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I can't stand "cutesy voice". That is, people who put on a high pitched squeal when they talk, who choose to say things like "wuv" over "love" or say things that are dark in a cute way. It's made worse if these people act as though they always speak this way when they don't, or they affect the mannerisms of an anime or something. Generally I just tolerate it because I choose not to be in the company of someone who's willing to infantalize themselves just because, but I always think of those people as dumb, even if they aren't. I am a generally easy-going, relaxed person. I do not get physical often, and I communicate my feelings when I feel comfortable doing so. (For context, I grew up in a place where physical violence is a common although looked down upon occurrence. I'm also a small female, and I am stressing that I didn't want to get physical because I'm accustomed to things like this becoming quite physical for no reason.)

The other day I was out with a friend of mine who is an artist, helping set up/sell her items. She was set up next to a woman who wasn't selling as much. This woman was talking, constantly, in "cutesy voice". And I know that this is not "just the way she speaks" because she didn't always speak that way, she just lapsed in and out of it. She put on the voice with customers, or when she was asking for unreasonable favors and almost always followed up with a high pitched laugh that was also being faked. Sometimes she would have a full on conversation in her normal voice and then go "Oops! Teeheehee! I'm so silly-willy!" and switch to cutesy voice. It didn't seem like she was doing it because she was being forced to, and it did seem like she had to remind herself to do it.

I asked her at the time if she could stop doing it. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of, "Do you mind not talking to me like that, please?" She responded by agreeing to stop, and then she would maybe go one line without the voice. Then she would go, "Oops!" And go back to cutesy voice. I also ignored her, but the set up of the event means that artists get called away a lot. We do have to talk to each other ("can you watch my table," "can you get lunch for me" "I'm going to the bathroom" etc."). My friend is called away fairly often because she does a lot of work with the organizers. So often, I'm at the table alone. I like working at this event, so I want to resolve this without leaving the event completely.

I'm not bothered by her talking to her customers this way but she will often "forget" I asked her to not use cutsey voice to me after talking with a customer. I sort of can forgive that, except that yesterday she barely sold anything. She would still go back to cutesy voice even though there was no reason to "reset" back to it.

I just dealt with it by ignoring her or only answering questions that weren't in cutesy voice, but at the end of the day I had a physical hatred towards this woman.

My hatred of cutesy voice does not mean that I don't want people to use it. I mean I don't, obviously, but they don't have to care about my opinion. However I would like to not reach a point where I hate someone because they use that voice, I feel like that's a bit unfair. I do want to somehow tell them to cut it out when they're talking to me. It's awkward and patronizing and traps me in a conversation I don't want to have. I'm not sure if I can politely say to someone like this to not address me that way without being rude. I have no idea how to breach this topic with people who talk to me like that.

There is a very high chance that my friend will need help and I have to talk to this particular woman again and I just want to be able to tell her to stop doing it so that I don't spend the rest of my day hating someone who isn't doing anything but getting on my nerves and tapping into my pet peeve. How can I tell someone not to talk to me using a voice they're putting on that annoys me?

I accidentally edited this out but: when my friend was at the table and was talking with this woman, I often had to walk away. Also, there were times when she made unreasonable requests, like that we buy her lunch or that we just leave the table-- she would always request this in cutesy voice.

