How can I stop speaking too loudly?
November 9, 2005 10:05 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop speaking too loudly?

I'm normally a quiet person, but on occasion (particularly when I'm excited or nervous) I have been known to raise my voice to higher levels than necessary. Usually I don't even notice it until someone points it out to me. I have discovered that this has led to one embarassing situation, and I'm concerned that there may be more that I don't know about. Has anyone else had this problem? What did you do to become less oblivious to your loudness? I don't think I have a vocal disorder.
posted by komilnefopa to Human Relations (12 answers total)
As a loud talker, there's not much that I've found to be effective. I've just become known as the Loud Guy. God help me if I'm on a cell phone. I just shout.

With that being said, have you had your hearing checked recently? You may be compensating for hearing loss by speaking louder.

Or you may just be one of us. The Boomers.
posted by unixrat at 10:20 PM on November 9, 2005

This may seem flippant, but try paying more attention to the body language of those you're addressing (or within earshot). When somebody raises their voice suddenly, I tend to flinch or back away. Apparently you don't notice it, but I assure you, others do.
posted by rob511 at 10:52 PM on November 9, 2005

Hearing proficiency testing may be informative.

I have very sensitive hearing (I hate hate hate loud noises) but something that my grade 4 teacher said to me, in front of the entire class; "You have a very low voice and it carries really loud. Stop talking to that girl next to you in class. Everyone can hear you."

I have a friend who fits the "normally quiet, occassionally excited-loud." It's a positive... until he goes on a tangent. Sorry, no concrete advice -

Can you figure out why your volume goes up? (being ignored, being particularly passionate about something, competing against other voices, just generally being excited, &c)

Figuring out the source is a positive step in trying to modify your behavior...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:54 PM on November 9, 2005

Try not to speak any louder than the loudest person in the group.

In music, if you want to draw your audience in, you play more softly. This is also true of conversation.
posted by wsg at 12:14 AM on November 10, 2005

I've done the same thing my whole life. According to what I've read, it is a common trait in people who have AD/HD (lifelong, family history, not just a Pop diagnosis). The only way that I have found to control it is to be very mindful of my excitement level and just slow down. And remember to breathe.

Also, when I took acting classes, my instructor did point out that it is natural for people to raise the tone, volume, and speed of their speech in relation to their level of stress or excitement. Most people don't notice that they do it, apparantly.

Not very helpful, really. The best thing is just not to care and be with people who understand you.
posted by monopas at 12:21 AM on November 10, 2005

Breathe deeper and slower, from your abdomen and not from your chest.
posted by fuzz at 12:22 AM on November 10, 2005

It just might be worth getting your hearing checked. Also - when you are talking to people try to make sure the background noise is minimised so you don't have to compete with it.
posted by rongorongo at 2:43 AM on November 10, 2005

I have this problem sometimes, I more or less just rely on my wife to tell me when I'm doing it. She does it sometimes as well, I think it must be quite a common problem. To be honest I don't worry about it that much.
posted by teleskiving at 4:32 AM on November 10, 2005

Hearing test.
Voices tend to get higher when people are excited, or involved, and it's possible you are not hearing your own voice through bone conduction as well, so you don't realize it's louder.
I used to work with a lot of guys with hearing loss, and I made a conscious attempt to lower the range of my voice to make it easier for them to hear me, and I became quieter because I could hear my own voice easier.
You may not have a hearing problem at all, but it would be something to rule out first. You could also have problems with "sound on noise", the background noise rongorongo mentions. Or you could just be loud, that happens too.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:38 AM on November 10, 2005

I'm glad that you asked this question. I have the same problem, although mine's a little worse - I'm usually a loud talker, and I get even LOUDER when I'm excited. Sometimes it's a bit random - I'll get louder even when I'm not more excited. I would love to explore ways to become less loud, since I think it puts people off and prevents them from wanting to befriend me.

I've had my hearing checked out, and they didn't find any problems. I was quite surprised by this - especially since I have a very hard time understanding people who are "mumblers." I have a friend who's the "mutters stuff under her breath" type, and I'm always asking her to repeat what she just said. This is made worse by the fact that what she's "muttering under her breath" is often some snarky or sarcastic comment. I seriously think that this has prevented us from becoming better friends.

(I have also accepted the possibility that she really does talk too softly)


This brings up another question - what to do when you didn't hear something that someone just said, and don't want to break the flow of conversation? What happens when you ask them to repeat, and you still don't understand what they said, even the second time they say it? I find that this is particularly a problem with "quiet talkers" and people with accents.


And yet another question (almost completely unrelated) - I find that I have a lot of trouble understanding people who have very thick accents. However, I've noticed people around me not having the same trouble, even though they aren't any more familiar with the speaker's native language. What's up with this?
posted by afroblanca at 7:28 AM on November 10, 2005

Thanks for all of the good advice so far. I'm in my 20s, so hopefully it's not something that will get worse with age. I may consider the hearing test, since I haven't had one since they made us take them in grade school. I have noticed that I am much more sensitive to loud noise than most people, such as loud live music in a small space. When I'm in those situations I have to take noise breaks and other people don't seem to need to. The embarassing situation that I referred to had a bit of background noise that perhaps I was trying to talk over.
posted by komilnefopa at 8:28 AM on November 10, 2005

Two suggestions.

First. My wife used to do this a lot when she would get really excited, she would get embarassed about it, so she asked me to point it out when she did it. Now she usually is able to keep it in check as she becomes more and more aware of it. Maybe have a close friend or two just give you a small nod when you are being too loud so you can gauge what level feels and sounds natural.

Second. Sometimes the only reason why problems like this are noticed in the first place is not because you talk too loudly, it may be just because you talk a lot, or at least a lot more than the other people in the conversation. I have a friend that does this, his voice isnt much louder than normal, but because he talks so much we notice how loud he is a lot more, and after a while it gets annoying.

Try not to overcompensate though, we have an aunt that when she first got hearing aids used to talk really loud, now shes embarrassed and when she talks its hardly above a whisper and we can never hear her.
posted by skrike at 9:42 AM on November 10, 2005

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