Do you have somewhere you need to be?

I was having a business conversation with a young woman recently. During our talk, she looked at her watch several times. As she was leading our discussion at that point, I ignored that, but as things wound down toward the end and she checked yet again, I thought perhaps I might be holding her up. Not wishing to be that boring old man, I just put the question to her directly, asking if she had somewhere she needed to be.

She laughed. "Oh, no, just checking text messages", she explained. Oh, duh, yes, I had noticed that she was wearing an Apple Watch, but I hadn't yet had enough experience of people with those to break the life long assumption that she was checking the time.

I mentioned this to my wife later and she immediately said "That's rude". I understand why my wife would say that, but I'm not sure she's right. If the young woman had instead laid her cell phone on the table and had glanced at it during our talk, I wouldn't have thought it rude. I would have realized she was just quickly checking to make sure the texts were not important. Of course I'd be helped by the fact that I'd see and perhaps even hear those texts arrive; I don't know when an Apple Watch has tickled someone's wrist.

But it is a reasonable question: is it rude to check texts during a business oriented conversation? I don't think that it is, but I find myself hesitating because I'm not sure that I would do that myself. But then again, the power dynamic of most such conversations I have has me on the weaker side: I'm usually talking to a customer, so I should be concentrating on them. Were I interviewing an employee, I might feel more comfortable glancing at texts and other notifiers.

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