Magazine

Miss Conduct

We love our friend, but he’s gotten too loud

He never used to talk so loud — how do we address it? Plus, must I help pay for an acquaintance’s dinner?

My husband and I have friends also in their 60s, and over the past year or so the husband has begun to talk so loudly that it feels assaultive. In public, his booming voice attracts attention and disturbs others. We’ve politely asked him a couple of times to speak more softly but with no impact. We think his hearing may have become impaired. We can now only be with him for short periods. It’s crazy to have the friendship diminished over something physical that can probably be improved. How can we address this?

I.S. / Roslindale

There might be. It definitely seems like the kind of thing you’d want to know about yourself, doesn’t it? The kind of thing you’d want a friend to tell you?

Except maybe it’s more the kind of thing you think you’d want to know about yourself. You probably wouldn’t be very happy about it in the moment. So take a little time to think about how that news might land on your ego. Now think about your friend’s ego. How is it likely to land on his?

Advertisement

Whichever of you is closest to Loud Lou ought to bring the subject up, alone, and leave his spouse out of it. Nobody likes to feel ganged up on or talked about in absentia. Ask him if you can discuss something slightly awkward and then — discuss it. Let Lou know that you love him and value his friendship. Convey, directly or indirectly, that you get that his loud talking isn’t something he’s doing to annoy you. Lou is not the problem. You have a problem that you’d like Lou’s help in solving. (And have the meeting, obviously, somewhere private rather than public.)

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Here’s another, slightly offbeat question for you: Has your friend’s personality changed at all? You don’t mention any other reason for thinking his hearing has gotten bad, except for his volume knob being set to 11. Is he yelling the same things he used to say? Or different things? Sometimes people become loud talkers out of a general agita or aggression or too much consumption of certain news channels. If this is the case, you’ve got a trickier problem on your hands.

I was in a group chat with a good friend and her friend. My friend mentioned that her friend’s birthday is coming up and said we should all celebrate. I agreed that would be fun. My friend replied that she and I will treat her friend to a birthday dinner. I have only known this person a month, and I have not gone out with them before. I would like to go, but am I required to contribute to the birthday dinner?

L.M. / Somerville

My goodness, your friend is playing fast and loose with other people’s money! Her intentions were good, I’m sure, but you’re not obligated to buy dinner for a person merely because a third party promised you would. Message her privately and explain that there was a misunderstanding and you’re not in a position to do anything but go Dutch. All cheer, no blame, no apologies or excuses. (Under no circumstances go into the details of your budget or the fact that you don’t know Hermione Herfriend all that well.) Let your friend sort out the mildly awkward situation she got herself into. It’s how people learn!

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

IS YOUR FRIEND YELLING AT YOU? Send your questions to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com.