52

Backstory: my girlfriend and I were at a sporting event, having casual conversation, but an announcement came over the loud speaker that caught my interest and I wanted to hear.

I turned my head so that I could give a visual cue that I was trying to listen to something else, but she continued to talk. The problem was her volume of talking was louder than the loud speaker (due to proximity of both her and the speaker) so that I couldn't hear the announcement.

In this situation, saying something such as "please give me a second, I'd like to hear this" would have made me completely miss exactly what it was I was trying to hear. My only reaction I could think of was to quickly stop her by saying "shh" and focusing on the announcement. She didn't take it too well and I'm conflicted on whether it was the correct way to handle the situation.

How can I better convey that I don't want to miss a brief announcement?

124

In this context, I prefer

Hang on

Unlike shh, it clearly conveys a sense of temporariness. Not "don't talk" but "don't talk right now". It's also not something adults say to children (eg teachers, librarians) so it carries less "baggage" for the person hearing it.

Usually I accompany this with pointing at the thing I urgently need to hear (in the case of an announcement, I point up) and afterwards I apologize for the interruption

Sorry, I thought that was going to be important [or whatever your reason was for urgently needing to listen]

or

Sorry to interrupt you, [explain relevance of announcement]

and then

you were saying?

To indicate that the person's talking continues to matter to you.

15

Perhaps you could just say

Wait

or hold up a hand to show that you want to hear the loudspeaker instead. "Wait" is only one short word, and holding your hand up feels more kind than saying "shh" (at least to me). When she turns silent, you can put your hand down. When the announcement is said, ask what she wanted to say.

10

If she doesn't notice your tilted head, then--since this is your girlfriend--you could

  • squeeze her hand or thigh while tilting your head a little further to indicate something is happening outside of your conversation.

  • If that doesn't work or you don't feel comfortable with the physical contact, hold a finger up, and when she notices, point to the speakers and tilt your head again.

The key here is that you're signaling to her without making any sound. This will help her realize that you're looking for a soundless response.

After your announcement you can follow up with any of the wonderful slew of responses that Kate suggessts.

  • 1
    Finger pointing up across your own lips is also a good visual clue (like you would do if you were to say shhh! ...but don’t) - and then point to the speakers. – rrauenza Apr 29 '18 at 15:56
  • 7
    @rrauenza I was thinking of more of a "one second!" with the finger. I think finger across the lips might be a little too close to "shhh," and no one likes to be shushed while in a conversation :) – scohe001 Apr 29 '18 at 16:00
  • I meant mine as an alternative rather than a clarification. In the air would be the first I would try then the lips if necessary ... – rrauenza Apr 29 '18 at 16:02
10

Put a finger up to your mouth, indicating silence, and point to the loud speaker.

This is immediate and communicates your desire to listen to the announcement. This is a very common way of handling this kind of situation, and everyone knows it is awkward. At the end you can apologize and explain what you were wanting to do, and why you had to quickly respond.

  • 11
    How is this better than "shh"? It's the exact same thing, just without the sound. – Anthony Grist Apr 30 '18 at 9:30
  • 9
    "shh" is competing with the sound, and assumes this will be heard. Being visual makes it clear quickly ones intent, and gets attention by pointing at the source one is interested in listening to. It is dependent on the situation and personality. Unfortunately raising ones voice is linked with a rebuke while this is a request. – PeterJens Apr 30 '18 at 12:51
  • @AnthonyGrist I don't know why, but some people are extremely offended by the "shh" sound but not so much by the gesture. Source: being spanked as a child. – user3067860 May 1 '18 at 20:48
2

In the general case:

"Hold on", "Just a second", "Hang on", "Wait a moment" are inoffensive and appropriate for most conversations and people, and adding an apology and explanation afterwards lessons any possible offense. "Sorry, you were saying that ... [recap their last few words]?"

By apologizing and immediately repeating what they said - or the last part of what they heard - you indicate the conversation and their words are important to you, and you don't allow the interruption to further distract you or them.

In this specific case:

However, you are at a sporting event, with your girlfriend. You should have shared expectations of what will occur at the event, and that there may be times when it's appropriate to pay attention to the action and announcements, even in the middle of a conversation.

The above suggestion will work, but if the interruptions are frequent or fast paced, even "hang on" might not be fast enough to catch the announcement.

A frank conversation beforehand might be useful.

I'm here with you because I want to experience this event with you. Due to the nature of the event there will be lots of time for us to talk and pay attention to each other, however there will also be many times when unexpected action or announcements occur. When there's an interruption to our conversation that either of us wants to pay attention to, let's look away from each other towards the speaker/point of action and stop talking, maybe holding a finger up, then resume our conversation once the action or announcement has stopped.

If we do get into a conversation that shouldn't be interrupted, hopefully one of us will recognize it and suggest we have that conversation later when we can focus more on each other. I really want to avoid hard feelings due to a game interruption, hopefully we can both enjoy the game and each other's company.

  • I would like to offer that "You should have" is not a great way to offer constructive criticism. – Sojourner May 2 '18 at 2:24
  • Id like to add "1 second" to the list of options.. point to speaker saying "1 second" to prove you want to listen later, but you need/want to hear that first – BugFinder May 2 '18 at 14:30
1

I'd like to take a different tack in answering this question by asking another one: is the loudspeaker in this scenario similar to the cell phone alert? All of the suggestions here are valid, as ways of getting your girlfriend to stop talking for a moment, but if your bigger goal is to convey your interest in her, then maybe it would be better to miss the announcement, and when she is finished talking, ask someone nearby what was said. There are always two messages in any communication, the content messages and relational messages. The content message here is, "I need you to stop talking so I can hear the announcement," but the relational message (which is always less concrete and open to interpretation) is something like, "This announcement is more important to me than what you are talking about right now." Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for most everything, and I am not suggesting you should never interrupt your girlfriend, but over time, she might perceive a pattern that effects how she feels about the relationship.

0

As others have said, variations of

Hang on

or

Wait one

followed by

Sorry. You were saying? Something about X?

Is something that most people would find perfectly polite. That said, my girlfriend and I have taken to doing this -

Hand signal to freeze

when we're hiking or around the house. The motion of raising your hand and you stopping in place grabs their attention, and it's an unambiguous signal that you hear/see/smell something that you need to focus on. As before, follow up with an explanation or apology, like

Is that the smoke detector beeping? Do we need to replace the batteries again?

or

Sorry, I thought I heard something. Please, continue.

All that said, if your partner expects you to spend every waking moment paying complete attention to them to the exclusion of everything else, you might want to find a better partner.

0

I agree with scohe001's answer (i.e. "touch or squeeze them") -- except furthermore, using your hand to take hold of their upper arm might work, even if they're not your girlfriend. And unexpected physical contact might give them pause, better than anything you could say.

It's bold to touch them but you're already being familiar by interrupting them; and the upper arm may be one of the more neutral, less intimate (more unisex) places to touch someone.

You might combine that gesture with another, e.g. index finger pointing up in the air with your other hand, and chin up (to indicate you're paying attantion to something in the air).

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