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My partner and I hang out with another couple. We share many interests, have children of the same age, and are fairly compatible in many aspects. So all is fine for spending several hours together whenever we meet.

The problem is that our female friend's tone is always very loud (by anyone's standards). It affects us so much that we are actually meeting them less often than we would otherwise because of this. After about an hour, we are both getting tired and I even get headaches.

I am also concerned that the increased volume in her voice and somehow unawarely in everyone else's voice (it seems hard to keep a lower tone when she - and her partner, though to a lesser extent - speak(s) so loudly) is affecting our little child who is not otherwise exposed to this, since we are both fairly calm and quiet people and so are the other families we occasionally meet. We can sometimes notice that our child is more agitated and a lot more tired after meeting these friends.

I finally decided to try to do something about it last time we met, but without immediate results. This is what I tried:

  • Tell her (twice) jokingly: "We can all hear well in this room, no reason to speak so loudly". Her reply was: "But this is my normal tone of voice" (which I already knew).
  • Occasionally whisper, in particular when addressing my own child.

My question is: how can we go about it such that she is not offended and she stops being so loud?

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    Just a question...is there a possibility that she has a hearing problem? She may not even realize it. Try speaking to her quietly when she is not looking at you and see if she hears you. If not, you might bring that up "I notice that when I speak quietly to you, you seem not to hear. Is it possible that you have suffered some hearing loss? You might want to have your hearing tested." – Francine DeGrood Taylor Oct 30 '18 at 15:58
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    I don't think she has a hearing problem, but rather her loudness may be due to her background (different culture, big family). I will however try to follow your suggestion just to exclude that possibility, thanks. – iulia Oct 30 '18 at 16:41
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I'm a loud person and I always have a hard time regulating my tone of voice, especially if I'm talking about something I care about.

During my life, a lot of people have told me I was too loud and, most of the time, I didn't take it well. I was talking about something important to me and all they cared about was the fact that I was too loud. For me, it was like they didn't care about what I was saying. Even worse, it was like they were asking me to stop talking. Every time someone said something like this to me, I lost a little of my self-confidence.

So what I would suggest doing is the following:

  • Do not, never ever, interrupt her to ask her to tone it down.

  • Try to talk about it in a private setting where there are as few people involved as possible (ideally, just you and her). I know I feel ashamed every time someone tells me I'm too loud, and it's even worse when there are other people to witness it.

  • Try to introduce the topic in a neutral way. Also, don't make it about her being too loud but about you being too sensitive. This way you are shifting the blame so that she won't feel attacked by you. Maybe you can say something like this:

    I have noticed that you tend to speak in a loud way. Unfortunately, I'm very sensitive to sound and easily get headaches. Do you think it would be possible for you to speak more quietly? I know it's a lot to ask and it's hard to change the way you talk, but you would really be doing me a huge favor.

  • If she agrees to try to keep her voice down and a situation arrives where you want to remind her to speak more quietly (because she forgot), I would suggest using hand signals. It's way less intrusive and, this way, you don't need to interrupt her. Also, if there are other people present, it's more discreet and respectful (and less shaming/infantilizing).

Also, I would advise avoiding telling her too often that she is too loud (even if it's just by hand signals). I don't know your friend, but I will certainly be hurt if someone keeps telling me I'm too loud (and would see it as them not wanting me to talk).

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I have a few friends with the same problem (and an sicilian neighbour), which start a conversation quite loud and tend to get even louder by time. Most people do not realize how noisy or quiet they are. So far with all of them it helped to say: " could you tone a bit down? I am not used to this volume and get headaches"

They will get louder again after a while, but realize you're not being mean, so something like "you are starting to get loud again" will work after a while.

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