Concerned by Chewing: Speaking with your mouth full

by epi on January 14, 2013

Q: I work in a call center. We have a casual atmosphere that allows us to eat at our desk. I have a co-worker who continuously talks with her mouth full, whether to me, others around her or even with customers on the phone. She is a good co-worker in many ways. I have told her that it bothers me when she speaks with her mouth full. I have tried not answering her when she speaks to me with her mouth full. I have told her I could not understand her when she is speaking with her mouth full, and truly, many times I cannot.
She is very ‘country’, but interestingly enough many of her habits are more particular than mine. She would never consider appearing in public in rumpled clothing, even her blue jeans are ironed. Any suggestions as to how to impact this disagreeable behavior? She does trust me and asks my opinion in many things.

A: You should speak to her privately and tactful tell her something along the lines of “Jane, I have to be honest with you. It is not appropriate to talk with your mouth full in any situation. It is unpleasant to look at and, when on the phone, it gives the impression that your food is more important than the conversation. You are such a nice person that I would hate for something like this to take away from people’s perception of you. If the situation were reversed, I would hope you would be as honest with me and understand.”

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Obie January 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Our son and daughter-in-law (married one year) stayed over the Holidays (Christmas day to the day before New Year’s Eve). During this time Daughter-in-law did NOT even once offer to help with meal prep, cooking, or clean-up. She made no effort to straighten their room, offer to sweep the kitchen, or any other help around the house. She also borrowed my clothes and other items. I was raised that when one is a guest in a home that does NOT have a maid, cook, etc., one always offers to help, even if the offer is not accepted, one at least ASKS. I admit that I was a bit miffed, and taken aback that she didn’t even offer. How do I handle this in the future?


Elizabeth January 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Do your expectations also extend to your son? Is he expected to help with the meal prep and house cleaning as well? Honest question.


Just Laura January 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I too was wondering why the son wasn’t straightening his own room.


Joanna January 15, 2013 at 9:30 am

I know that they’ve just been officially married for the one year, but have the two been a couple for a long time? If so, it’s possible that DIL simply feels very comfortable in your home, like family, and in that feeling overstepped a little.

In this situation I think the easiest and best way is to simply say what you want or need. If everyone’s just finished eating dinner and about to leave the room, you can say, “Susie, can you give me a hand? You dry the dishes when I wash, and we can all start watching the movie sooner.”


Alicia January 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

Daughter in law is not exactly guest but family. If son and daughter in law did not tidy their room I would say something to son. If neither offered to help prep I would do something like hand him the plates and her the silverware and ask teh two of them to please set the table. If you do not want to lend something say no. But do not expect your daughter in law to do chores unless your son also does chores. His is the model by which she should have been basing how or when to offer and what to do.


Nina January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Dear Sandra,

I actually double-checked your name to make sure you weren’t my mother-in-law. I am very fond of my in-laws, but because they live 1000s of miles away, I don’t know them terribly well and am not 100% comfortable in their home. I also don’t know where things are kept, and sometimes don’t feel comfortable rummaging until I find soap, scrubbers, etc. They are also a large family, and when everyone is working in the kitchen, I often feel in the way. I am always eager to help–and I always offer–but unless someone actually tells me what to do, I’m not too much use to anyone.

All that to say, don’t be afraid to politely ask your DIL to do a specific task–it might be what she’s been waiting for.

All best,


Joanna January 15, 2013 at 9:36 am

If the colleague is talking with her mouth full while on the phone with clients/customers, I would think someone would be complaining about it! If not, it would probably take the supervisor to officially speak to her, trying to pre-empt any complaints.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: