23

I'm working in a co-working space, and today a new guy is working at the same table as me.

His typing (on his laptop) is quite intense, which makes a lot of noise. In addition, the table is not too stable and shakes when he types.

The keyboard he's using is a regular keyboard, not a mechanical one, which would otherwise be a reason for the noise. I'm using headphones and playing music a bit louder than I normally do, but the sound of his typing still comes through. There are no other tables that I can move to, otherwise I would have done so.

Is there a way of conveying that I find this irritating, and asking him to type quieter, without coming across as rude?

  • Did any other coworker notice and get annoyed by the noise? – Axel2D Aug 28 '17 at 12:40
  • 2
    Could you add some location data? – user288 Aug 28 '17 at 19:11
  • @Hamlet I could, but I'm not sure if it's relevant. I'm from one country, this took place in an international setting in a second country, and the other guy is from a third country. – HenricF Aug 29 '17 at 4:42
  • @HenricF: I personally (can't tell if I'm speaking for my culture, so leaving it out), would be totally confused if someone in a work setting would request that from me. I'm an intense key puncher too and use the keys as kind of compensation for my emotions regarding the work I do. In a private setting I usually would respond one should avoid my while being at PC then. But in a working setting this would cause a real problem for me, which would probably not bee that easy to be fixed without discomfort. So is it actually that important for your productivity, given that you are listening music? – dhein Aug 29 '17 at 6:15
  • @dhein At this level, yes it's important for my productivity. I'm used to working in open office spaces, and that it might be a bit more noisy, but this is extreme. – HenricF Aug 29 '17 at 10:03
35

I'm not really sure you can ask someone to type quieter without ruining their workflow or causing animosity between you two.

As a developer, I'd be annoyed if someone asked me to type quieter in a room with other computers, I'd not only have to be conscious of the fact that I may be too loud every now and then if I was attempting to type quietly, but it would also be distracting (for my thought process).

I'd understand if It was just me in the room in a library typing really loud across from someone, but this is the pain of working in an office sometimes. I'd recommend you get some noise canceling headphones or ear plugs.

As BillK notes in the comments:

Noise canceling headphones probably won't help in this situations. ANY over-ear headphones may help, but noise canceling is generally an active process that listens for a given noise and emits a counter-noise so it works best on engine and fan noise. It can work on crowd murmur noises, but not sharp clicks & pops.

So it may be better to use over-ear headphones for this particular scenario.


If you really want to approach the guy, you could go over with a few paper towels or a thin layer of foam to put under his laptop and say:

Sorry, my headphones are terrible. Do you mind putting this under your laptop to absorb the sound of the keys?

Obviously, you'd find a solution based on his reaction (I wouldn't mind as long as it didn't make the laptop uneven). But at least then you're going over to him with a solution to the problem rather than simply pointing out the issue of his typing. If he says yes, he'd be much more conscious of the noise and may even type quieter afterwards.

Or depending on what you know of the guy, you could go over with the problem and then offer the solution as mentioned in the comments by @DavidZ

Hey, your keyboard is loud, is there any way you could keep it quieter?

instead of approaching him with the foam and directly asking him depending on his reaction, you can then offer (or go fetch) the foam if you wish to do so.

Also, get a piece of card (or paper) and fold it up and stick it under the table leg that is uneven, that'll help stop it from wobbling.

