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I live in a large shared house with international people. I noticed it’s natural to speak a bit louder than a normal voice when video-chatting (because the microphone isn’t right beside your face). I find my roommates use Skype video-chat a lot and this is affecting my sleep and ability to do work that involves concentration. The walls are very thin where I live but I can hear it very clearly if someone’s Skyping from the kitchen or an adjacent room.

Most people do not speak English well. I feel very sheepish about asking them to keep their voice lower as I don’t want to be insensitive. When and how should I approach them and what phrasing should I use? Should I address them individually or as a group? Should I say

When Skyping, do you think you could make an effort to keep your voice lower? I can hear it very clearly from my room and I have to work strange hours.

The problem is there are many people and they do it for a long period of time, otherwise I could ignore a few minutes each day.

Also some do it at ridiculous hours like 4am but I requested this to stop and it seems to work.

A final concern, sometimes people do it in public areas like the kitchen but they leave the phone or computer and walk around. I sometimes enter the room not knowing they are video-chatting and try to talk to them. This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. It’s an extreme comparison but it’s kind of like someone putting surveillance cameras in a common area.

Now he's starting to make kissing noises while chatting.

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    Technically, it has nothing to do with the microphone. It has to do with the headphone volume being set too loud so they subconsciously adjust their voice to match the headphone volume. – Peter - Unban Robert Harvey Apr 6 '18 at 11:01
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It seems you have solved the issue about the Skype activity during late hours. Supposing you didn't, you could take the direct approach or, even given the opportunity, the persuasive approach.

Direct approach:

*Housemate starts talking out loud at 4 a.m.

*You knock on his door

Excuse me, could you speak lower? It is audible from my room.

Persuasive approach:

*Knock on his door

Hey, you know, I took some classes on insert his language here back at High School, so I can kind of understand what you are saying from my room.

Given that it is occuring at 4 a.m., we can be positive that something personal was said. If the friend later asks you about it your language expertise, just say that you can comprehend a few key words, and that's that. The persuasive approach of course doesn't apply if the housemate's language is something obscure like South Finland Russian.

Regarding the surveillance, just say, in a neutral tone:

Name, private conversations could be kept at a private space as well, don't you think?

If the housemate still doesn't get it, you can go in further detail:

It is not really adequate for me to be recorded, be it in video or audio, in a space of common usage, such as this one.

The tone used, many times, is of equal or greater importance than the word choice. Be sure to always speak in a tone such that it isn't implied that the person in question is at fault, being a nuisance, or the offender; just say it like it is the most common thing.

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    While it is possible to add other programs to do it, skype does not record audio or video, it only relays it - smallbusiness.chron.com/skype-recorded-63016.html – Jesse Apr 3 '18 at 5:04
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    Note that the term "lower" can be misinterpreted. They may think you want them to speak in a deeper voice instead of a softer one, especially if they speak a different locale of English from you. I recommend using the word "softer" instead of "lower". – user6818 Apr 3 '18 at 11:58
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    "Given that it is occuring at 4 a.m., we can be positive that" absolutely nothing. The question says the roommates are from other countries, and 4am in his timezone may be a very ordinary time for the roommate's family members in another country. – Ben Voigt Apr 5 '18 at 4:52
  • @BenVoigt Personal, I said, not intimate. If the roommate is talking to someone in that country, then it is someone who he has intimacy with, because 4a.m.. Either way, if it is with someone from his native country, then it is with family or close friends, therefore, something personal (again, personal is one layer below intimate) is certainly being said. – user12404 Apr 6 '18 at 14:26
  • @WilliamLio: That still doesn't follow. The roommate may still have financial accounts or business dealings in his home country (it would be somewhat unusual to use video chat for those, but perfectly usual to use Skype audio for inexpensive international calls) – Ben Voigt Apr 6 '18 at 15:22
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When bringing it up with your room-mates, I suggest focusing on the issue you yourself are having, rather than than their actions. This is generally a good way to go about finding mutually beneficial solutions as it helps the other person sympathise with your situation better, and rather than getting defensive about what they are doing, they will be more motivated to try and figure something out that works for you both.

I have been having a bit of trouble focusing on my work. I know its completely normal to speak loudly and clearly when talking on Skype but do you think we could work something out?

Another thing I recommend is bringing it up at the time of/directly after the issue. By being up front and honest about when it is bothering you, approaching it from an understanding perspective and putting the ball in their field to do with what they will, you are encouraging a house sharing environment where people are encouraged to help each other rather than being held accountable for small disagreements.

I have handled a few similar situations while in the study area at uni. Obviously I picked my battles/moments but the only cases that ever worked out were the ones where I used the above method/s. I found that accusing or blaming them is bound to backfire.

However, your final concern and comparison to surveillance cameras does indeed seem very extreme. This topic around privacy is more opinion based and less about IPS so I won't cover that.

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What I am suggesting is not a full solution, but perhaps some of these ideas may help.

Address people individually, not as a group. Individually, they'll be nicer to you.

For the kitchen, make a stand for the phone on the wall. That's what I have myself. I place my phone up on it, its camera is facing me and I can easily see the screen, but I have my hands free. And if you put the stand in an obvious location, you'd be able to tell right away whether there is a phone in it, or not.

For their rooms, focus on those that have rooms adjacent to yours, or focus on the worst offenders, and ask that they use a headset. If you have the money, you may want to offer to partially (or fully) pay for it.

Of course, there may be other issues to consider, like house rules, quiet hours, creating a phone booth/area for the house, your own personal friendship with these folks, etc.

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