Q: As our company expands, two of my team members and I have been moved from our individual cubicles to one room. We are soon to have a fourth team member added. I will be the first to admit that I am extremely sensitive to hearing other people’s chewing. It is probably my biggest pet peeve, after gum cracking/bubble blowing. One of my teammates eat some sort of crunchy cereal almost all day long. I made a joke about it once and he switched to bread for that day. Needless to say, the crunching started back up the next day. Even with my headphones on, listening to calls, I can hear it. Our other teammate once asked him what he was eating and, after he asked, did confirm that she could hear him chewing. Is there a way to tactfully say something? Is it even appropriate to consider saying something?
A: It is a delicate situation. You might consider speaking to him privately and say something along the lines of “John, I realize I’m extremely sensitive to sounds and I know it’s difficult to eat crunchy foods quietly. Nonetheless, I can still hear your chewing with my headphones on and when listening to calls, and, to be honest, it is distracting. I hope you understand.” However, this is only a suggestion and may not work. You may have no choice but to simply block out the sound as best you can.