My youngest daughter has no internal volume switch. Just like her late grandfather, she has only one setting: Spinal Tap "Up to 11" loud.

So I guess it's no surprise that so many people should suffer from the same problem in the workplace. But can it be fixed?

Hearing you loud and clear.

Look, I get it. Everybody wants to be heard. So it makes sense that if you want to gain an advantage in a conversation or merely grab someone's attention, speaking louder might seem like a reasonable solution.

Wrong.

The sad truth is that it's often just a source of irritation for the listener. Whenever I'm on the receiving end of a high-decibel assault on my eardrums, the only thing I can think about is duct tape.​

It seems I'm not alone in this viewpoint.

A 2016 Harris Interactive and Randstad study of the most infuriating habits in the workplace surveyed 2,318 workers and found the "loud talker" was despised by almost a third of respondents. Interestingly, the pet peeves in both second and third place were also audibly related, with "annoying cellphone ringtones" bugging 30 percent of people and "use of speaker phones another 22 percent.

Dealing with the problem.

"Loud and talkative co-workers can be one of the most annoying distractions on earth -- and unfortunately, they're pretty common in today's workplace"

So how do you deal with the problem diplomatically? It can be difficult to find something tactful to say. Michael Kerr, author of You Can't Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work, suggests using something non-confrontational such as:

"Hey, I need your advice on something. I know it can be challenging working in such close quarters. Is there anything I can do to improve your work experience, being that we work so close by each other? Do I tap my pen or slam my cabinet? You never know until you ask!"

Hmm. That all sounds fine in principle, but it relies on the subject being able to decipher your rather unsubtle critique, and then offer the proverbial olive branch of suggesting that they themselves could dial down their dulcet tones by way of a compromise. I still think that the duct tape solution is more viable.

OK, maybe that's a little extreme. What about a set of noise cancelling headphones instead?

Five ways to tone it down.

And what if you are one of the loud talkers yourself? If you have a high level of self-awareness and can recognize that you have a problem, what methods can you adopt to try and converse at a more convivial level? Here are five tips to try to tone it down:​

  1. Practice listening more than speaking. You have two ears and one mouth, so try to use them in that ratio.
  2. Control your environment. Excessive background noise will inevitably make you speak louder, so try to eliminate extraneous sounds.
  3. Stay positive when speaking negatively. Often people raise their voice when there is a difference of opinion. Stay calm and deliver your point of view without deviating from your normal voice.
  4. Train your voice. Speak from your diaphragm. It will help you maintain the same volume.
  5. Get your hearing tested. It may be you speak louder because of some impairment in your hearing, so get it checked.

What do you think? Are you irked by the Chatty Cathy or Effusive Eric in the office? If so, beyond duct tape and/or headphones, what do you recommend to get them to turn it down?

And if you are a loud talker yourself, do you even think there is a problem? There's nothing wrong with shouting it out. As ever, I'm keen to hear your point of view.

Published on: Aug 21, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.