Uninvited and Unannounced: Handling surprise visitors

by epi on April 5, 2013

Q: I have in-laws and a few friends who constantly show up at my house unannounced and stay for hours. This really bothers me and my husband. Most of the time we are busy, in the middle of a project, haven’t had dinner or we have other plans. I think it is totally inconsiderate. What is the proper etiquette for visiting and do you have any advice for me as to how I might handle this problem without having to move and not tell them where we are moving to?

A: If you are genuinely busy, or simply don’t feel like company, you say, “Hi! How great to see you. I wish I could ask you in but we are just about to get ready to go out. Give me a call next week and we’ll pick a date to get together.” You have no obligation to entertain gusts you weren’t expecting. While it is rudeness to you to have someone drop in, many people were raised differently in areas where spontaneous visits are quite the norm. There is never a guarantee, however, that someone is available to entertain you when you stop by, so there should be no hurt feelings as long as when it is you who is being “dropped in on” you make a sincere effort to have a planned get-together another time. If this happens more than once, you can say quite politely that you love seeing them but are always so scheduled that it is difficult for you to focus, and would prefer that they call first, or that you really plan get-togethers so you can concentrate on them and enjoy their company fully without worrying about other things you had been planning to do.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna April 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I wouldn’t expressly tell them to leave, but also I wouldn’t alter whatever it is I was doing — like, if they came in while I was washing the dishes or doing the laundry or whatever, I would keep on doing it. Anyone with one grain of social awareness would see the person is busy and themselves suggest they come back another time.

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Winifred Rosenburg April 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

What you’re saying is true; however anyone with one grain of social awareness would call before coming over.

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Vanna Keiler April 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Unconventional solution to problem: answer the door together in towels (woops). Perchance that will curtail the unexpected visits. :)

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Ginger April 13, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I actually love Ms. Post’s direct answer of being firm at the door. But as an introvert, who desperately guards my alone time to recharge, I had this as a constant problem in college. Dorm living is notoriously casual about social calls. Here are a few ways I dealt with it:

1. Don’t answer the door. If my doorbell rings and I’m not expecting someone, I don’t answer. If you have the problem of cars outside or other evidences that you are at home, for all they know you’ve gone out for a walk. Or, if pressed, you could truthfully say you were busy and just assumed, since you weren’t expecting them, that it was a salesman. There is no law about answering if the doorbell rings. Same for phones.

2. It’s possible you might have to have a direct, but light conversation where you mention you are trying to do better about planning ahead of time — that life gets busier for all of us, and you are making an effort to stick to a schedule based on your priorities. Ask if they could help you with this. People actually usually love to be asked for help. (See this blog for details on time blocking: http://sweeticedtea.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/tuesday-tip-values-timeblocking/) My guess is if you have this happen regularly, you’ve in some way accommodated them in the past, so as Ms. Post mentioned, your priorities DO include them — just at another time when you’ve planned for it. You’ll both enjoy each other more.

3. It might do to make a quick note for yourself on your calendar after they’ve gone or someway of knowing when they stopped by. Perhaps they have patterns that will become evident — when they have free time, are in the area, or are lonely — which you could either plan for, by heading them off earlier in the day with a phone call, or meet them at the door, keys in hand, saying, “I was just about to head out — want to grab a cup of coffee on my way to the grocery/practice/church/whatever?” Then, grab your coffee, and head to your next location. They are out and about and away from your stoop is the point.

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DL Clark October 16, 2013 at 12:17 am

I get very annoyed when people from my church just show up at my door without a call or note. My family are temporarily in a location, and will be moving soon. Our furniture and belongings are in a storage facility, and we are giving my husband the opportunity to further his career and gain his PMP. We have made this clear, and yet, today two women came by, and I think they will be back tomorrow! I am unable to entertain now, nor feel so inclined at this time, as we are anxious to move back to Frisco, Tx, our home. I have some health issues that I am coping with until that time, and do not feel that I need to explain this to my church, despite their kindness, and efforts to know why I am unable to attend church some times. I was raised with manners, and at 51, I do not feel like I need to be put upon by those who are not trained, or try to show respect towards others privacy. I hope that my feelings are not too harsh, as I love to serve, yet right now, I do not feel well, and need some down time. I have several surgeries in the near future with rejection from TVT mesh, and abdominal adhesions from surgeries to ablate a tumor, then, remove the kidney.

