Everyone has to go to the bathroom but in most cultures, no one will freely discuss what happens there.
It’s important to be professional when you’re describing most things that are related to the bathroom so that you don’t inadvertently offend anyone. Keep it vague by saying: “I’ll be back in a few” or “I’m going to use the facilities“.
This article will explain how you can say that you’re going to the bathroom, professionally.
Avoid Excessive Slang
In a professional environment, it’s often better to avoid too much slang. This applies to almost every situation that you can think of, including visiting the bathroom.
If you have terminology that you would normally use when you’re talking with your friends, that may not be appropriate if you’re in the presence of coworkers.
For example, you may think it’s funny to say you’re going to the little girl’s room when you’re among friends. However, you may work in an environment where some of the other women there may take offense to any reference to them that doesn’t recognize their true status as women.
Avoid slang like that, even if most of the people in the group laugh. There may be one woman there who may view you in a way that’s unflattering just because of that statement.
Sometimes your relationship with your coworkers has grown to the point where you feel very comfortable around them.
However, even then, if you want to sound professional you should stick to professional language when you’re talking about the bathroom.
People will judge you for the things that you say and do, even if you lapse in your delivery while you’re at a staff football game.
Do not use words among coworkers, that you would use while you’re out with people who are your friends. Stick to professional terminology that does not have any negative connotations.
It is especially important to avoid any terminology that may be misinterpreted or thought of as discriminatory in any way.
Use the Right Synonyms
There are synonyms for the word bathroom that are appropriate in most formal settings. They can be used whether you’re at a gala, a business retreat or even giving a speech. Several of these euphemisms may even be preferred to the word bathroom in some contexts.
You may notice for example, that women refer to powdering their noses when they’re out with friends at an upscale restaurant.
The same reference to powder rooms can be made when you’re at a business meeting.
If you’re having a conference at a hotel, you could also say that you’re going to the powder room.
This term is appropriate in any public venue, including boutiques and art galleries.
Some of the women who say that may not even like to wear makeup. However, it’s understood that they’re letting their friends know that they’re headed to the bathroom.
Apart from telling your friends that you’re going to powder your nose, you could also say:
“I’m headed to the restroom.“
“I’m going to stop by the powder room.“
“I think I’ll visit the powder room.“
“If you don’t see me, I’m at the restroom.“
You could also use one of the following ways of saying that you’re going to the bathroom:
“I’m going to use the washroom.”
“I’m going to use the facilities.”
“I’m going to the men’s room.“
“I’m going to the ladies’ room.“
Some of these terms may only be used often in certain regions. For example, a business partner from Canada is more likely to refer to the bathroom as the washroom, while one from Jamaica may refer to the men’s room.
Keeping It Vague
Some people don’t like to confirm or deny that they’re going to the bathroom.
Despite that, they want to make coworkers know that they’ll not be around for a few minutes. In this case, they won’t mention a powder room, a restroom, or any other location.
The focus of their statement will be on the fact that you won’t see them for a few minutes.
They might say:
“I need a little air.“
“I’m stepping out for a little air.“
“I’m taking a quick break.“
“I’ll be back in a few.“
“I’ll be back in five.“
Several people may need to travel extensively as part of their job. In every new situation, they may notice that there are differences between the way that people express themselves in the new setting and the way that coworkers express themselves at their base.
It is always important to represent yourself well no matter where you are.
If you find that the professional setting that you’re in temporarily is a little more relaxed than your usual environment, don’t be too quick to adjust.
Sometimes a double standard is in place and you may be penalized for doing the same thing that others are doing. Don’t joke about bathroom issues in a way that you wouldn’t at your regular office.
If you’re in another state or your company has a branch in another country, you can assess the terminology that’s used there and adopt anything professional. Sometimes you may notice that no one says they’re e going to the bathroom.
You can adjust by keeping your bathroom trips to specific times where they’ll be less noticeable.
For example, a company was recently lambasted for illegally fining their workers $3 if they used the bathroom more than once per day. While this was illegal on the part of the company, anyone working in that type of setting would not be eager to divulge that they were going to use the bathroom.
Pay attention to the environment and don’t share more information than necessary.
The Right Euphemism for the Right Occasion
If you’re attending a business dinner and need to sound professional, it’s appropriate to say that you’re going to the powder room or to powder your nose.
It may be preferable to say that you’re going to the restroom, even though both terms are appropriate in a professional environment. This is because of the time and setting.
Dinner is an evening event and may take place in a more luxurious setting than regular work. Powder rooms have always been associated with luxury.
In addition, managers and other professional women are more likely to need to touch up their makeup at an evening event that requires them to move around and network in a hot, packed room. In that scenario, they can plausibly say that they’re going to powder their nose.
There are instances in which you might want to use a term that’s appropriate for both men and women. After all, sometimes a man may be confused for a second if you tell him that you’re going to the powder room.
That second may involve unnecessary and potentially embarrassing explanations. In that case, you can simply state that you’re going to the restroom and your intention will be clear.
Similarly, while women are usually the ones who talk about going to a powder room, a restroom is not restricted to a particular gender.
You can also use the term restroom in very public settings.
For example, if you are chairing an event, the host is usually expected to indicate where the restrooms can be found.
Your business guests may find the word restroom more pleasing than the word bathroom. At an exposition, your signage can give directions to the restrooms and every person in attendance will understand what you’re referring to during the conference or meeting.
References to bathrooms may immediately cause your coworkers to have specific mental images.
These can be distracting at certain times, so it’s important to carefully share information on where you’re going.
Of course, no one needs to know what you’ll be doing. Keep that information to yourself unless you’re feeling ill. In this case, you should privately inform one or two people who can watch over you so that someone does not knock on the toilet door and wonder why you linger there longer.
You could also simply whisper to the person in the room who is senior to you:
“Just going to the restroom.“
“I’m stepping out to the restroom.“
“Where is the restroom?“
Try to avoid mention of the bathroom during lunch, if possible. Even if you suddenly need to use the bathroom in the middle of a meeting, it’s usually not the best time to announce it.
You can whisper it quietly to the person next to you and quietly leave the room.
If you’re attending a new branch or another location for a meeting, try to find out where the bathrooms are as soon as you arrive. You can also ask about scheduled bathroom breaks during a seminar or workshop.
You can say:
“Where are the restrooms?“
“Where are the ladies rooms located?“
“Where is the men’s room?“
Always remember that excessive formality can sometimes cause delays. Not everyone may understand if you say that you’re going to use the facilities, even though this is a professional way to say that you’re going to use the bathroom.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.