Is It OK to Wear Sunglasses During a Conversation?

Can you really engage in a conversation with someone when you're wearing sunglasses? How can you show you're focusing if they can't see your entire face?

Richie Frieman,
March 12, 2014

As I write this, I’m enjoying a (rare) sunny day on my deck, sippping some lemonade, and wearing my shades. After a brutal winter, finally the insane snow has disappeared and spring is peaking its head out from the clouds – even if for a brief moment.  Granted, this snippet of nice weather may only last a few days before the temperature drops by thirty or forty degrees, but I’ll take every second I can to enjoy it. In fact, I'm going to make my afternoon coffee meeting an outside meeting. Ahhhh, sunshine.

As the warmer weather starts to become the norm, many people (like myself) will be spending time outside, enjoying a meal or drink with a friend or colleague. And with that, one small etiquette faux pas creeps up -- I’m talking about wearing sunglasses while you have a conversation.

Before you hem and haw, I’m not talking about a beach day with your buddies, or a hot July Sunday at the ballpark – I’m talking about adult conversations with someone who believes they have your undivided attention.

So is it rude to wear sunglasses during a conversation? Absolutely yes. Here's the deal:

Of course sunglasses serve a purpose, and not just so celebrities can pretend they are invisible. There is a clear line when it comes to when and where to don shades. When you're on the beach, or at an outdoor event where sunglasses are about as standard as shoes, it’s totally acceptable. However, not when you are trying to have a real conversation with someone, such as with a colleague at an outdoor lunch. Your eyes show your focus and attention, so if they're hidden, that's a problem. 

If you want to have any sort of serious chat, you can’t do so with sunglasses on.  Forget all the things you see in movies where big time deals are done with some hotshot wearing sunglasses. It doesn’t work that way in real life. People want to see you are invested in the conversation, and not just going through the motions. If one party of a conversation is wearing sunglasses and the other(s) are not, it looks creepy, rude, and frankly, like they are hiding something – mainly their attention span.

When the time comes for the conversation to take place (you’ve already said hello and even commented on the weather), remove the sunglasses, put them on the table or in your pocket, and then engage.  Now I say “engage” because that’s what you should do in a conversation, not just be a body in a seat. Talk, smile, look the person in the eye! It says, “you have my attention."  You get bonus points if you are able to take them off first, and put them aside. That shows you're taking initiative.

If you continue to wear your shades, while someone is talking, how do they know you’re not staring off into space or just people-watching? Don’t get me wrong, sunglasses are cool...but eye contact is even cooler.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!


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