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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." Oct 30, 2018 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, 2018 at 16:41

3 Answers 3

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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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  • One person might feel hurt by this, another might be very annoyed, and I don’t know what’s worse for communication. I’d suggest not criticising someone’s speaking style if it can be avoided at all.
    – gnasher729
    May 25, 2023 at 19:18
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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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I have a friend who speaks very loudly, especially when she's having a good time. I don't try to change her, and I don't worry that she's causing anyone damage by just happening to have a louder set point than other people I know.

Here's what I do:

  • on the phone, I hold the listening part away from my ear. I can hear her fine, and she doesn't need to do anything about it or even know what I did.
  • if she's coming over for the day, I take a painkiller before she arrives, for the headache I know I will get. This saves me a lot of pain. If she came over 3 times a week that might be a problem, but she doesn't.
  • I don't sit right next to her for extended periods of time. Since I can hear her fine from a further distance, it's ok to be a further distance. This might be that I prep stuff in the kitchen while we talk, or that I sit on a chair while she's on the couch, or whatever. When she's in "full flow" she generally does all the talking, with others nodding or looking shocked or laughing as appropriate, so the "but she won't hear you" rebuttal doesn't really apply.
  • In the past I've suggested going outside for part of the visit, but she's not an outside person so that hasn't worked out. I include it for completeness since it might work with your person

In contrast, one of my own children is also often "too loud" and I issue corrections all the time. These are always short - there's no need for a speech about something we're all well aware of. I might say "volume!" if it's just getting too much for me, or use a hand signal like "turning a dial counter clockwise" (we're old enough to understand that one) or holding my hand out flat, palm down and moving it downwards. The difference here is that I've been correcting my children for decades ("inside voices, please!") and it's an ok thing with us. (Note that my child still needs regular reminders: loud people tend to be loud, you can't just tell them once and then they're all fixed and don't do that anymore.)

My friend doesn't need me to fix her, just needs me to find a way to be able to interact with her that's pleasant for us both. She emits a lot of sound; some people wear perfume or talk about stuff I don't super enjoy or whatever, but we find the joy in spending time together anyway.

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    "if she's coming over for the day, I take a painkiller before she arrives, for the headache I know I will get." how close are you to this friend? Most people won't do this just for normal friends
    – justhalf
    May 21, 2023 at 12:47

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