Is it rude to yawn on the phone?

Yawning is an involuntary action that we all do multiple times a day. It’s a natural bodily function, but is it rude to yawn when you’re on a phone call with someone? In this 5000 word article, we’ll explore the etiquette around yawning on the phone and look at both sides of the debate. We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid yawning or minimize the rudeness if you can’t suppress it.

Is yawning rude?

There are arguments on both sides of whether yawning on a call is impolite. Here are some key points in the debate:

Yes, yawning is rude

  • It suggests boredom or disinterest – Yawning may signal to the other person that you are bored or don’t care much about the conversation.
  • It’s disruptive – An open-mouthed yawn makes a loud sound that interrupts the flow of the discussion.
  • You’re not fully engaged – A yawn implies that you’re distracted and not actively listening.
  • It’s unprofessional – Yawns are seen as casual behavior, not appropriate for formal business calls.

So in summary, yawning can be interpreted as rude because it demonstrates boredom, interrupts the speaker, and looks unprofessional. Even if you don’t mean to be impolite, the other person may take offense at your yawning.

No, yawning is not necessarily rude

  • It’s an uncontrollable reflex – Most yawns occur spontaneously without conscious intention.
  • The speaker may be boring – A yawn could mean the topic or delivery is dull, not that you’re uninterested.
  • You can stifle it – Putting your hand over your mouth to block the sound shows awareness.
  • Explain that you’re tired – Clarifying that you didn’t sleep well excuses the yawn.
  • Everyone yawns – It’s a universal behavior not aimed at insulting anyone.

So in this view, yawning isn’t impolite since we can’t always control it, and there are acceptable ways to minimize the rudeness like covering your mouth or explaining you’re tired. The other person shouldn’t take offense since yawning is common.

When is yawning most inappropriate on calls?

Although views differ on whether yawning is rude generally, most people agree there are certain situations where it is more disrespectful or unprofessional to yawn:

Formal business calls

Yawning on an important work-related call looks sloppy and signals boredom or disinterest to clients/colleagues. It’s best avoided on pitches, interviews, performance reviews, and presentations.

When someone else is speaking

Yawning while someone else is talking comes across as very rude. It implies you are bored and unengaged with what they’re saying, even if you don’t mean it that way.

During emotional conversations

Yawning while someone shares difficult personal news or seeks advice can be hurtful, making it seem like you don’t care. Be extra vigilant in suppressing yawns during sensitive talks.

Video calls

On video chat, a big open-mouth yawn is very obvious visually. The yawn will draw attention and look visibly disinterested.

So in summary, it’s smart to be alert to stifling yawns on serious work calls, when others are speaking, emotional chats, and video conferences.

Tips to avoid yawning on calls

Here are some tips to help you avoid yawning on the phone:

Get enough sleep

Being well-rested makes you less likely to yawn. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Maintain good sleep habits to prevent drowsiness.

Take alertness breaks

On long calls, take 30-60 second breaks to walk around, stretch, or splash cold water on your face. This can perk you up and make you less prone to yawning.

Have some caffeine

Drinking coffee, tea, or another caffeinated beverage can give you an energy boost to stay alert. Time the caffeine well so it kicks in before drowsiness.

Chew gum

Chewing gum can make you more attentive and help inhibit yawns. The motion keeps you more stimulated.

Breathe deeply

If you feel a yawn coming on, take a few deep breaths. More oxygen can suppress the reflex and make that irresistible urge pass.

Fake a coughing fit

Turn that yawn into fake coughs. Raising your hand to cover repeated coughs hides the yawn better than putting your hand over your mouth.

So by being well-rested, taking alertness breaks, chewing gum, and faking coughs, you can reduce unwanted yawning on your calls.

What to do if you do yawn on a call

Despite your best efforts, you may still end up yawning sometimes during phone chats. Here are some tips for handling it gracefully if you slip up:

Cover your mouth

Put your hand over your mouth as soon as you feel the yawn coming. This muffles the sound at least. Bonus if you can fake a coughing fit instead.