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    Is it really worth trying to change the way this person is talking ? If you encounter her frequently I can understand, but if it's just for a few hours perhaps it's just the kind of thing you should tolerate. Trying to avoid the person should be enough. – Tim Mar 6 '18 at 14:11
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    It's possible that I don't have to deal with her ever again, but as far as I know, I am going to have to if I keep helping my friend at the event. I'm not sure if the tables get moved around, but I do know that the artists are assigned spots, so unless something changes, I'll probably be with her. This event happens twice a month, more times during like... Holidays and festivals. So it may not be frequently enough to try, but I still would like to. I am alone at the table very often and we kind of need to talk to each other. Otherwise, I would just choose to ignore her and tolerate it. – Ice-9 Mar 6 '18 at 14:48
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    You barely know this woman it seems from this question, and you didn't like the first impression. What historical information tells you this isn't the way she speaks? I know plenty of people that will routinely change the way they speak during conversation, but it is both normal and involuntary; It's just how they speak. – Anoplexian Mar 6 '18 at 17:15
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    It is not just how she speaks. I know this because she chooses not to do it in front of authority figures who would probably reprimand her for doing it, or even reduce her chance of getting a table for the event; some of her customers asked "why are you talking like that?" when she spoke to them in the cutesy voice, and she switched to her normal voice for maybe a line or two to speak with them; and she at one point confirmed that this was not her regular speaking voice. Sorry about the misuse of semicolons. She does the voice, but I think it's fair to say it's not her normal voice. – Ice-9 Mar 6 '18 at 18:30
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Mar 8 '18 at 19:27
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That style of communication is indeed anything but cute in an adult. It communicates that the person in question is either not taking your interaction seriously, or is utterly immature. It might fly in some sort of roleplay setup, but not during day to day interactions.

There's a very simple way of asking people who take this approach to stop doing it when interacting with you, however:

I'm sorry, but when you talk like that I feel like you're not taking our conversation seriously at all. Would you mind dropping the act?

Rephrase it to account for personal style, and away you go. If the behavior continues you can escalate by .. being a little more direct:

Excuse me, I find the cutesy voices incredibly irritating. We're going to be here all day long, so for the sake of my sanity could you please speak to me like an adult? I'd really appreciate it.

If you've been clear in your requests that she stop her behavior yet she persists in speaking in that manner, then the only real recourse you have is to stop interacting with her. I would put her on notice that you will now cease answering her, and why, such that she understands that you've escalated your response to her act:

I was very clear in my requests that you not speak to me in this manner. I'm afraid that your continued use of these funny voices has lead to me not wanting to interact with you anymore. Have a good day.

  • I did try something like this, but she just doesn't seem to want to do it. She gives a really half hearted effort and goes right back. I tried ignoring her, but eventually I was forced to have to talk to her when my friend was being called away multiple times. She acknowdeges me being annoyed, but keeps doing it. I'll update my question with this, too. – Ice-9 Mar 5 '18 at 18:05
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    @ice-9 - "something like this" is very vague. Did you address her directly, and were you clear in your request? Did you unequivocally express that she should stop talking to you like that? If so, then the only other thing you can then do is ignore her: "I'm afraid that I can't deal with you if you continue to behave in this fashion." And then pretend she's not even there. – AndreiROM Mar 5 '18 at 18:23
  • I don't recall exactly what I said, mostly because I did it a lot through out the day. I'm usually very polite and I don't generally get too upset, so in the beginning I was say "please don't talk that way" and things like that. Near the end of the day I was in such a blinding rage I think I mostly would only acknowledge her with a nod, and I didn't say please at all when I asked her to stop. I'm sorry it's so vague-- I've just never dealt with anyone who gets under my skin this badly. – Ice-9 Mar 5 '18 at 18:27
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People do things when they get results they want. When they don't get results, they stop doing them and do something else. Obviously she's learned that she can get what she wants by talking like that, so you have your work cut out for you.

@andreiROM has what I think is a really good starting point. However, I'd be more firm in my response. Rather than asking her to stop, I'd start from the same point:

"This tone makes me think that you aren't taking the conversation seriously."

When that fails to get the desired result, however, then I would change my tactic.

"I'm sorry, I don't respond to childish/cutesy/little girlish voices, unless it's from my daughter. And then I make her stop it."

Your challenge is that she's used to getting what she wants from this behavior, so there's a lot of conditioning you are competing against. You can't make her change her overall actions, but you might be able to get her to change her action to you.

More importantly, you can change YOUR reaction to her. Being annoyed is one option. If you're stuck being next to her at a show all day, and only sporadically interact with her, there's not a lot you can do to make her change because you're an inactive participant - you can only listen in and don't have much impact on her interactions with others.

If it really is annoying to you, I'd suggest that maybe less help for your friend may be the way you have to go.

"I'd love to help you - I can help set up and tear down. But I can't listen to Betsy Wetsy all day - that's like rubbing a cheese grater on my knuckles for the entire period I'm there. If she won't be next to you perhaps I can be there part of the day."

7

It sounds like you have a good sense of what to do, actually:

  1. If possible, just disengage. If someone annoys you, just don't interact with them.
  2. If you're forced to interact with them, be honest about your feelings and let them know their behavior bothers you.
  3. If you feel like you're losing control, give yourself space right away.

You're already doing all of those things, which is spot-on. Well done. In most scenarios, the above strategies would take care of the problem quickly.

So why didn't this work with the person you were talking to? My guess is that she saw the fact that she was annoying you as playful teasing. That would explain her doubling down when you confronted her:

...I said, exasperated, "How old are you?" And she giggled and said, "Oh noes~ I can't teww you dat~ I's only this many~ (holds up 7 fingers)) don't teww anyone~"

If she feels like the two of you are playing a game, then her annoying you is all part of the fun. The more annoyed you are, the better.

How to adapt #2 above for someone like this person, who is exceptionally insensitive to your signaling

Repeat, several times, that you want her to stop. She may need to hear you say "no" several times before she realizes you mean it. For example:

Can you please not talk like that? I find it really irritating.

[she responds with more cutesy talk]

Seriously. Stop. [Make eye contact, and don't smile while you say this. Continue to stare at her, unsmiling, until she backs down.]

[If she starts it up again later, call her on it immediately:] I'm serious. I can't stand it when you talk like that. Please don't do it. [Repeat as necessary.]

Note that this is a much firmer approach than would be appropriate with most people. The reason I'm advocating this authoritarian tone is that she clearly didn't respond to your more normal requests in your first interaction with her.

Keep in mind that if this is a habit of hers, she might slip into it without thinking --- you need to cut her a bit of slack and not blow up if she agrees to stop but then starts again later. Just cooly remind her it irritates you and ask her again to stop.

Final note: You point out in your question that you know you can't control her behavior. She's going to do what she's going to do. You can tell her how you feel and let her know what you want, but that's as far as you can take it. If she really doesn't care how her behavior affects you, there might be no way to convince her to stop talking like that. No matter what, blowing up at her (physically or verbally) won't help and could do serious harm. Your instinct to get away from her if you feel violent is a good one. Stick with it.

5

If there were a person cursing all the time, would you ask them to stop? Probably yes.

What about if this person had Tourette syndrome? Probably not.

My point is that you're asking her to refrain to use her cutesy voice without knowing why she uses it. No wonder then if she doesn't comply, especially if she uses it to protect herself from criticism and rejection. (I'm just guessing here, I'm aware it might not be the case.)

I'm going to suggest a longer approach here. It takes extra care and sensitivity, though.

Don't make it about you, make it about her.

Her behaviour is not something done mindlessly like tapping with a pen on the table. This person talks this way for a reason. Inquire about it. Do it seriously and firmly and engaging your attention and active listening. Be aware that what you are asking is something personal and though to answer to, so be extra friendly and open.

Hey, I'm going to ask you something. This can be a difficult question for you, but it made me wonder, why do you talk with a cutesy voice sometimes?

If she says something like "I don't know, I just do it", press her into reflecting some more.

I get you do it somewhat unconsciously, but I'm really curious about the real reason behind it.

If she asks you "Why do you ask?", state simply that this is something that you don't do and don't get either.

Do not be (passive-)aggressive about it. Leave her some room to answer honestly, or at least to think about it. She could be trapped and annoyed by this behaviour as much as you.

