How to Politely Say No to Video Calls

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What You’d Like to Say When Asked If You Have Time for a “Short Zoom Call” (And What to Say Instead)

I’d love to hop on a video call really quick.

Did your heart just flutter? You’re not the only one. Even though most of us can’t even put our phones down to use the bathroom, many people hate using their phones for actually, you know, talking. And if you throw video calls into the mix, your workday is now interrupted. Isn’t email – or even a scheduled phone call – much more efficient?

Yes indeed is the answer, by the way. A university study found that following video calls, potential employees were less likely to be recommended for hiring. Likewise, job candidates rated their potential employers as less attractive, personable, trustworthy, and competent than when compared to face-to-face interviews. Yikes.

So, what’s an entrepreneur to do? Especially now, with 58% of American knowledge workers currently working remotely. You can’t exactly say, “Sorry, I’m still wearing the pajamas I wore last night … that I’m probably going to wear tonight, too … and I haven’t washed my hair in eight days.”

I mean, you can. But I wouldn’t recommend it. There has to be a polite and professional way to avoid a video call, right?

There is. If you’re someone who’d rather walk to the mailbox as you are and get trapped talking to the neighborhood nosy ninny than hop on Google Meet, here are a few things you can say.

What You Want to Say: “I hate seeing myself on camera.”

Let’s be real. You have enough going on right now, and the last thing you want to do is add worrying about the way you look to that list. A response revealing that you haven’t left your couch for the better part of a week probably isn’t going to thrill clients, though. Say you would prefer to schedule a phone call, if that’s a possibility. You don’t need to give a why.

What to Say

“I’d love it if you’d send me your availability and some points you’d like to go over, and we can schedule a phone call. If you still feel a Skype call is needed after that, we can get one in the calendar.”

What You Want to Say: “Yet another [virtual] meeting that should have been an email.”

Video calls can be productive – but only if everyone on the call is committed to actively discussing the topic at hand. If anyone isn’t, there’s no point, and you’ll probably get off the call wondering where in the world two hours of your life just went. Or, worse, you didn’t really need to be on the video call in the first place and you use that time to meal plan for the week or scroll mindlessly through Facebook (oops). Then that video conversation is followed up with an email summary anyway and you can’t ever get that time back.

What to Say

“If possible, I’d love to chat about these details via email or phone call. This way, I can actively take notes without seeming distracted. If you think a Zoom call is necessary after getting our first steps laid out, we can pick a time to talk that way.”

What You Want to Say: “I’m having coronavirus dreams about my kid asking me something about poop when we’re on a video call.”

This one’s for the parents. Admit it. Part of why you dread video calls right now is that your kiddo is almost certainly going to interrupt and you have no idea what they’re going to do.

You have to be prepared for anything. Replying to an email? No problem. Muting your phone? Easy. Scrambling to mute, turn off your camera, and maintain some semblance of professionalism while your pants-less 6 year-old explains (read: shouts) the more gory aspects of Komodo dragon pack hunting? Run away. Far, far away.

But hey, sometimes it’s okay to say this, too. Especially right now. Remember, we’re all doing our best. A single drop-in from a cute kid/pet/partner can bring a much-needed sense of normalcy and warmth to an otherwise dreary situation.

What to Say

“I want to make sure my home environment allows me to give you my full attention. Would you mind sticking to a phone call this time? I’ll be able to move around and, if necessary, we can schedule a Google Meeting to talk about anything else.”

Ultimately, you need to be able to get on a video call if necessary. Sometimes, you just have to do what’s best for the client (within reason) if you want to keep them. And – like it or not – the virtual meeting is likely here to stay, at least for awhile.

That said, if you’re most comfortable communicating via email or phone call, put your own spin on these responses and hopefully you can get out of a video call in a way that is professional.

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