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I work with a lady who sometimes uses an extremely irritating voice. She is very friendly, and I enjoy talking to her, but when she uses this certain voice I just want to pull my hair out. I try to get busy with something else but this seems to confuse her and she persists. The voice is high pitched and whiny. I think she thinks she’s being cute or playful when she uses it.

How can I point this out and ask her to stop without offending her? I would like to be subtle but all I can think of is ‘can you please not use that voice you’re talking with right now?’

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    Does she use this voice in certain situations or just random every once in a while? – Cartman Mar 28 '18 at 8:29
  • Could it be misophonia on your part? – SQB Mar 28 '18 at 8:37
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    @LinuxBlanket I thought about that question too, but read a significant difference in that the OP in that question is newly encountering the person with the annoying voice at something he volunteers at at a weekend, and in this situation its a co-worker with whom the OP already has an established friendly relationship. That difference makes some of the suggested answers to the partial dupe inappropriate for the OP in this instance to deploy. – Spagirl Mar 28 '18 at 10:20
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There is no way to guarantee that a person will not be offended when you tell them something like this. You might say the same thing to two different people and have one be offended and one not.

What you can do is try to limit the likelihood and depth of any offence she may take, but whatever you do is almost certainly likely to be awkward for both of you.

I don’t have direct experience of having someone tell me they found my voice annoying, but this is reminding me of a couple of instances where I was made aware that something about my behaviour was irritating a person.

One was at school, I’d not long moved schools and had started hanging about with a certain group at break and lunch, after a little while one member of the group just stopped talking to me. She didn’t avoid me, just kind of pretended I wasn’t there. I was pretty confused until someone told me this girl ‘tired of hearing me talk about my old school’. I’d not realised that I did talk a lot about it and immediately stopped, but she carried on blanking me and I withdrew from that group because the whole thing had become weird and awkward. The girl never told me herself, just letting me find out that people had been talking about me, which made me feel very defensive and wary of interaction.

The other incident was a few years later in my first job. I had developed some sort of nervous habit of closing my eyes when I talked to people. Sounds weird, but I’d be looking at them, face pointed their way with my eyes directed at their face, I’d just have my lids down most of the time. I was vaguely aware of it, but one day someone just asked me not to do it because it was weird to be looked at like that. They weren’t demanding an answer and they then changed the subject and conversation flowed on without giving me a chance to become defensive or for the situation to feel confrontational or combative.

Again I was mortified, but as with the previous incident, now my attention had been brought to the point, it became relatively easy to stop the behaviour. That person never mentioned it again and we carried on as normal, but I was always grateful to know that I’d been being weird and annoying so I could stop.

So, from comparing how those two experienced felt to be on the receiving end of, I suggest you may be most effective and minimise offence by avoiding:

  • having a 'serious' conversation about how terrible that voice is *

or

  • ignoring her

and instead concentrate on being:

- direct
- matter of fact

and then

- move on and treat her as normal

If you tell the person and they change the behaviour, that’s great. If you tell them and they don’t change, well… now you know that they either can’t or won’t change.

Because I was mortified enough to stop the behaviour immediately, it’s harder to recommend strategies that might be effective when someone doesn’t change instantly. But be aware that if people perceive that they are being nagged about something, especially if they can’t see a problem with it themselves, they may be all the more determined to stick to their guns and may even increase the annoying behaviour to spite you.

So my recommendation is a low-key, matter of fact address to her, keep it brief and try to get a compliment in if you think it appropriate, and then carry on the conversation so that you aren’t putting her ‘on the spot’ and demanding a reply or response. perhaps something like:

I do wish you wouldn’t use that voice, your normal voice is so much nicer and it’s so much easier to work with you when you use it. Anyway, Dora wants this stuff finished by the end of the day… how will we split the work between us…

*. I know that I haven't described any experience of being on the receiving end of this kind of approach, but I've included it for contrast to the 'mention and move on' approach. I'm pretty sure that if anyone did do this to me I'd probably go home and cry my eyes out, even if I made a more combative response publicly.

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We do have some people around us with some irritating voice, but this is what nature gave them. It's not something you can change (it's a different thing if she talks with you only in that way). Anything here you might try to stop her talking in that voice will be considered rude. Therefore, I will suggest you to do something that you will admire and helps you divert your attention from her voice. Something that you might admire.

Since you've mentioned that she is very friendly and you enjoy talking with her, then it'll be easy to find something that you might like about her. So, try focusing on that more than her voice. After a while, you will be habitual of her voice and it won't irritate you anymore.

Edit after pointed out that she uses that voice sometimes:

You can try reminding her like (in a humor tone to avoid appearing rude),

Sometimes your voice sounds really irritating. I can hear your properly so can you please keep calm and speak a little softly?

A gentle reminder does make them pay attention to their voice and improve it.

  • Not sure how gentle that reminder is. "know" implies that it is a fact, that she is unaware of, further implying everyone else but her noticed. "speak a little softly" also is an order, not a suggestion or reminder. Those are valid tools as well, but it sounds more like you want to enforce a(n arbitrary) norm, rather than getting her to do you a favor. Trying a humorous tone could add a feeling of condescension as well. – Minix Mar 28 '18 at 13:10
  • @Minix Thanks for pointing that out. Tried to improve wording. – A J Mar 28 '18 at 13:17
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It sounds like you have already thought of what to say, but you are afraid of saying it because you don't want her to be offended.

I think you should first consider if this "voice" is:

  1. Something she deliberately does for comic effect / emphasis
  2. Something that has become a habit and she subconsciously slips into it.

Your approach to dealing with it may be the same in either case, but the outcome will be different.

Your own suggested wording, if delivered kindly, should be fine. If she thinks this voice is funny then you could adopt a similarly jokey approach by laughing and saying:

That voice is extremely annoying.

If she doesn't get the message and uses it again, follow this up with a clarification:

When I said it was extremely annoying, I really meant it! Please don't do it again.

If it is something she can consciously control then she can probably stop it if she wants to. Of course, she may not want to! But I imagine that if you told her it was annoying, while she had previously thought to herself that it was entertaining, she will quit it.

If on the other hand she has done it for so long and so often that it has become habit forming, like some people develop a word whisker, you may find yourself in a situation where she lapses into it without thinking. She then might continually be stopping herself and feeling bad, and then you might feel bad for making an issue of it. Or you could end up constantly reminding her, like a parent trying to stop their kids from sucking their thumb. You might not want to find yourself in that kind of role with another adult in the workplace, so worth considering before you act.

It is important that once you have said something about it, you return to normal behaviour immediately. This demonstrates that you bear no grudge, and that this goes no deeper than you simply find the fake voice annoying. If possible, when the conversation has passed, find some way to pay a compliment about some aspect of her real self to reaffirm that you have no problem with her.

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I exactly know what you feel, this kind of stuff makes me crazy too. You've got two choices here :

A) Never talk to her again, which will be hard since you're working together, and which does not really answer your question.

B) Talk to her directly about that, that's my option, it's not an easy talk but she will understand that this is very childish and annoying, other people might have told her already in the past. If she is adult and mature,she will know you're not being mean, just annoyed by this.

Talking to people about their behavior is hard but it's not rude, she is the one that is being weird and annoying, not you, you're in full right to talk to her...

Worst case scenario : she will talk with her other fairy friend with her tiny weirdo voice about what you told her, they will think that you're really not funny, and that you're an adult.

Their is no easy path with this one, just don't be aggressive when telling it, just use a neutral tone, and that should go easy.

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