Q: How do you quiet an overly loud potato-chip eater? Every afternoon, my co-worker eats a whole bag of potato chips, and the sound of her munching is so noisy that I can hardly hear myself think while I’m on the phone. We’ve nicknamed her “chipzilla.” Please help!
A: You could try shouting out: “Chips in Sara’s cubicle! Last one there has to answer the phones!” Seriously, I think a little humor is sometimes the best solution to small-but-annoying problems. Sara might not totally appreciate it, but she also might be motivated to quiet down in the future, if only to avoid having to share with everyone. The polite solution, however, would be to talk with her quietly and privately. Normally, I’d recommend doing it at a time when the offense wasn’t happening, but in this case it may actually be best to talk to her when her mouth is full of chips. “Sara, I’m going to ask you something. I hope you don’t think I’m nuts, but if the shoe was on the other foot, I’d want you to feel comfortable doing the same for me. It’s about those chips you’re eating. Or rather, about how loud your crunching is…” Then see if you and Sara can come up with a solution that lets her enjoy her chips without disturbing you at the same time. You’ll have a much better chance of changing her behavior if the two of you work together to solve this problem. Good luck.