LOUD and Clear

[article]
Summary:

I have a colleague whom I used to view as a loudmouth. He was intelligent, articulate and full of life, but also highly arrogant and opinionated. And he always shouted, hurtling his voice across the room.

One evening, several of us were just heading out for dinner when he appeared. I tried to send him go-away vibes, but he wasn't in receive mode, and when one of the others invited him to join us, he eagerly (and loudly) accepted.

I have a colleague whom I used to view as a loudmouth. He was intelligent, articulate and full of life, but also highly arrogant and opinionated. And he always shouted, hurtling his voice across the room.

One evening, several of us were just heading out for dinner when he appeared. I tried to send him go-away vibes, but he wasn't in receive mode, and when one of the others invited him to join us, he eagerly (and loudly) accepted.

As soon as we were seated, Mr. Loud-Mouth began pontificating. I became annoyed; so did some of the others in the group (faces speak volumes). Even worse, the couple at the next table kept staring at him, visibly irritated. Being serenaded by the yappings from the loudmouth at the next table was apparently not their idea of a romantic dinner for two.

Shhhh!

I wanted to tell him to pipe down, but I didn't quite know what to say. Finally, one of my tablemates did what I lacked the nerve to do. Very gently and tactfully, he told Mr. Loud-Mouth that his voice was a little too loud, and asked if he could speak more softly so as not to disturb the people at nearby tables.

I was unprepared for Mr. Loud-Mouth's response: "Thank you for telling me," he said. "I have a hearing problem and can't tell how loud my own voice is, so I sometimes shout without meaning to." And then, looking at all of us, he added, "If I start speaking too loudly again, just let me know."

During dinner, I notice that Mr. Soft-Mouth no longer seemed arrogant or overly self-assured. He still expressed strong opinions, but for the first time, I actually found him interesting to listen to. He wasn't such a bad chap, really.

Loudmouth Lessons

This experience helped me appreciate several things:

  • Sometimes, when people act in a certain way (a certain negative way, that is), they're not doing it to be difficult or offensive. The explanation is much simpler: They're unaware of how their behavior is affecting others, and they'd prefer to be set straight. If no one gives them feedback about their behavior, why should we expect them to change it?

  • This guy's shouting and spouting had caused me to discount everything he said. I was amazed by how a single aspect of his behavior had led me to heap an overload of negative attributes on him. I wondered how many other times I've judged people unfairly based on a single trait.

  • Tactfully and gently asking someone to discontinue a troubling behavior is sometimes easier than it seems. And when you do, the people at the next table are very grateful.

User Comments

4 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

One day I was on an airplane, reading a marvelous book called The Courageous Messenger (by Kathleen D. Ryan, George Orr III, and Daniel Oestreich) about how to deliver messages that others may not hear in the way you intend.<br><br>A few seats in front of me, on the other side of the aisle, a woman was turned sideways in her seat, talking to another passenger, a pilot on the airline we were flying. She was clearly flirting, laughing loudly at everything the pilot said, commenting, telling self-flattering stories at such high volume that other passengers and I began to grumble to each other.<br><br>The passenger in the seat beside me pointed to my book and said, "That looks like an interesting book. Why don't you test what you're learning?"<br><br>So I caught the loud woman's attention and said, "When you speak so loudly, I'm distracted and can't concentrate on the book I'm reading."<br><br>She gawped for a moment, stunned. Then she smirked at the pilot and said, loudly, "Oh, now I'm supposed to shut up so I don't disturb Mister /Bookworm/ over there."<br><br>Then, for the rest of the flight, she talked quietly.

December 2, 2009 - 10:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks, Dale. That's a great story. A lesson might be that no matter how gently one asks someone to pipe down, that person may be inclined to respond defensively with a wise-crack, as this woman did so as to save face with her pilot seat-mate. And the wise move, as you no doubt knew, was to let her have her say and not try to escalate with another response of your own - especially given that she did indeed pipe down. No doubt, you became the hero of everyone else within hearing range. Another lesson might be that if you don't want to lead the way in dealing with such situations, you shouldn't be seen reading books that make your own seat-mates suggest you're just the right person to lead the charge. :-)

November 27, 2009 - 7:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Wow, for a second I thought you were writing an article about me. I cannot tell you how many times I have given the same response. I find when I start talking about something I'm passionate about I forget to keep my voice down. I have to actively monitor how loud I am because I really cannot tell.<br><br>Whenever someone points out I'm being loud I feel embarrassed but I'm glad they did, I thank them and apologize to everyone for being loud.<br>

December 16, 2009 - 9:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Darrell, thanks for your comment. You've given me a new perspective on this issue. It's true that when we're feeling passionate or excited about something, we tend to speak louder, possibly annoying others in the vicinity if not the very people we're speaking to. And we don't realize we're doing it unless someone points it out. You, however, are an enlightened "loudspeaker" -- you know you need to monitor your behavior, and when someone points out that you're speaking too loud, you appreciate it, and even go so far as to apologize. That's not easy to do, so kudos to you.<br><br>By the way, I find it amusing that the people I'm writing about rarely recognize themselves, but others sometimes wonder if they *are* the one I'm writing about. ~Naomi

December 17, 2009 - 2:13am

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