Aunt Dandelion is an advice blog offered to help readers solve simple or perplexing problems related to social and business etiquette. Ask Aunt Dandelion when you have a problem, and check back soon for answers. Send your conundrums to Or follow Aunt Dandelion on Facebook!

Can You Hear Me Now?

Dear Aunt Dandelion,
Help! I ride in a coworker’s car going to sales appointments, and the driver plays the radio on talk stations all day and loud!!! When I ask him to turn it down he will for a minute, and then it’s back up. I’m stuffing my ears with tissues like I do in loud movies! Plus his radio shows depress me. Isn’t this the pits? – Gwen in Dallas, Texas
Aunt Dandelion replies:

You have my sympathies. If only your coworker knew the rules of etiquette, you wouldn’t be in these pits.

Any time two or more people share a confined space – especially for an extended period of time, and most especially if they are not intimately related – great delicacy is required to maintain personal dignity and group harmony.

The number one rule is the Golden Rule – to be considerate of others. The driver may feel as though the car constitutes his personal space and therefore he can do what he likes. But this is not true when he has a passenger, especially one who is with him all day long. Both passenger and driver are bound by common courtesy to be respectful of each other’s needs and “space.”

Coworkers who share rides should not assume that everyone else wants to hear their entertainment choices on the radio. One should always ask if a particular program or type of music is acceptable before tuning it in. If it is not to the other person’s taste, but not entirely offensive, a compromise is the best solution, where each chooses a radio station or program genre (or blessed silence) in turns.

However, playing the radio too loudly is not a matter for compromise. Incessant loud sounds can cause physical and psychological distress, and you are well within your rights to ask the driver to turn it down to a comfortable decibel level. Tell him that you are very sensitive to sound levels, and say – respectfully – that you prefer it to be softer. Find a specific volume that is comfortable for you – for instance, 10 on the volume dial – and tell him that number.

Once he has complied with your request, you know you have been heard (over the din), and you can do him the courtesy of assuming that he knows, but sometimes forgets. The next time he turns it up to 30, say something like, “Can we please keep it at 10?” and simply reach over and turn it down. Continue to make your request, politely but firmly, as often as you need to. If you feel you need to escalate the request, you can let him know plainly that it hurts your ears at that level.

Keep your requests in “I” language (“I prefer it at 10”) rather than getting into the language of “You” (“You’re playing it too loud again!”), which tends to make people feel defensive.

One day, try bringing a CD of soothing music with you and ask him if you can play it. Select music that is generic – something instrumental – but not too soporific (you don’t want the driver to fall asleep!). This at least will give you an occasional break from talk radio.

Remember, dear readers, sometimes we must inform others of our needs. A caring person will be glad to have the insight sooner rather than later.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here, or ask Aunt Dandelion your etiquette question: