Do Not Disturb


This handy little phrase is used in so many ways. There are signs on hotel and motel doors, offices and conference rooms may have a sign or signal light, doctors can put a notice outside their patient examination room, telephone systems have a separate button and, of course, online messaging and chat services can be set to indicate busy.

The theory underlying this phrase is that one is busy with some activity and does not want to be disturbed. In days of old, one could frequently just go ‘hide’ somewhere. Today, with all communication all the time mixed with all generations being treated as equals, the times for the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign are being altered.

I have stated frequently that all electronics have a functioning off switch. They also have silent modes so that there is no ring and you can even turn of the vibrate feature. There are two questions that can be raised surrounding this issue:

1—When interrupting the do not disturb function, is it or is it not disturbing for the receiver?

2—How is the do not disturb function annoying for the person who wants to interrupt?

Our lives are filled with constant interruptions, some acceptable, some tolerated, some disruptive. How we react to these interruptions is a factor for how we feel emotionally each day. The honeymoon couple would be annoyed if the hotel cleaning people did not honor their sign. Doctors have to be very sensitive to their patients and the privacy of an examination. Meetings with a child over serious matters should proceed undisturbed.

There is an attitude rising in our culture that there is nothing private and therefor interrupting anyone’s ‘do not disturb’ request does not require adhering to the request. In a restaurant when a famous celebrity walks in should not allow them to be disturbed during their meal. Babies need their sleep and when friends or family request us to lower our voices, we should.

There is another side to this ‘do not disturb’ issue which generates two more questions:

3– How do you inform people about your ‘do not disturb’ status?

4– How do you react when people do not honor your ‘do not disturb’ status?

Attitude is important. So is privacy and ‘getting away.’ When your ‘do not disturb’ sign is engaged, you need to realize that you are telling people to go away at this time. If the sign is shown all the time, you teach people to always stay away. When you react to interruptions, you have a choice to be polite, gruff, serious, joking, angry, respectful, or responsive. Learn that disturbances will happen whether or not you hang up a sign. Every day we teach people how to deal with us.

Proper use of a ‘do not disturb’ sign can provide a very good balance for your day or week. Work gets done and people can interact with you receiving your full attentions. Of course, improper use of ‘do not disturb’ sign often teaches people that your barriers are raised and there is little chance to have interaction between people on each side of the sign.

How you use your very own ‘do not disturb’ sign needs to be done through a conscious decision by you. And yes, you get to make this decision every day of your life.

Your Getting Unstuck Coach

Richard Oppenheim

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Richard Oppenheim
Richard Oppenheim helps individuals and companies get better. His effort is to deliver short term actions that will serve as the foundation for achieving long term goals, such as getting unstuck. He maps what is desired with what can be accomplished and then help create a personal road map for going forward.

As a CPA, Richard was an early innovator of computer based resources. Over the years, his efforts have integrated lots of business processes, personal actions, technology resources and decision making. He has developed computer based professional education courses and co-founded a company providing on-line education courses covering the areas of security, management and control over IT operations.

As an adjunct professor at NYU's Graduate School of Business, Richard served as a Director with NYU's Management Decision Laboratory. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and did post-graduate work at New York University.

His writing includes books, magazine columns, computer product reviews, feature articles, trade association pamphlets, book editing and ghostwriting.

His journey continues as he endeavors to guide and illuminate the path that others need to take.
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