After she answers, you can inquire deeper about when she started doing it, when she thinks it's effective etc. Then, tactfully give your perspective about her cutesy voice.

I'm sorry to say that, but maybe you're not aware of the effect that your childish voice can have on people. You see, it makes people not taking you seriously {add whatever you want to tell her here}. The tone that we use to talk with people put others in precise roles. If you talk with others like if they were your parents, they might want to step out of this role and not talk with you.

You can also add that cutting it might actually raise her sales.

If I were a customer and you addressed me this way, I'd feel like you want to trick me into buying your stuff by unconsciously putting me in the position of the grown-up one spoiling a kid. If you'd address me as a peer, instead, I would feel free to be interested in your stuff for their true value. I bet this is what we all want here, right?

In short, try to convey the idea that this way of talking is detrimental to her image.

Only then, ask her not to do it again with you. With the information you gained, you can tell her that she doesn't need to speak that way with you to get favours etc, because you'd do them anyway.

With this approach, moreover, you come across as friendly and interested in her personality. It's easier to remember not to do something for a friendly acquaintance than for an annoying stranger.

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    This is interesting! I feel like I have lots to think about! I'm not sure if I could tell her about her sales though-- I know she sold very little the other day, but that's just how the crowd is. Her customers did tell her to stop sometimes, not all of them but a few of them, and she would do the same thing to them as she did to me. She had a conversation with an organizer and with the owner of a nearby restaurant in her regular voice, I just figured she respected them and didn't respect me. I don't actually know why she's doing it, though, that much is true. – Ice-9 Mar 6 '18 at 15:03
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    @Ice-9 yes, that part is tricky. You could start the whole conversation as small talk about her sales though, so you can investigate whether it applies. Alternatively, you could refer to the customers asking her to stop with the cutesy voice. – LinuxBlanket Mar 6 '18 at 15:32
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    While I like this more thoughtful approach, I'm not sure, that a quirk like cutesy voice should be raised to a level like Tourettes or something learned from past trauma. I think taking such a trait and pressing on about, what in their life made them do it could be taken as very invasive if not downright creepy, when they are only loose acquaintances. This is a very delicate path to take. I would be very careful. – Minix Mar 6 '18 at 19:38
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    @Minix I agree with you, I'm not implying that she is necessarily traumatised. I used Tourette as a self-evident example. I know that this approach could be seen as nosy, that's why I recommend extra care multiple times. :) – LinuxBlanket Mar 6 '18 at 20:58
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This one is easy. Operant conditioning. It is not nice to tell adults how they should behave, but it is perfectly reasonable to negotiate. When she asks you for a favor in that voice, even if it's something as small as asking for the time of day, reward or punish. If your answer is no, just say no. That is negative punishment - the withholding of a reward after unwanted behavior. If your answer is yes, cheerfully say, "I'll consider it if you ask in your grown-up voice." When she complies, immediately say, "I'll be happy to." Do not hesitate even a fraction of a second. That is positive reinforcement - giving a reward after desired behavior. You may be amazed how quickly it works.

You might think about how to keep her voice from annoying you. The solution is to observe and try to understand why she goes into that mode of speech. She cannot tell you why, because she does not know. The reason, whatever it is, is not about you. It's about her - her insecurities perhaps. Maybe she has been conditioned to speak that way. Make it a puzzle to figure out.

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The lady using the cutesy voice, is probably doing it out of habit, which may have become ingrained over years. From what you've said it sounds unlikely that she's setting out to annoy you, so try not to be annoyed by it.

That said, you can choose how much mental processing you put into understanding what she's saying. If when she uses her cutesy voice, you find it hard to understand her, and she finds she has to repeat everything she says two or three times, she may start modifying her speech patterns when talking to you.

No need to appear annoyed or confront her, just look friendly but mystified at the strange sounds coming out of her mouth.

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