  • 1
    Noise canceling headphones probably won't help in this situations. ANY over-ear headphones may help, but noise canceling is generally an active process that listens for a given noise and emits a counter-noise so it works best on engine and fain nose. It can work on crowd murmur noises, but not sharp clicks & pops. – Bill K Aug 28 '17 at 15:33
  • 5
    Nit: it may be better to instead say "Do you mind putting this under your laptop" ("putting this" instead of "if I put this") - I might not mind putting foam under my laptop if someone asked and provided the foam, but I would think it's weird if that person wants to lift up my laptop and put the foam under it themselves. – alexanderbird Aug 28 '17 at 17:17
  • 2
    It seems (according to my husband who is a sound engineer) that the issue with cancelling keyboards has to do with the Hz and that they are designed to handle noises below a specific Hz point, which the keyboard isn't as likely to fall under. He also said other things above my head, but that was the simplest he could make it. I do not claim to really know anything about this, but was interested enough to ask him. – threetimes Aug 28 '17 at 18:37
  • 7
    @TobiaTesan the thing with the active noise cancellation is that the headphones need to be able to predict what noise is coming, so they can phase cancel it. So the background noise of an engine is perfect, because it's regular and predictable and can be phase cancelled. A sudden popping noise, by the time it's reached the headphones to be analyzed it's too late to be cancelled. Any sound waves the headphones emit to try to cancel it will be emitted out towards the source, while the original sound travels in to the ear of the listener, unimpeded. – Segfault Aug 28 '17 at 18:43
  • 4
    Another... nitpick of sorts, although not a terribly important one: depending on the loud typer's personality, they may react much better to being told what the problem is (that their keyboard is loud) and allowed to find their own way to fix it, as opposed to being handed a solution and expected to use it. In other words, "hey, your keyboard is loud, is there any way you could keep it quieter?" might go over better than "hey, your keyboard is loud, could you put this under it to keep it quieter?" – David Z Aug 28 '17 at 20:18
14

First, start with the assumption that:

  • he does not realise that his actions are preventing you from working; and
  • if he did, he would try to do something about it.

So, you don't need to come out with "Please stop that horrible noise, you jerk".

I'd start with an observation like:

"boy, they give us crappy furniture don't they, see how much your table shakes when you type".

Then:

"I'm thinking of talking to the supervisor about our tables, that noise is really starting to bother me - doesn't it bother you?"

Then:

"Sorry to bug you, but I'm having a lot of trouble thinking over the top of your keyboard noise. Do you have any ideas?"

Basically you want to bring him along as a problem-solving partner, not an adversary who's in your way.

  • 2
    Hi Steve! I know it's been a while since you posted that answer but our site policy changed since then. Could you please edit our answer to explain what reaction could OP hope for with this strategy? Also, could you tell us in which context you tried this or something similar? Providing personal experience as an answer backup makes it easier for OP to know that what you're suggesting should work. Thanks! – avazula Jun 27 at 13:44
  • Thanks for the heads up. Not sure it makes sense for me to write "advice" for a situation nearly 2 years old, long since passed presumably. Feel free to delete my answer if you like. – Steve Bennett Jun 28 at 2:14
  • @SteveBennett it's still available on the network, isn't it? And people can have this type of situation today, for example. And with recent changes, users need to back-it-up their answers and why they would work on this situation. I'll thank avazula for the detailed explanation. – CaldeiraG Jun 28 at 10:57
  • Out of curiosity, where is this new policy actually documented? Couldn't find anything useful in the help centre: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer – Steve Bennett Jul 1 at 5:12
  • @SteveBennett You can read more about it here and there – Ælis Jul 1 at 9:03
5

I'll get to your question in a bit... First, I wanna note my bias: I learned to type on a manual typewriter. You know, those infernal machines that involved hitting levers with the tips of your fingers hard enough to slap a piece of type against a ribbon such that it left a distinct imprint on a bit of paper. Almost no one uses them anymore because they were such a pain to deal with... But once you got used to them, once you developed the rhythms necessary to operate them quickly... The notion of stroking a key became completely ridiculous. FORCE is the only thing these machines understood.

This personal anecdote is only relevant because... If I was the new guy and you used any of the techniques recommended in the top two answers... I'd probably take it as a put-down. "Hey old man, your outdated skills are too loud. Also your stooped posture is ruining the feng shui of this room."

