Dear Mom Mom,
I have a friend I meet regularly for coffee or lunch. She is a lovely person but VERY loud. It is very uncomfortable and awkward to be out in public with her talking so loudly. She doesn’t filter what she says, and will occasionally rant about her husband or talk about personal problems (a difficulty of its own category) in her huge booming voice. Recently I was so uncomfortable that I actually said “Shhhh” to her. I have tried the “Oh, let’s talk about that later” or “Goodness, there are so many people here, let’s talk about this later” but it doesn’t have much effect.
I don’t want to have to only meet her outdoors where she can’t scare everyone off but I am starting to avoid her invitations.
Wishing for Earplugs
I see that you have already gently and tactfully tried to help your friend find her inside voice, but to no avail.
I can really relate to this dilemma. I think I had the same friend, except we used to go out as couples to nice restaurants, and we were those loud obnoxious people laughing uproariously or complaining a little too loudly about the service or gossiping about our neighbors. I always felt like we were the grownup equivalent of crying toddlers in an expensive restaurant, and I could feel the daggers coming through the eyes of our fellow diners. I also wondered if the waitstaff didn’t put a little extra something-something in her soup on occasion. But I was so torn, because this woman really was so much fun and (public embarrassment aside) I enjoyed hanging out with her.
We cannot change people, but we can change the venue. I do think this is one of those relationships where the right venue matters. I know you said you don’t want to meet outdoors, but maybe if you could switch your outings to a mall food court or even one of your own houses for coffee or lunch, you might feel more comfortable. Think outside the box in terms of suggesting places where her loudness would not be a disturbance. I have also found that people like that are fun to work out with. Bars are another option.
What you cannot do is tell her point blank that she is too loud and she embarrasses you, even though this is true. Can you say no when she wants to meet at the new quaint little tea shop in town? Yes. Can you suggest a loud place to meet next time? Yes. Can you yourself speak in barely more than a whisper in hope she will follow suit (old toddler trick, by the way)? Yes. But if you wish to preserve your friendship, and I think you do, you simply cannot tell her she is a loud talker and she embarrasses you in public. Not that you would.