, is that you can choose to ignore it and do something else. But you can’t ignore someone loud in the waiting room.

*I genuinely loathe TV. At a previous doctor’s office, their TV was set to some sort of medical products advertising channel and there was no way to ignore the screen or noise. I told them that if they wanted my continued business, I would wait outside the office and they could send someone out, or call my cell, when they were ready for me to go back.

I don’t know about people in general, but I’m a people watcher, and I definitely would have enjoyed the diversion, unless she was getting angry or something. While I myself would not talk about something like that, I have no problem if someone else is okay with sharing that sort of information.

That is, as long as she’s not so loud as to come off as crass. She needs to talk at the normal volume that anyone would in such a situation. Only loudness would make her come off as not caring about others, rather than just not caring if others hear her.

The Dr’s surgery I attend is in a lower socio-economic demographic, and caters for regular medical patients as well as providing drug and alcohol treatment options. So the clients/patients, as you could imagine, are a wildly colourful lot!

And for some reason, druggies like to talk a lot, and talk LOUDLY, about all sorts of personal and intimate shit that most of us would keep very private.

Even though I’ve moved 25km away, I still like going to that surgery just for the sheer entertainment value. :smiley:

I don’t watch TV and absolutely hate HDTV. And yet whenever I had an appointment in that office, I’d be watching that damn house hunter show just like everyone else in the room. I really didn’t have a choice between the TV was so big and loud. Plus, the show is kind of addictive for some reason. Those people sure love them some ugly-ass houses.