Now, as to your question... Effective communication starts with empathy. You want him to understand how his typing affects you, but you can't open an effective line of communication without understanding something about him. The nature of a co-working space is one of compromise - no one can ever be entirely in their comfort zone. Chances are, he's doing his best to focus on his work in spite of countless distractions from you and everyone else; while you sit and fume about typing noise, he's annoyed by your choice of music leaking past your headphones, the gal in the corner is irked that both of you wear obnoxious cologne, and after all of you have left the janitor curses each of you for failing to wipe your feet before stomping around the room.

You can all keep living your lives as victims tortured by cruel uncaring others, or...

Strike up a conversation. Offer to grab a drink next time you get up to walk around, or bring up the weather. Heck, if small-talk ain't your thing then straight-up say, "look, we're spending a lot of time together & we should get to know one another or this is gonna be awkward". And then actually do it: ask questions, listen, share your own experiences. Chances are, you'll both find that you hate each other and have completely incompatible beliefs. And that's ok; you're not friends, you're just sharing a space. What's important is that you become more than unknown obstacles.

And once you get to the point where sharing personal peeves isn't the first volley of an invading army... You can share your dissatisfaction with his typing. Which, if he's been typing that way for 40 years, may not make one bit of difference... But at least you tried. The ball is no longer in your court.

1

Simple answer: you can't.

A personal anecdote. I don't type particularly loud, but I do touch-type, and when I'm in the zone then I can be typing fairly rapidly. A couple of years ago, a co-worker moved desks and was sat behind me, in our open-plan office. One day, I was working on something and pretty well absorbed in it, when she stood up and said loudly, "Graham, I can't stand being here with you typing that loud" and walked out. Cue shocked silence from the office, followed by total laughter. That story followed her until she left the company.

If your co-working space is in your company offices, and the desks are so flimsy that typing is enough to shake them, then you need to be talking to your Health and Safety department about the quality of those desks affecting your working environment. In most places round the world, getting H&S involved will make sure something happens about it. You can't ask your colleague to change his typing though, because whatever he's doing is almost certainly within the normal limits of what can be expected in a shared working space, unless he's actually punching the keyboard. His typing style is his way of working, and is equally valid to your own.

If your co-working space is not in your company offices - perhaps it's an airport or a train - then you have even less right to ask for anyone around you to change. I'm afraid you're in a public place, and it's not your space.

1

If it is something that is against the official policy of the place you are, make a complaint to someone in charge.

If it is not against policy, then it gets tricky: even if the complaint is valid, chances are you will sound like an irritatingly entitled person -- being annoyed is not your fault, but you and only you are responsible for coping with your own feelings and emotions.

I'm borderline autistic and that kind of noise totally ruins my concentration. Some people can work listening to music, but music also disturbs my thoughts. What works for me is listening white noise using over-ear headphones. I listen to a fine-tuned random combination of rain, wind on grass and running water (there are many apps for that).

0

Sometimes things just don't go our way.

If you control the work environment, well, then, great! You're in control. If not, then you're not.

Comment 9541 :

I'm from one country, this took place in an international setting in a second country, and the other guy is from a third country.

If you go to a remote conference, you need to be able to realize that some things may not go your way. The furniture may shake, the noise may be too loud, the lighting may flicker, the air may be too smokey, something physical may happen to you (just get too tired and not be in the right mindset), etc.

If an event that you go to isn't working out well as well for you as you hoped, then just try to make changes, which could involve moving to another desk, or listening to a seminar instead of trying to work, or doing something that will be more mundane and require less concentration, or picking up your laptop and going to your hotel room to relax.

If this was an ongoing thing, you could try befriending the person, and explore solutions like using a more stable desk, or having him use an external (quiet) keyboard that plugs into the laptop. However, based on a comment you made, it sounds like you may have more limited options. Sometimes, that reality is just something best handled by accepting it, and focusing less about what you would prefer things to be like, and instead just trying more to explore what options do appear to be available.

Comment 9628:

I'm used to working in open office spaces

Surely you have more space than these folks [YouTube video: train staff -- what happens at 27-31 seconds just shocked me].

Since you admitted to traveling, I can only recommend getting used to adapting.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.