Snappy Comeback

1 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: Maybe this isn’t such a big deal, but I have a co-worker who works next to me and chews and snaps gum loudly all day long. It’s driving me crazy. We don’t interact with customers, so I can’t use that argument. But it so totally distracts me that I can’t think straight. I try to take short walks in the office away from my cubicle, go get coffee, a drink of water, etc., but it doesn’t help. Nobody is near us – I’m the only one bothered by this. What can I say to get her to stop the chewing and snapping? She’s the kind of person who takes offense easily, too.

–Gum Drop

Have you tried noise-blocking earphones? Ear buds and music? If these don’t do it or if they interfere with your work, you must face the inevitable: You must talk with your annoying co-worker. Ms. L.B. suggests that you be frank. You have a serious ear problem and only she can help alleviate it. (You do have a serious ear problem, and you’ll go nuts if it isn’t resolved.) Try this:

Eleanor, I have a problem and I must speak frankly. Only you can resolve it. I know full well this might hurt your feelings. Here it is: You may not be aware of it, but you chew and crack your gum loudly. I know that chewing gum relaxes you, but the noise really bothers me and interferes with my ability to do my job. You notice I leave my desk a lot – it’s because I need a break from the noise. Can I ask you to do something for me? Please be aware when you chew gum and try to keep it quiet and don’t get annoyed if I remind you. I was nervous about saying anything. But if I didn’t speak up now, my resentment would have built and I would have said something in anger, threatening our good rapport. That wouldn’t be good at all because we work well together.

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