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Elizabeth October 16, 2013 at 12:23 am

DL, you have perfectly good reasons for not wanting to entertain. When these women show up, you don’t have to let them in. When you open the door, plant yourself squarely in front of it. Exchange pleasantries without moving, then say, “Well, thank you for stopping by! Unfortunately, I’m not able to entertain right now. Please do call first in the future, I’d hate for you to waste a trip!” You could also call the pastor or whichever lady is in charge of sending people to visit the sick or homebound. You could explain that, while you appreciate the effort, you would rather not have visits for the time being.

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Deb October 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

We have friends that we have known for years and they always drop in unannounced. They will stay for hours and usually show up at meal time. Through the years though we have heard them make comments about other friends of theirs. How they like to go at meal time because the wife is a great cook. Also, how they do not want anyone to drop in with out a call and will tell them in no uncertain terms that they don’t appreciate it. Yet, they do it to us. We have over the course of the last few years asked them nicely every time they just show up to please call us so we can be better prepared for their visit. They simply will not honor this request and will even make joking comments when they arrive like, we know you don’t like drop in company, oh well. With a big smile. It has really made us feel completely disrespected and yes we take blame because when they do show up we don’t turn them away. By the way they never invite us for anything.

They did it again this weekend on my husband while I was away. Yesterday, the wife called and I said I need to talk to you about something that is awkward for me. I said we have repeatedly asked you very nicely several times to please call us before you come by. I said we enjoy your company (not so much lately), but it makes it awkward for us when you just show up. I asked her why. She got so mad at me. She started yelling at me and actually hung up on me. Then she called back and told me that they didn’t know they needed an appointment and do we require our other friends to make an appointment before they come. This turned into a huge scene. I made a point of not raising my voice to her and told her that as friends we should be able to speak calmly to each other, but she wouldn’t have it. She told me that I had a chip on my shoulder and that I didn’t have to worry about them ever showing up at our door again. I’ve got to admit that while I hate that this happened I am beginning to feel like we aren’t losing much.

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Michelle January 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Good for you for speaking up!
It’s their loss; definitely not yours.
Those people have no manners and simply use others at meal time; how pathetic.

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jeanie January 12, 2014 at 1:08 am

I have (had) a lifetime friend (high school friend) & we are now in our 60′s. For years my friend became progressively intrusive. Maybe in the early years it did not have an effect on me. Granted, we have been through everything together – children, divorce, school reunions, including each moving to another state. That did not deter her intrusion. If she drove through town, she thought nothing of stopping by – always unannounced, even when we hadn’t seen each other in over two years. Over the years, I came to see and know, that my friend is lacking social ettiquette! Not only that, she has no respect for me. When her actions became more than I wanted to experience, again, I ceased answering her phone messages and emails. It was never just about her dropping by – she would butt into my private matters and her bluntness often left me totally speechless! I was able to sever the ties with this lady — who it turns out, of course, had changed from the person I knew in HS. I don’t miss her and I don’t feel guilty. I gave her years of being a “sounding board” for her… I’m sure, with her personality, she is making someone else’s life miserable at this very moment.

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Michelle January 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I have very unusual sleeping patterns due to serious health issues.
Sleeping is a challenge to begin with and unannounced visitors is my biggest pet peeve.

People who know me are aware of this and I kindly tell people to always call before coming over. Yet, they simply don’t care and stop by announced anyway.

I disconnected the doorbell because it was such a huge problem.
They still don’t get it because they’ll bang loudly on the front door.

I no longer answer the door if I am not expecting guests. I think it is down right rude for people to assume their presence will be welcomed. NOT!

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Abaddon March 27, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I despise unannounced drop ins. My significant other’s people do it all the time and I really can’t stand it. The house is small. When people come over, they will be underfoot and its incredibly annoying when they just drop by. I have cats. They almost never close the door behind them. Plus I love my privacy and incredibly resent having to share my space with these fkng clods whenever they decide to show up. My people know to call first and I do the same for them. When I move out back into my own place in a few months, this is going to be one of the things I’m going to love not having to deal with.

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Alicia March 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I’d talk first to your significant other and then to his people. I really dont get the drop in thing as nobody has ever done it to me not in an emergency. However, talk to your significant other then with his agreement come to some house rules including maybe call before unless it is an emergency.

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