How to Properly Excuse Yourself When Nature Calls

Mother Nature isn't always so beautiful... like when you're nursing a stomach bug but still have to go out in public.

Richie Frieman
7-minute read
Episode #391

Not all etiquette issues are so cut and dry as saying please or thank you and holding doors open for others. Sometimes, being mannerly means you have to deal with the uncomfortable sides of nature that don’t exactly put you in the nicest of spots. I’m talking about having to excuse yourself when “nature calls” and you’re afraid that time is not on your side. I’ll go into detail with my tips, but needless to say, we’ve all been down that road.

So, before you even try to test your internal clock and try to wait out a conversation before your stomach drops, check out my top three quick and dirty for how to properly excuse yourself:

Tip #1: Go Mobile

From the minute he wakes up, to the moment his head hits the pillow, real-estate agent Geoff is always on his phone. As a workaholic, making sure that his customers know he’s there for them whenever they need him is his secret to success. However, last month Geoff was battling a stomach bug when one of his clients called saying there was an emergency and they had to review a contract issue. As always, Geoff put his body second and his client first. Despite feeling as if he was on death’s bed, he got dressed, sprayed way too much cologne all over, and headed out to a restaurant (to make things worse!) to meet his client and calm their nerves. About five minutes into the meeting—where Geoff slowly nursed a cup of tea—his stomach reminded him about the bad sushi from the night before. Yet Geoff felt very uncomfortable (as we all would) having to excuse himself to use the restroom, since he knew it would be a rather loooooong session. So, just as Mother Nature not only knocked on his door, but kicked it open, he urgently shouted, “I’ll be right back, gotta go!” However, it came out more like a blur of syllables like, “I’llberightback,gottago!”

I don’t fault Geoff in any way; he is a hard worker and is dedicated to his clients. However, had Geoff simply used his phone as his “get-away vehicle,” things would have gone much smoother. When you have a meeting and you know your stomach isn’t on your side, and you don’t want to admit to it, always use your phone to get you out of a jam. A simple, “I have to take this call!” will save you a world of hurt. Knowing this, it’s proper to state that upfront. It’s okay that Geoff didn’t want to tell his client he was in the bathroom all night (you never want to do that), but had he said from the get go, “I’m waiting on a call from a family member, so I may have to bounce out for a couple minutes,” he’s showing respect for his client’s time and saving himself some embarrassment. This way when he feels the urge to go, he can use the phone as a clutch. No one can argue that. After all, he’s a workaholic! But he made it known ahead of time and made sure they knew where his focus was. He can pretend to get a call, kindly excuse himself, and then take care of business… before getting back to business. By properly stating your departure upfront, it gives you room to be flexible.

Tip #2: Embrace The Crowd

In an article I wrote called, “Proper Networking Etiquette,” I talked about the dos and don’ts of pulling off a successful networking event. See, anyone can attend a networking event, but it’s another thing to actually use the networking event to launch yourself up the corporate ladder. With that, when you go to a networking event, it’s always best to work the room and make most of your time. Not only does playing the role of the wallflower get you nowhere in business, but when you are moving around, you can use that towards your advantage when you need some, ahem, personal time. After all, going to a networking event can be a great way to make contacts, form new ventures and meet like minded people… then again, it can also be a fast way to never do business again. So the last thing you want to do is be deep into a conversation with someone and have to head for the hills when your stomach decides to play tricks on you. But have no fear, there is a proper way to make things work, and being a Grade A Shmoozer can come in handy.