They aren?t really trying to annoy you
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
I have been told my entire life that I talk too loud. It is something that has caused me untold embarrassment, shame and humiliation. It has made me think, at times, I should just quit talking. Being too loud and making a fool of myself is the thing I fear most in social situations.
That is why I have so much empathy for others who struggle with the same thing.
My husband and I were eating out tonight and I heard a little person a couple of tables over say ?You know why I feel so bad for those people, Daddy? Because they don?t have anywhere to lay down.?
I have no idea who ?those people? are, but my heart melted upon hearing such heartfelt compassion from a young child. Then her mother said ?Shhhhh. You don?t need to be talking so loud!? She said this no quieter than her daughter had been talking. My heart broke for her child.
There are a lot of reasons that people talk too loudly. Sometimes people grow up in families where they have to be loud to be heard. Maybe it is a way to make up for low self-esteem or anxiety. Working in loud environments with a lot of machinery can also be a reason for someone talking too loudly in other settings. And I think some people are just born with a voice that projects more than others.
I was partially deaf until I was three years old when I had my tonsils and my adenoids removed. I will always remember waking up in the hospital after my surgery and hearing the cacophonous sounds of metal carts clanging in the hallway and very loud voices. My hearing restored, I was suddenly introduced to a noisy world. I have carried this memory my entire life.
A few years ago my mom told me that I was deaf before the surgery. This was something I had lived 50-something years without any knowledge of. Now I understand why waking up to all that noise created a memory that seared into my consciousness.
Since learning about my deafness, I have often wondered if it created the habit of talking louder than normal. It seems a reasonable explanation, but I am not sure. I do know that I have always approached life with an all-out enthusiasm and joie de vivre. When I was a child I would sing as loudly as I could while I was swinging. And I have always laughed loudly and robustly. I even sneeze loudly.
The irony of all of this is that I am a person who craves quiet. When I get up before dawn and slip out on my porch with my coffee I want to experience stillness and the absence of man-made noise. If my neighbors are up early talking or slamming doors it irritates me. Sometimes there is traffic noise and dogs barking. I want there to be total quiet. When we go hiking I frequently ask my husband to stop so I can stand in the forest and soak up the silence. I need quiet in my life.
That?s why I get it that my loud talking can irritate others. And after 57 years of having it pointed out to me as if it were an abhorrent character flaw, I have learned to catch myself before I get too far into a conversation, and lower my voice. I am not always successful, however.
For reasons I don?t understand, sometimes when I open my mouth what comes out is louder than it should be or than I mean for it to be. I have researched this and discovered that it is a common problem. But what I want people to understand is that I don?t do it on purpose.
When I am excited or enthusiastic, or passionate about what I am speaking of, you can be pretty sure I am going to get louder. If I am in a group setting and a lot of people are talking, I will probably be loud, too. If there is a lot of noise in a room I tend to get louder because I have a hard time hearing myself. While I do not test, at this point in my life, with a hearing deficit, it?s as if all the peripheral noise fills my head and there is no room for the sound of my own voice.
I do recognize that loud people can be obnoxious. If I am in a restaurant and I can hear the entire conversation of a party across the room I find it unpleasant. I had a neighbor who could pierce a steel door with her voice. I always went inside when she started up. Loud cell phone talkers or office mates that talk loudly into their phones can be really annoying. I get it. Loud people irritate me, too.
That is why it is so painful to recognize that I can be loud, at times without even realizing it. I don?t want to be this way. But it is how I am. It makes me feel ?less-than? so many times. Especially when people point it out to me in a way that makes me feel like a child.
Recently my boss was touring some people through our adult day facility and she wanted to introduce me. As the horticultural therapist, I am somewhat of a novelty and she likes for people to understand the therapeutic value of what I do with our participants in our gardens and greenhouses.
I am passionate about my work and as I began talking about it my boss put her hand on my arm and said ?Shhhh. Don?t talk so loud!? Then she turned to the people I was talking to and said ?She has a tendency to be too loud.? It was one of the most humiliating moments of my life and I wished the floor would just open up and swallow me.
I really do work hard to make sure my speaking volume is appropriate. I am so sensitive to it that it sometimes causes social anxiety. I know that I have to always be on guard to keep from embarrassing myself and others. And when I forget, it can take days for me to recover from the paralyzing shame.
Tonight when I heard that mother admonish her sweet little girl to not be so loud, I wanted to get up and go over, and say ?Hey Mom ? she?s ok. Let her talk. The world needs that kind of compassion.?
If I was a mother of a young ?me? today, I would say something like ?Your words are so kind and compassionate. I love hearing them! Can you say them softly now so that I can really think about what you are saying?? In this way, the child feels validated and does not need to feel shame for who she is.
I have been working hard to love myself, flaws and all, but this one is hard. It is something that makes me feel so foolish so often. If I could change just one thing about myself there is no doubt that it would be that I would never, ever be too loud again.
We need a world that allows people to be imperfect; that looks beyond ideas of socially acceptable to see people with the eyes of compassion. We are all so flawed. Some us have flaws that are more obvious and embarrassing, but even we deserve to be accepted and treated with kindness.
Maybe we can learn to say to people who are loud ?I love how enthusiastic you are. Your spirit really shines through in your voice!? Then if they need to be reminded to be a little quieter, let?s find a gentle way to say it so it does not shame them for something they likely struggle with.
Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers? Neighborhood fame, said ?What?s been important in my understanding of myself and others is the fact that each one of us is so much more than any one thing. A person with a disability is much, much more than a handicap.?
I hope people will begin to see how painful this is for me and others who suffer the same embarrassing ?disability?. May we all learn to be kinder to one another in the face of our imperfections. And may we all recognize that we are each more than any one thing.
Those of us who are loud are much, much more than our loudness. May I learn to embrace that truth on my path to self-acceptance.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear any thoughts you may have on this topic.
Beth Bruno is a writer trying to make sense of the world as she sees it. She lives by the mantra ?If not now, when?? When she?s not writing she works as a horticultural therapist with dementia patients. She spends her free time gardening, camping and reading. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, 6 chickens and 2 cats.