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You hold them at arm’s length. Perhaps you back away from them ever so slightly. And when they talk, you respond in subdued, hushed tones, because you never, ever want to excite them. We’re referring to loud talkers -- those well-meaning types who greet you with a thunderous hello; make discreet phone calls to their gynecologist at a volume the entire office can hear; and are on your do-not-call list when looking for someone to go to the movies with, because you’re tired of getting shushed by strangers.
Loud talkers are the bane of every office; they fill us with ire and we think the worst of them: “How can they be so disrespectful?” But according to an MSNBC report, loud talkers aren’t rude -- they’re just a little clueless. We all have our set volume, and just as quiet people aren’t aware of how much (or how little) they’re projecting, neither are the boisterous ones.
According to the speech acoustics researchers interviewed for the piece, one’s verbal volume comes down to four factors: biology, pathology (no, we’re not talking serial-killer motives), personality and culture. Some people are, ehem, naturally well-endowed in the larynx and vocal cord department. Pathology refers to changes to the vocal cords as we age, from smoking to polyps to other fun nodules. People who are shy tend to be soft talkers while the outgoing are, well, just so comfortable with themselves that they do not hold back whatsoever. And then there’s upbringing. People from big families tend to be louder, because they have to compete to be heard. Only children -- not so much.
In all fairness, as much as I can’t stand loud talkers, they probably do deserve a little more empathy than we give them. Instead of yelling at them in public for being too loud, experts suggest taking them aside and letting them know -- gently -- what the problem is. If they claim they don’t know when they’re being too loud, tell them to assume they’re always being too loud. And if that doesn’t work, they could do what one loud talker did, and set an Outlook reminder every 30 minutes telling himself to pipe down. Course, he admits that it only sometimes works.