I am a PhD student. I share an office room with 3 other master's students. Two of them talk with each other a lot and completely distracts me. I just started to work here so I don't want to tense the stuff up.

The use of headphones, or earplugs did not help.

How may I, very diplomatically and without ruining anything, stop them doing it?

  • I assume it is non work related? Are there any other rooms free you could use? What is the opinion of the third student who doesn't talk? Jan 10, 2018 at 9:33
  • even if it is work related they should discuss in common room common room is for this purpose. third one seems does not care.
    – physshyp
    Jan 10, 2018 at 9:39

4 Answers 4


You are sharing a workspace with others. It is just as much their space as it is yours. You cannot reasonably demand they stop talking inside that space.

What you can do, however, is admit that you are unable to work efficiently with distractions, and you would appreciate it if they were able to continue there conversation at either another time or place. You should word it in a way in that it is your inability to work while the conversation is going on that is at fault, not the fact that they are talking. Most people are more accomidating to help someone than they are when they feel they are being attacked.

If they refuse to talk elsewhere, then you need to either accept your fate with them talking, be more forceful in your approach and risk making enemies of them, or seek a non-interpersonal resolution.


The way I see it, you only have a few options:

  1. Address this yourself either directly or indirectly:

    • Directly: TO THEIR FACES MID CHAT: "Hey guys - I hate to be a pain in the neck but I really need complete quiet when I'm working. I just have a terrible time focusing with distractions. Could I ask you guys to chat outside?" (Resist the urge to email/instant msg this. It is much more impactful when used directly and verbally.

      It shows confidence and conveys your polite tone way more than an email ever will.) Inevitably they will shut up for a while but within a few days they will chat too much (probably). When that happens, put up with it initially. After a day or two, USE THIS SAME APPROACH. "Hey guys - sorry again - but can I ask you to chat outside?" Keep doing this every couple days or at least 1x per week.

    • Indirectly: Passive approach through email/instant msg/text: Write to them and say "Hi there, I wanted to kindly ask if you could do me a favor. I am having trouble focusing because of the background noise from the conversations around me. So sorry to ask this, but, could you two try to reduce the chatter a tiny bit? Thanks in advance and sorry again to be a pain about this. It would really help me, though." The big downside is that you really can't keep emailing them every time they chat. It also shows "weakness of hand" so to speak. i.e. It's easier for them to disregard your feelings if they don't respect you.
  2. Address this through a third party (if available - i.e. is there a supervisor or someone in charge that you can go to and let them know what the problem is?)

First attempt (which I don't know whether you already tried) is the plain and kind

Guys [smile], just a little thing: I'm dealing with something pretty complicated here, may I ask you to lower your voices please?

and wait to see how they react. We will then start from there.


"I just started to work here so I don't want to tense the stuff up."

It's good that you acknowledge this. Since you are new, you should try to proceed carefully. They have already created a work environment that includes socializing. You may have to pick and choose your office hours to oscillate around when the height of the chatting occurs. In my work place, I know that the office gets busy and loud between 2-4pm so I will work on any important matters beforehand.

@Markino brought up a good way to start.

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