Say “excuse me”

Immediately say “excuse me” after the yawn and politely apologize. This shows awareness you did something inappropriate.

Explain yourself

Give a quick explanation like “Sorry about that, I didn’t get much sleep last night.” This provides helpful context.

Reinforce your interest

Reassure the person that you’re interested in the conversation with phrases like “Please continue, I’m listening” or “This is really fascinating.”

Take an alertness break

If multiple yawns occur, ask if you can take a 1-minute break to walk around. Come back re-energized and ready to actively participate.

Thank the speaker

At the end, thank the person for an engaging discussion. This conveys you found the chat worthwhile, despite the unintended yawn.

So in summary, quickly apologize, explain the reason, and reinforce your interest when you do yawn. With these save tactics, you can smooth over the awkwardness.

Does time of day affect yawning frequency?

Yes, research indicates that yawning episodes follow circadian rhythms and tend to peak at certain times of day. Here’s an overview of how yawning patterns align with our biological clocks:

Morning yawning

Yawning often occurs upon waking in the morning, even after a full night’s sleep. Studies suggest a higher yawn frequency in the period right after waking up.

Midday yawning

Our alertness tends to dip in the early afternoon between about 1-3pm. This post-lunch dip typically corresponds with a higher likelihood of yawning.

Evening yawning

As our circadian rhythm starts shifting towards sleep, yawning again becomes more common in the evening hours. Frequency may increase after dinner.

Nighttime yawning

Leading up to bedtime, yawning reaches its peak as our bodies prepare for sleep. Yawning helps promote relaxation.

So in summary, yawning often coincides with transitions between sleep and wakefulness, with peaks upon waking, midday, evening, and bedtime. Our internal clocks influence yawning.

Does the size of a yawn matter?

In terms of social etiquette, the size or length of a yawn generally doesn’t affect the rudeness. However, here are some differences bigger yawns may signal:

More sleepiness

Wide, long-lasting yawns that stretch open the mouth fully indicate greater drowsiness. Attempting to suppress a large yawn is also harder.

Higher contagiousness

Big, loud yawns are more likely to trigger other people around you to yawn. The visual/audio strength acts like social contagion.

More noticeable

A large, lengthy yawn is simply harder to hide or talk over. The sound and motion will draw more focus when you’re trying not to be disruptive.

Less boredom

Counterintuitively, research finds bored yawners tend to have smaller mouth stretches than tired yawners. So wide yawning may signal fatigue over disinterest.

So in summary, while size doesn’t affect politeness, bigger yawns can imply greater sleepiness. But they don’t necessarily mean someone is more bored or distracted.

Fun facts about yawning

Here are some fascinating trivia tidbits about why we yawn and quirky yawning facts:

  • Fetuses can yawn in the womb as early as 11 weeks into pregnancy.
  • Seeing or even reading about yawning can trigger our reflex to yawn.
  • Yawning may be a brain cooling mechanism since inhaling draws in cool air.
  • Yawn contagion activates the same brain networks as empathy.
  • Chimpanzees and parrots are among the species that yawn like humans.
  • One study found subjects yawned about 5 times more while facing a bright light vs dim light.
  • The longest recorded yawn lasted over 5 minutes!
  • Yawning is thought to have evolved 300-500 million years ago in early vertebrates.

In summary, yawning is an ancient, unconscious behavior serving vital physical and social roles. While often tiresome, the reflex is in fact quite fascinating!


Yawning is a common involuntary behavior that we all do regularly. On phone calls, yawning can come across as impolite if it implies boredom or disinterest. However, with good etiquette like covering your mouth and briefly explaining you’re tired, you can minimize any rudeness. Yawning doesn’t have to disrupt a conversation – understanding its causes and using strategies to stay alert can help you converse smoothly even when the reflex strikes. Keep these tips in mind, and don’t worry too much if you need to yawn now and then – it’s only human!

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