I'm sitting alone in a restaurant when a group of teenagers or young adults comes in and takes a table near the center of the restaurant. We're the only customers in the restaurant, and I'm listening to an audiobook using earbuds.

There are six of them, all men, and they're practically shouting at each other while sitting around the same table. I can clearly hear them over my audiobook, and it's making it difficult to focus on my story. If I turn up the volume, I risk damaging my hearing.

In the past, I would go over, tell them they're being loud and ask them to lower their voices. This usually earns me cold stares, like I'm imposing on them. I'd like to learn some more effective strategies.

If it's at all relevant, I'm a woman in my 30s and this is a rural town in Tennessee, USA.

How can I go over and politely ask them to lower their voices without coming across as demanding or rude, without risking being mocked?

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    Have you asked management to handle situations like this before? Generally they should look after matters such as this. I remember being a loud teen having fun thinking I'm the only person in the world. Now, I work in a community center where youth and kids stream in and out loudly. Generally I don't intervene unless a client comes to complain, if they're disrupting a quiet program/my ability to hear the phone, or if there's a matter of safety. Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 0:07
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    @doctordonna I'm not sure that's relevant to the question. I've included that option in my answer but the OP seems to want to address it herself.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 0:09
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    Correct, I would like to address it myself. This is about expanding my social toolkit.
    – user15991
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 1:12
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    @Oleg They are preventing me from enjoying my audiobook? This restaurant doesn't belong to them, it is a shared space, they can have their fun without ruining mine. I think we can share the restaurant and all be happy. They can lower their voices, and I can listen to my audiobook. Why is that unreasonable? Why do you think it is reasonable for them to shout at each other when they're sitting right across from each other?
    – user15991
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 22:52
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    Without saying those people shouldn't try to be quieter – for the purpose of being able to understand an audiobook even in a loud setting, it may be a good idea to get a set of closed and/or noise-cancelling earbuds. The standard consumer models are garbage both in regard to environment-sound handling and also in sound quality, musicians' in-ear monitoring systems are much better. Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


If you want to interact with them directly I don't think you can absolutely avoid being mocked. If you don't know the people you're talking to, there's no way to guess how they'll react to any sort of interaction.

If they seem generally jovial, though, I wouldn't be too concerned about it. People are generally reasonable as long as you act reasonably with them. So, rather than being stern or demanding, be lighthearted and maybe a bit teasing. They may simply be unaware at how loud they're being.

I've found that saying something like

Hey, y'all, I've really enjoyed getting to take part in your discussion but I'd like to focus on my book now; would you be so kind as to take the volume down a few decibels?

can generally yield less annoyed compliance. The important thing is to say this (or something along these lines that you're comfortable with/fits the situation) with a smile and be very open with them... and say it while the staff is nearby, so if they do start to react negatively, you can hope for an assist from the server.

And, if they do react negatively, remember, that's not your fault. They're the ones being disruptive and you're making a reasonable request and attempting to solve it yourself - which is OK - but you don't need to. Asking your server or the manager to either ask them to be quieter or reseat you farther away from them is perfectly reasonable, particularly if the place is otherwise empty. Their "comfort" is not greater than yours, even if they are a larger party. Plus, coming from the establishment (particularly if it's male, sadly) may often yield more efficacious results.

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    True points. Sometimes it's easy to forget volume control when you assume that an empty restaurant means you can let loose more. Most people can acknowledge that public space is to be shared. I've had to intervene for clients in my work place about some youth. Generally they've been receptive but a few too many incidents and my boss finally put her foot down and firmly conveyed that they weren't welcome anymore. Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 0:12
  • Your answer is thus far the only one that has placed the quality of my time on an equal footing with the other group's.
    – user15991
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 23:01
  • Sorry about that, @Amy :( Maybe because I used to be the solo reader in restaurants a lot, so I can understand how difficult background noise can be when trying to read or listen to a book. Best of luck. Hopefully, this being an establishment you frequent regularly (based on comments), you will get some helpful understanding from the staff if you have issues.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 23:03
  • I eat there frequently and am on a first-name basis with many of the workers. I just wanted to handle this myself without feeling intimidated, like anyone else might.
    – user15991
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 23:05
  • Good answer. Maybe, also, they saw that @Amy was wearing earbuds and this made them think that they were allowed to be more noisy than the norm, as they would not be heard by the only other customer. I would recommend talking to them directly from OP's table, opposed as standing up and going to their table, as it can make them realise that the hearing distance between the two tables is shorter than they may think. Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 0:00

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